Satao was what is known as a Great Tusker, a type of male elephant that grows exceptionally large, and boasts huge, swooping tusks that stretch down almost to the ground. There are only a few Great Tuskers left in Africa—barely more than a dozen—since Satao was killed by poachers earlier this year, hacking off his majestic tusks for the illegal ivory trade.
When Houstonian Christina Burke learned about Satao and the plight of African elephants, she wanted to do something that would make a difference. She has teamed up with sisters Cynthia Sheridan and Lorena Rodriguez of the avant garde Houston jewelry line De Petra to create Satao by De Petra, a non-profit line of jewelry to benefit elephant conservation.
"Elephants have been a good luck charm—they signify wisdom and memory. They are very ancient and they are very symbolic," says Sheridan.
"They cry, they remember, they mourn—elephants are very family oriented," adds Burke. "By 2020 if the rate of poaching continues as it is, there will be no more elephants in the wild in Africa. That's one of the things that just tugged at our hearts. Our children are going to grow up in a world without elephants."
The Satao by De Petra line will launch officially in March 2015, but the partners have created a holiday preview collection that features a trio of jewelry designs centered around images of elephants. As is standard for De Petra, all the designs are handmade and one-of-a-kind, and each of the colors and materials chosen has a symbolic meaning. A simple bracelet of raw silk with an elephant charm starts at $25, with other pieces including an elaborate cuff in gold, quartz, and Italian leather priced at $400 up to $1,200.
"It's not only about the jewelry, it's a means to help," said Burke. "It depends how big your heart and your budget are."