The Queen’s New Year's Honours List for 2016 honoured Greg Valerio, jeweller and activist, with an MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for his contribution to bringing Fairtrade gold to the world, and his work with gold-mining communities in South America and India.
I first met Greg Valerio in 2007 in London when he was addressing GIA students and industry representatives on the first-ever launch of Fairtrade gold. “We can change the world,” was Valerio’s opening sentence, and he meant it. “It is about making sure that the poor guy who is up to his knees in mud in a gold mine in South America gets a fair deal.” Seven years on and Fairtrade gold is now well established, and the awareness of the importance of sustainability in the jewellery industry is at an all-time high.
Valerio has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of some of the poorest people involved in the dangerous, back-breaking and ill-paid world of artisanal mining for precious metals. An estimated 100 million people around the world rely on artisanal mining for their income, often working in hazardous conditions using toxic chemicals such as cyanide and mercury.
“This award belongs to all of us and I hope that it will embolden us all to keep fighting for fairness in the jewellery trade,” said Valerio of his MBE. “Jewellery and justice are not incompatible. The great challenge we now face is to forge a new luxury jewellery narrative that connects the aspirational emotion of the purchase with the dignity of the source. This is true luxury jewellery, a legacy of peace, justice and prosperity for the communities at the source, and a continued celebration of design, creativity and love in the gift that is given.”