Jewelers & Pets: A Guatemalan Jeweler Helps Stray Animals Through Jadeite Sales

Animals are like family to many in the industry. That’s why Jewelers & Pets is a new column for the Style 360 blog, and will highlight the furry friends of some of industry’s finest and the role they play in their lives. Plus, it’s also a good excuse to link to some of the many animal rescues and charities that exist to help animals in need. Want your pet to be profiled? Connect with me at jheebner@jckonline.com.

When Silvia Leech reached out to me this summer for a copy of the PowerPoint presentation—“How to Navigate Between Fashion and Fine in Your Store”—I presented at JCK Las Vegas this year, she also shared an incredibly moving (and well-written!) story with me about her animal rescue efforts. Fifteen years into my post here are JCK, everybody knows I’m a huge animal lover (and that’s why I started this column!). So when the creation and innovation manager at Casa del Jade in Antigua, Guatemala, told me what she was doing to rescue stray dogs in her hometown, using her platform working at her family’s jewelry store, I felt privileged that she shared her story with me, and excited to relay it to all of you.

The following is an excerpt from Leech’s recent letter to me about her efforts. Her moves bring to life one of my favorite quotes, from Margaret Meade: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Hi Jennifer, 

Greetings from Guatemala! I hope this email finds you in good health. 

My name is Silvia and I’m the creation and innovation manager for Casa del Jade, a family owned jewelry store specializing in Guatemalan jadeite jewelry.  

I noticed you started a new column called ‘Jewelers & Pets’ a few months ago, and look forward to it every month. I wanted to share with you the story about how my pets inspired a jade charm that now helps stray animals in Guatemala.

My dogs are like family to me, I love to spoil and cuddle next to them, and we give each other TLC every day! Petting and playing with them is the best stress reliever after a long day at work!

We have a Schnauzer-Cocker Spaniel mix and her name is Camila. She was the sweetest puppy, so well behaved and noble, and didn’t chew on anything. We also have a small French poodle—my mom’s favorite breed—that I got her for Christmas one year. We named her Nutella. She was so small…a coffee cup was bigger than her! She is so different from Camila, now an adult, and still behaves like a puppy. They are both fun and loving dogs and make good company for each other.

Silvia Leech with her French poodle, Nutella.

Silvia Leech with her French poodle, Nutella.

Silvia Leech's Schnauzer-Cocker Spaniel mix

Silvia Leech’s Schnauzer-Cocker Spaniel mix, Camila.

Seeing how Nutella and Camila have enhanced my life, it just made me more aware of all the stray dogs we have in Guatemala. It breaks my heart to see so many animals suffering on the streets, when they have so much love to give. In my 10-minute drive to work each day, I see at least 10 stray dogs scrounging for food.

So I started following Asociación de Amigos de los Animales (Association of Friends of Animals) on Facebook. The AMA´s mission is to improve the quality of life for animals in Guatemala by rescuing animals in need and educating people about responsible pet ownership. AMA operates thanks to donations from individuals, through fundraising events and making and buying products that are sold to the public for a profit to help pay veterinary bills—the AMA’s highest expense since it treats over 40 animals each month.

When they asked for donations on their Facebook page, I contributed when I could, but thought that wasn’t enough; I wanted to do something more! I decided I would design a Guatemalan jade bone pendant in silver and donate a percentage of the proceeds to the Association. Our pendant—chain not included—retails for $18.99. Thanks to the association’s loyal fan base, we sold out in the first three days, and there was even a waiting list to buy them. It has been several months now since we debuted (in early May) the jade bone pendants, and we have sold over 204 to date.

Guatemalan jadeite bone pendants sold by Casa del Jade in Guatemala benefit a local animal rescue group.

Guatemalan jadeite bone-motif and silver pendants sold by Casa del Jade in Antigua, Guatemala, benefit a local animal rescue group.

Also during this time, I got a taste of the hard work that the AMA does. One day while I was driving back to work after lunch, I saw a puppy that had just been hit by a car on the street; he was howling and couldn’t get up. I picked him up and took him to the vet. After x-rays and close examination, the vet confirmed he had two broken bones at his hip and if after 36 hours he didn’t get up, it was best to put him to sleep. The vet gave the puppy medicine for pain and intravenous fluids; we spent the night taking care of him. The next day he was able to get up! I spent the next few days working from home to make sure the puppy was okay and made regular visits to the vet. He still can’t run much…but is eating a lot, and happy playing with Camila and Nutella in my garden! We named him Rigel.

Rigel the street dog upon rescue by Silvia Leech; his legs were shaved by the vet to better treat his broken bones, the result of a car hitting the stray.

Rigel, the street dog, upon rescue by Silvia Leech. His legs were shaved by the vet to better treat his broken bones, the result of being hit by a car.

Rigel the street dog no more; Silvia Leech's rescue is now healthy, happy, and safe as the jeweler's pet.

Rigel, a street dog no more; Silvia Leech’s rescue is now healthy, happy, and safe as the jeweler’s pet.

This experience made me appreciate even more the hard work AMA does each day and how much love and passion they put into their work. I´m happy that I can contribute to the cause doing what I love most: designing jewelry!”

Since Leech wrote this letter, she has inspired her employer to expand on the bone-motif jewelry for sale through key chains and personalized dog tags; her store donates 20 percent of retail sales to the AMA.

She’s also noticed an increase in the number of organizations in Guatemala that exist to rehabilitate street dogs and place them in homes. Another serendipitous side effect: raising the profile of Guatemalan jadeite.

“Most people think it’s green, but it occurs naturally in different shades including green, purple, blue, orange, and what looks like emerald,” Leech told me yesterday in a Skype interview.

“I saw this color—white with a little bit of lilac or baby blue undertones—and thought it was perfect for the bone color. I’m so overwhelmed by how people received it, I didn’t think it would catch on so much,” she said.

To order a pendant or for a wholesale inquiry, log onto the store’s website or email Leech at silvialeech@lacasadeljade.com.

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