The Family-run Jeweller Helping to Protect Pangolins


Patrick Mavros and his family in Africa.

The pangolin is an endangered mammal living in Africa and Asia that often falls under the radar. Patrick Mavros is a South African jeweller trying to do something about this situation.

Of the eight species of pangolin, four are listed as vulnerable, two, endangered, and two, critically endangered. Some pangolin species are already extinct. But very few people know much about, or have even heard of, the pangolin.

Poaching of pangolins is rife because their scales are thought to have medicinal benefits. Burgeoning illegal international trade, increased local trade, habitat loss and a lack of awareness have been found to be the main threats facing pangolins at present.

Patrick Mavros is a family-run jeweller that is trying to change this with a new collection of rings, cufflinks, cuffs and necklaces inspired by pangolins. Ten percent of sales from the collection go towards paying the salaries of the ‘pangolin men’ who are critical in the rehabilitation of captured pangolins at the Tikki Hywood Trust. The Tikki Hywood Trust is a non-profit that raises awareness, trains law enforcement and judiciary personnel, conducts research, and rehabilitates pangolins that have been confiscated from the illegal trade.

The Patrick Mavros brand was founded 35 years ago when then-soldier Patrick carved a pair of earrings into the shape of a rose for his wife, Catja. She wore them to the hair salon, where the hairdresser fell in love with them and requested a pair for herself.

From this gift, the business was born into what is recognised today as a uniquely African luxury brand. The Mavros sons: Alexander, Forbes, Patrick Jnr and Benjamin, have been involved in the business from day one, helping in the workshop and experimenting with materials and designs. Today, Alexander, who is based in London, takes care of the shops; Forbes oversees the studios in Zimbabwe and Mauritius; Patrick Jnr looks after design; and Benjamin oversees the farm in Africa.

At home, the workshops, the family homestead, the wildlife sanctuary and the studio are all built to form a small village on the family estate in the wild hills outside Harare in Zimbabwe. Patrick Mavros features many animals in its designs but recently it picked the pangolin to star in its collections.

“We chose the pangolins because they are a remarkable and unique creature that are almost unknown to the vast majority of people and yet are tragically the world’s most trafficked mammal,” says Patrick Mavros Jnr.

Pangolins are much less widely known than other endangered African mammals, he adds, because they’re nocturnal, and are extremely secretive and shy creatures.

Typically, each piece from this collection took around three to four weeks to perfect. Prices range from the pretty pangolin earrings in sterling silver at £145 to the Haka Cuff in 18-carat yellow gold at £14,900.

There is usually an interesting story behind the animal collections, adds Patrick Jnr.

“Our monkey and palm silver swizzle stick were designed by my father Patrick while he was having a few cocktails on the beach in Barbados and was visited by a particularly friendly green monkey,” he recalls. “As the afternoon went on, the design came to life and now we have the much-loved monkey swizzle stick that depicts the intoxicated monkey who swizzles dizzily round and round the stick, brandishing a coconut filled with rum punch.”

One of the interesting trends in the luxury jewellery business is that men are increasingly happy to wear adornments, says Patrick Jnr. “Our pieces appeal to the adventurer inside us all. The trend is to look great but also different, so having a pair of lion cufflinks or a crocodile buckle helps you stand out. We’re working on a pangolin men’s range.”

What is it that makes the designs so unique? “Everybody loves animals, and we specialise in making the very best representations of these wonderful creatures; I also feel that people love to be part of something exciting and fun, and that is at the very core of our family values.”

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