About Fair Trade and the Artisans

Silver Tree Designs Butterfly Wing Jewelry

About Breeding the Butterflies & the Artisans

breeding Morpho butterflies

In 2010, we started working in Peru to support a sustainable community development project that works with the Shipibo Indigenous community in the Amazon Jungle along the banks of Huallaga River. Some of the most impoverished areas of Peru are located in the Amazon jungle, where communities struggle to maintain their traditional way of life, with the younger population often being forced to migrate to the cities or mines to work. With little to no education, the available jobs are limited and often dangerous, offering very low pay and long working hours. Some of the mining operations are illegally run, with no safety procedures in place, the injury and mortality rate is extremely high.

Butterflies are raised as an income generating project during the off season of the Cocoa harvest. Cocoa is harvested in the early part of the year, with the butterflies reaching maturity a few months later. With the fluctuation of cocoa prices on the Peru market, and with the increased likelihood of unrewarding yields due to changing weather systems, the butterflies are a very important income generating resource.

Members of the Shipibo community raise the butterflies in large netted enclosures. When the eggs are laid, and the caterpillars hatch, they are taken out to the jungle to feed on the wild plants and the days are counted. This creates increased biodiversity in the jungle, offering a food source for the animals and birds. When the days are counted, the caterpillars are collected and placed back into the netted enclosures where they pupate. The pupa are cleaned to prevent disease and later hatch into butterflies. The cycle continues, when the butterfly's life comes to an end it lays 1 to several batches of eggs, then the wings are collected and dried for shipping. They are carried for 2 hours by foot through the jungle to the local village, where they are then transported by boat for several days to Iquitos where they are shipped to our artisans in Lima.

Mahogany is illegally logged for the western market in this region in the Amazon Jungle and this vital source of income helps protect the tribal lands from this illegal logging and it ensure the protection and future of the community.

We are dedicated to purchasing all the butterfly wings rather than choosing only the best colors and species even if we do not use them in our jewelry thus supporting the communities as much as possible.

Making the Jewelry:

Butterfly Jewelry Artisans, making jewelry for Silver Tree Designs Once the wings arrive in our workshop in Lima, they are delicately cut and framed in silver. A group of talented jewelry artisans are hand crafting each piece in our butterfly jewelry line, working with both sterling silver and nickel, the two metals offered on our wholesale line.

It has take many years for the artisans to perfect their art, ensuring that each butterfly earring is consistently the same size and shape, and that only the best parts of the butterfly wing patterns are used. First the silver is cut, hammered and soldered into place. The glass is filed to shape and the wing pressed inside. Then the piece is hammered closed to give a tight secure fitting around the jewelry. As you may have noticed, both sides of the jewelry is finished the same way. There is a reason for this; it helps make the jewelry water tight as well as allows the jewelry to be reversible! Once the wing is securely in place, it is ground to remove any solder marks and polished to the shiny silver finish that we love.

It is important that each artisan constantly receives training, learning new aspects of the art, so every bit of the production process and the business is known.

Seeing the workshop develop over the years has been amazing, growing and implementing new and better policies. Last year there was a new roof to allow for bigger windows, and a new floor installed brightening the work space.

The Artisans:

The minimum wage for Peru is very low, at just $235 per month. We are dedicated to paying our artisans a real living wage, where they are able to make well over the national minimum. Being paid a salary rather than "by the piece" guarantees security of funds, along with other incentives, such as receiving a shared % bonus at the end of the year, paid sick and vacation time and any additional overtime is paid time and half. Our silver artisans are also offered a semi-flexible schedule. Although set hours are expected, there is flexibility in when the hours are worked to ensure family needs are met.

  • Name: Giovana Janet Espinoza Carhuaricra
  • Age: 33
  • Place of Birth: Junin
  • Giovana has been working with us since 2012. She is in charge of sorting the butterfly wings, selecting the best pieces, cutting and putting them together and ensuring the quality control of the wings used in the jewelry. This takes tremendous patience and a very calm and steady hand. Currently she lives with her brother and father, but is looking to get her own apartment to call home in the near future.
  • Name: Cesar Silva Carmen
  • Age: 28
  • Place of Birth: Piura
  • Cesar lives with his partner in Lima. Cesar is training as a silver smith, he currently is in charge of the finishing of the jewelry fixtures. He touches up any areas that need soldering, adds the wings and glass and finishes each piece by folding over the silver around the glass. As he advances in training, he will start to make the fixtures as well as learn other aspects of jewelry making such as filigree and design. He hopes to one day start his own artist studio working for himself making jewelry. We hope to give him all the skills to be able to do this.
  • Name: Julio Cesar Garcia Lozada
  • Age: 29
  • Children: 2 boys
  • Place of Birth: Piura
  • Julio is a skilled jeweler, knowing all process of making our butterfly wing jewelry as well as many other jewelry techniques. He is continually adding to his skills and wishes to learn more about jewelry design. Julio would also like to open his own jewelry workshop in the future.
  • Jose.
  • (Website under construction - More Bio's will be coming soon.....:-)

More About the Butterfly Wings:

The butterfly wings that are used to make this jewelry are collected from the warm tropical region of Peru in the Amazon basin, where they are bred in large netted enclosures. The collection of the wings are a byproduct of the breeding. The butterflies are not killed for their wings, the average butterflies lifespan is quite short and they are collected when their life comes to an end after laying 1 to several batches of eggs. This is essential to their sustainable breeding. It is also enables the generation of income in rural Amazonian communities, which since the decline in the logging industry have suffered depression and poverty.

Silver Tree silver jewelry artist cutting butterfly wings to fit earrings

Thank you for supporting Silver Tree Designs, we hope you love your butterfly wing jewelry as much as we love making it for you. If you have any questions about our jewelry, please contact us at [email protected] (tel: 503-662-2553)

If you breed butterflies and have wings you would like to make into jewelry, pelase let us know [email protected] and we will be happy to use the wings that you provide.

What is Fair Trade?

Fair Trade means an equitable and fair partnership between global marketers and producers in Asia, Africa, Latin America and other parts of the world. A fair trade partnership works to provide low-income artisans and farmers with a living wage for their work.

Fair Trade Criteria:

  • Paying a fair wage in the local context
  • Offering employees opportunities for advancement
  • Engaging in environmentally sustainable practices
  • Being open to public accountability
  • Building long-term trade relationships
  • Providing healthy and safe working conditions within the local context
  • Providing financial and technical assistance to producers whenever possible
  • Ensuring that there is no abuse of child labor

Why Fair Trade?

Our consumer spending choices affect people's lives around the world. The products we enjoy are often made in conditions that harm workers, communities and the environment. But increasingly consumers are demanding more humane, more environmentally sensitive products.

In today's world economy, where profits rule and small-scale producers are left out of the bargaining process, farmers, craft producers, and other workers are often left without resources or hope for their future. Fair Trade helps exploited producers escape from this cycle and gives them a way to maintain their traditional lifestyles with dignity.

What Fair Trade Products are Available?

Fair Trade encompasses a range of goods, from agricultural products from the global South like coffee, chocolate, tea, and bananas, to handcrafts like clothing, household items, and decorative arts.

Source: Fair Trade Federation

Useful Links to Fair Trade Organizations: