Winner of The Observer Ethical Awards Global campaigner 2011.
Voted by The Retail Jeweller 2011 as one of the Top 100 innovators in the UK Jewellery Industry
Maverick, pain in the arse, social entrepreneur, out of the box, radical, passionate, emotional, idiot, unmanageable, direct, to the point, breath of fresh air, rebel, visionary, scruffy, non-conformist, looks like a bum, economic terrorist and dangerous bastard have all been used to describe Greg and his commitment to human rights, ecological responsibility and fair trade in the jewellery sector.
Standing in a filthy mine in India he called the ‘gateway to hell’ convinced Greg Valerio he had to be not only a budding jeweller – but also a campaigner on behalf of those who were being exploited at the source.
The destinations he visited were often like apocalyptic scenes – Sierra Leone diamond mines, Congolese gold mines and Indian gemstone mines where adults and children worked knee-high in mud, exploited by local and international traders, the modern day slavery of extreme proportions. All this compelled Greg to confront and create a better option for the jewellery world. Greg confronted the industry giants and power brokers – with passion and fire – to pursue human rights and environmental justice throughout the jewellery value chain.
Life wasn’t always that way, of course. Greg was expelled from school. He spent his teenage years in the theatre and on the streets of London during the 80s. But various experiences opened his eyes to the plight of the poor.
He ended up rubbing shoulders with iconic campaigners and fashionista like Bob Geldof, Katharine Hamnett and Anita Roddick. He was the first international jeweller to visit Oro Verdé, Colombia, where he befriended eco-friendly gold miners.
Monitoring supply routes of raw materials, Greg became determined to make transparency and traceability his mantra. ‘Jewellers often ignore the stories of their sources,’ he said. ‘This is an industry that is running scared of the truth, but with the resources to put it right.’
In 2004 his former company CRED launched the first ethical jewellery website selling ‘green’ wedding rings. Seven years later, he became The Observer Ethical Awards Global Campaigner 2011 for his work in advocating for Fairtrade gold. He was voted by The Retail Jeweller as one of the top 100 innovators.
Respected for his creativity and reviled for his compassion, Greg believes the dreamscape of jewellery cannot be built on the desolation of the destitute and the ecological integrity of the planet.
Through Valerio Jewellery he aims to show that grandeur for the rich doesn’t have to mean grit for the poor. Everyone should have a share of the beauty and bounty.
General info and history.
Owner of VALERIO Jewellery – an online ethical and fair trade fine jewellery brand.
In 1991 aged 24 following trips to Tanzania and Ethiopia, he started CRED a development education network on the south coast of England. Working with young adults in schools and colleges he became a regular facilitator of young activists in the field of human rights, the environment and fair trade (economic justice for the poor).
In 1996 Greg started CRED Jewellery the pioneering fine jewellery company. Cred Jewellery was the UK and Europe’s first jewellery company to retail fair trade green gold and platinum jewellery collections. Some of the highlights of his work has been the publication in 2003 of ‘Towards an Ethical Jewellery Business’, the introduction in 2004 of fully certified green gold wedding rings to the UK in partnership with Oro Verde.
Greg worked with The Fairtrade Labeling Organisation (FLO) and other National Fairtrade Organisations from 2010 to 2014 co-ordinating their International Gold programme.
After visiting this pioneering small-scale mining initiative in 2003/4, he continues to advocate for their social and environmental mining in the rain forests of Colombia. Oro Verde support indigenous sustainable mining methods for gold and platinum that do not use cyanide or mercury and offer 100% transparency on gold.
Following an invitation in 2008 by Inuit small-scale ruby miners in Greenland, he witnessed first hand the colonial marginalisation that was taking place at the hands of the Danish Government and the Canadian Mining Company True North Gems. He has been active in supporting the indigenous people’s right to mine, own, transform and sell their Ruby without fear of prosecution by the authorities. It is still illegal in Greenland to pick up ruby and take it home.
In 2010 with US ethical jeweller Marc Choyt, he co-founded FJA whose aim is to make ethically sourced jewellery the only moral choice for consumer and supplier. FJA enables jewellers and jewellery businesses to commit to transparency and traceability in the jewellery supply chain from source to product. It also acts as a voice to marginalised communities who are effected by injustices around mining as a whole.
He is happily married to Ruth with two girls Mali-Grace and Jemba-May. His personal interests and practices are enjoying his Triumph Bonneville, Sea Kyacking, researching and practicing indigenous Celtic Christian spirituality and living as simple a life as is possible given his love of Indian food.