When you’re a member of the media you receive many emails, particularly from people and companies you may not know looking to introduce themselves and, hopefully, garner a little press.

062512_Graff,-Michelle-new-blog-shotIn the midst of this digital crush, it takes something really different and beautiful to catch your eye. But it happened to me earlier this month.

The email was about an Austin, Texas-based company called Raven + Lily, which partners with disadvantaged women around the world, teaching them a craft --jewelry-making among them--and then in turn creating a sustainable, fair-trade partnership that gives the women purpose, income and a career.

The name Raven + Lily is a reference to two well-known Bible verses (“Consider the ravens...,” “Consider the lilies...”), both of which encourage readers to have faith that God will take care of them.

Last week, I met with company co-founder Kirsten Dickerson here in New York and got to see and handle the jewelry crafted by Raven + Lily employees in Ethiopia.

As Kirsten explained, the Ethiopian women employed by Raven + Lily are HIV-positive and live in a remote mountain community populated by similarly situated women and children. Raven-and-Lily-jewelry
They melt down bullet casings and reshape them into beads for jewelry, which is then shipped to Austin and sold online and through independent retailers.

While the design is different, the concept itself reminds me of the amazing work of The Strongheart Fellowship Program, a nonprofit that gives young people displaced or orphaned by conflict a place to heal and get an education. Participants in Strongheart, an exhibitor in the designLAB at the JA New York winter show this year, must design a product or service. Past designs have included jewelry, such as the “Akawelle” necklace made from transformed bullets from the Liberian civil war.

Price points for the Raven + Lily jewelry crafted in Ethiopia range from about $22 to $156, making it a great addition for jewelers looking to add a socially conscious but affordable element to their cases.

Raven + Lily also has initiatives in India, where women produce jewelry crafted of wood and metallic leathers, and Cambodia.

The full range of the company’s products is available at RavenandLily.com.

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