The distinctly Zambian flavour of AYA jewellery

Rachael Taylor discovers why Chelsy Davy has swapped a career in law to design her own brand of ethical jewellery.

AYA Africa founder Chelsea Davy

When a celebrity puts their name to a jewellery collection, sometimes that is all they put into it. Chelsy Davy, however, has not only got hot and dusty touring emerald mines in her native Zambia in preparation for the launch of her ethical jewellery brand AYA, she has also hit the books, studying the science of gemmology.

Cahora Bassa yellow gold and ruby necklace
Cahora Bassa necklace in yellow gold and set with Gemfields rubies by ethical jewellery brand AYA Africa (£2,690).

“I’ve always loved jewellery, ever since I was a child,” says Davy, who fondly recalls playing with her grandmother’s jewels before she was old enough to pick her own. “But I think it was when I came across coloured gemstones in Africa that I became so much more intrigued and curious about stones and gemmology.”

Davy originally trained and worked as a solicitor, but has now turned her analytical brain to the study of gemstones, decorating her wall with a diploma in coloured stones from the prestigious Gemological Institute of America. “It is a very different type of learning in the lab,” says Davy of her days spent at the GIA peering through microscopes. “It is a different way of observing, very practical. I’ve never found anything so interesting.”

So when the opportunity arose to spend three days visiting a Zambian emerald mine, Davy jumped. “It was unbelievable after learning about it, to go to the actual mine and see the sorting house and pick-up stones from the pit; to be the first person to touch an emerald,” enthuses Davy, who most people will know as the former girlfriend of Prince Harry and a regular on London’s socialite scene.

Mosi-oa-Tunya emerald earrings
These Mosi-oa-Tunya earrings in yellow gold set with Gemfields emeralds by AYA Africa are effortless to wear (£995).

Davy made the trip with Gemfields - the coloured gemstone mining company that focuses on promoting ethical practices - which, along with giving back to and celebrating the African continent that has been Davy’s home, is an important facet of AYA. When the brand becomes more established, Davy plans to use some of its profits to fund educational projects in Africa to help improve access to learning in the rural areas home to gemstone mining. 

The first designs created under AYA are set with richly hued Gemfields emeralds, rubies and tanzanites, and also have a distinctly African flavour. Davy took herself off to the plains of the Zambezi river, where she spent her childhood, to design her debut Zambezi collection, and the names of the individual jewels, which she admits “are quite a mouthful”, are inspired by its landscape.

Chelsy Davy took herself off to the plains of the Zambezi river to design her debut AYA Africa Zambezi collection.

“There are a lot of tusks,” laughs Davy, who says the Zambezi’s large elephant population was a great inspiration. While the names - Cahora Bassa, Mosi-oa-Tunya and Matusadona, to list a few - might not easily roll off the tongue, the warm yellow gold, delicate stacking rings and cuffs, statement necklaces and drop earrings, are effortless to wear. And Davy herself is the perfect brand ambassador - always adorned with AYA jewellery whenever her high-profile status sets the media’s flashbulbs popping. 


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