06/20/2011 04:47 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Leakeys' African Jewelry Makes More Than A Fashion Statement

Leakey Collection necklaces
Jewelry exists to make an aesthetic statement. But it can make an ethical statement too. That idea drove Katy and Philip Leakey (yes, of that prolific anthropology family) to start the Leakey Collection.

In 2001, the Leakeys, who live in Kenya, found themselves supporting 100 Masai families during a severe drought. Realizing it wasn't a sustainable arrangement, the pair devised a way to make attractive accessories out of the region's renewable resources -- mainly tall grass and fallen trees -- and then taught local women how to do it.

Their decade-old business is thriving, due in part to their products' colorful beauty and versatility, but also because people feel good about buying from a company that prioritizes purpose: The women who hand-craft the bright, mix-and-matchable Zulugrass strands are paid fair wages, and 5% of profits go toward supporting the Rift Valley's infrastructure.

Which, if you believe ethics have anything to do with your shopping power, means that you may end up wearing the Leakeys' down-to-earth goods with more pride than any ill-gotten diamonds or gold.