Our pieces are hand created in sterling silver, with precious and semi-precious stones, rare antique African trade beads and exotic leathers and found materials.
AFRICAN TRADE BEADS
African trade beads have a varied history. The first glass beads were made in Murano, Venice and brought to the African continent by traders for ivory, gold and commodities. The African people had always created their own beads from natural materials and clay, and as far back as the 11th century created 'lost wax' cast beads. As trade increased with Africa, the demand for beads grew and Holland and Bohemia began to make glass beads. High value was placed upon beads as a form of ethnographic money, exchanged for gold, ivory and other goods by traders from Europe and Asia. To the local people, the Portuguese traders were known as the "Europeans who scattered beads among the people in front of palaces." Bead-making then eventually passed to production in India and as the African people came to understand the process, they began to make their own beads.
Our crocodile and ostrich skins are all sourced locally in Zimbabwe. We are lucky enough to have access to top international quality skins through Kevin van Jaarsveldt, Gail’s husband. He is considered to be the top crocodile skin grader in the world and product that passes through his selection end up at Louis Vuitton and other top international design houses. We are privileged to purchase our skins directly through him. All of the crocodile skins produced in Zimbabwe are farmed on crocodile farms and it is as direct result of farming that crocodiles are no longer on the verge of extinction in the wild.
In the 1950s, 60s and 70s, wild crocodiles were hunted to such an extent that they disappeared from some areas of the world. The introduction of CITES regulations and farming, whereby a percentage of juveniles were released back into the wild, once they were at size that ensured survival, led to the resurgence of wild populations. Zimbabwe was one of the forerunners in this endeavour, with programs based on the sustainable use of crocodilians to generate conservation benefits.
The main by-product of crocodile farming is meat, with China and Hong Kong the main importers. Virtually all other crocodile parts are utilised, including blood (pharmaceuticals), bones, fat (traditional medicines), teeth, heads, skulls (tourist curios), etc. We even use sections of skin previously not used in bag and accessory manufacture, such as the hornback and end tail section. The C.I.T.E.S. Convention regulations (enacted in 1975) control the trade and import/ export of all listed animal products. For example, all crocodilian skins in international trade must have a uniquely numbered, non-reusable tag attached to them - this allows “legal” skins to be readily identified. As both our crocodile and ostrich skins come from farmed sources, all articles made from these materials are legally able to be exported, with Nile crocodiles (crocodylus niloticus) considered Appendix II. We do advise that you check with your relevant local authority prior to purchasing any of our exotic material pieces.
For more information, please visit the IUCN website.
Lost Wax Casting Method
This is a centuries old technique, dating as far back as the 11th century in the kingdom of Benin. First, either an original piece is carved in wax or liquid wax is injected into a mould to create an exact copy of the original. After careful cleaning and checking, these are attached to a central bar known as a tree. This is then inserted into a cylinder flask and liquid investment (similar to plaster-of-paris) poured in. The investment is set to bake hard in an oven for ten to twelve hours and during this time, the wax melts and evaporates out – giving rise to the name 'lost wax'. The metal intended for casting is then smelted at high heat until it is molten and poured down the channel left by the evaporated tree and from there into the individual pieces. Once the metal has set, the investment is washed away with water and the cast revealed, ready for the polishing process to begin. Each piece is cut from the tree and cleaned and polished up to six times in varying processes, culminating in a final polish by hand to reveal the gleaming metal.