Inspired by Nature- Crafted by Hand
A few months ago I came across the most amazing Fair Trade silver jewellery store. A store with an inspirational story too. So begins a lovely partnership with Luna Tree Jewellery.
Luna Tree was established in 2007 by Clare McCormack.
Clare’s career path after graduating from art college took her into retail management and to the role of a buyer for a Fair Trade homewares and gift company, travelling extensively through South East Asia and West Africa. It was during these buying trips that contact with the silversmiths was established.
Luna Tree continues to work with the same community today. Luna Tree is a registered member of BAFTS( British Association of Fair Trade Shops & Suppliers).Luna Tree has been registered continuously with BAFTS since 2009. Ethics are extremely important to Clare and form the very foundation on which her business is built.
Clare works closely on the designs with the silversmiths on her visits to Thailand. Many designs are pure Clare. Some designs are a mix of Clare’s ideas and the silversmith’s creativity. While some are pure Karen Hill Tribe designs. Not quashing their creativity is something which is important to the central focus of the business, along with the Fair Trade ethics on which Luna Tree is run. For Clare it's all about collaboration and creativity. Nature is the consistent source of inspiration for the jewellery, both for Clare and for the silversmiths.
The Karen people live in harmony with the natural world. Working as subsistence farmers they have a very spiritual connection with their land. This connection is reflected in their designs and craftsmanship.
How is Karen Hill Tribe Silver different to sterling silver?
Though Karen hill tribe silver and sterling silver may seem the same at first glance, they actually have some major differences:
- Unlike sterling silver, which is typically 92.5% pure in silver with the rest being copper or another metal, Karen silver is 96% to 99% pure.
- Sterling silver is usually factory or machine made, whereas Karen silver is crafted using only hand tools. Karen silver is created using sustainable methods due to the hand tools.
- Karen silver is made using techniques that have been passed down through families for generations in South East Asia.
- Karen silver can easily be melted and remoulded into a completely different design due to its high silver properties, without having to add any additional metal. Sterling silver can also be remoulded, but it is not advisable because additional new metal would have to be added which would further reduce the silver purity.
- As Karen silver ages, rather than creating the regular brown tarnish effect, it becomes a vintage-looking grey, which can easily be polished.
Our unique historical connection with the Karen People
Many people are not aware of the history of our relationship with the Karen people. There is a historical link between the British and the Karen peoples of Burma:
50,000 Karen supported the British during World War II. The Karen were hailed as heroes for the part they and many were awarded distinguished service medals for gallantry and loyalty, some for saving the lives of British soldiers.
One WWII veteran that I had the privilege to meet was carried, delirious with malaria, out of enemy territory to the safety of a Karen village in 1944. I have never forgotten what he said to me, not long before he died...” we trusted the Karen with our lives, that’s why we owe them so much”.
Anyone who meets Karen people is usually bowled over by their warmth and hospitality. 'Ome welia?' is typically their greeting. It means 'have you eaten yet?'. If you haven't you are immediately invited in to share the family meal. Read more about Karen culture and traditions here and how one of our partners, The Karen Hilltribes Trust, is supporting the Karen.
Luna Tree works on a basis of total transparency from the producers to customers, creating a personal link from one end of the chain to the other. Working directly with their silversmith community ensures the shortest possible supply chain.
At RainbowLife our aim is to connect our customers with the artisan, by knowing the story as closely as possible. We believe that every RainbowLife-Luna Tree customer has a special connection directly back to the Karen silversmith who created the jewellery piece. We may be worlds apart but the product and its story ties a thread between us. Wearing a piece of Luna Tree jewellery you carry a little piece of the Karen story with you.