"I have spent most of my adult life regularly travelling to projects to work with  artisans in different countries all over the world. I have loved every moment of these trips, from meeting new people, creating friendships, learning new words, sounds and landscapes, scratching the surface of a new culture and political situations, looking at the history and getting a sense of what life is like. 

I went to Bolivia for the first time in 2009 with only the name of a cooperative gold mine piloting to become Fairtrade near La Paz. I shall never forget my initial impressions and excitement of landing at El Alto airport and watching in surprise as old oxygen tanks were wheeled out for fainting and breathless passengers as the high altitude hit. 

Driving down the steep mountain road into La Paz as the sun rose, hitting the sharp mountain tops with golden light, I was enthralled by this magical place. Life is hard in the Andes; you can see it on people's faces, the climate, poverty, and a difficult history. Smiles are not easily given, and it takes time to build relationships of trust. 

I met Javier through the leader of the cooperative gold mine. Javier welcomed me into his tiny workshop in the middle of the Coca market on a steep hill in the bustling city. Chola women with rainbow shawls, perched bowler hats, and full skirts sit with vegetables and coca leaves for sale along the road. The leaves are legally used for ceremony, tea, and chewing. All the gold miners chew coca for energy, appetite suppression, and to help the body cope with the altitude. 

Javier welcomed me warmly and our long friendship began. He quickly understood my design ideas and knew the gold mines well, having been a miner when he was young, as was his father. He knows everything about Gold, its origins and which point of the mountain it’s from, based on its colour and shape. He makes jewellery for the Chola ladies in the city but enjoys the different challenges of the work we do together. 

From my designs he creates these wonderfully smooth, warm, worn pebbles from stones we collect from riverbeds, all made in 18kt Artisanal Gold. When we first started working in Bolivia, I worked with Cotapata, the world’s first certified Fairtrade and Fairmined mine, and later with Yani, a mine high in the Andes that had recently been certified as Fair Mined. Being Fair-mined certified means the mine has passed a strict set of standards to ensure a clean and safe work practice, every year the standards are raised to ensure that the mine is improving its impact on the surrounding environment. Unfortunately, neither mine holds its Fair-Mine or Fairtrade certification due to a lack of traction and demand for Fairtrade Gold and the mine's feasibility. The traceability of the materials we use and finding the cleanest gold sources in the countries we work in are an ongoing journey. We are proud to now use 18kt Gold from a small artisanal mine in Bolivia and to continue to work with Javier. 

Meet the Maker


An Aymara Indian from Bolivia, Javier is the son of a gold miner who began working in the mines of Tipuwani himself. He later moved on to goldsmithing and now has a tiny workshop in Miraflores near the coca market. From this little space, he makes beautiful creations for the indigenous Chola ladies of La Paz, who invest heavily in the precious metal.

He has worked with Pippa since 2009, creating smooth, warm and worn pebbles, all made in 18kt Artisanal Gold and strung on rainbow shades of alpaca wool.