Palau’s Sylvia Kloulubak of Cheldoech Jewellery is committed preserving the legacy of a business she started with two friends making glass bead jewellery. Cheldoech is a Palauan term that means radiate or glow because of the glass. The term “Cheldoech” is still used to refer to the ancient Palauan women’s money beads.
Early Palauans used beads of coloured glass or high-fired clay (not found in Palau) as money in a complex exchange system.
Each piece was named, its clan ownership known, and its specific shape memorised by Palau’s elders. A clan’s history can be told through its money and the money continues to be used in traditional marriage and first child ceremonies, the past history of the money verified by the recipient.
Ms Kloulubak started making the glass beads back in 2009 with a work colleague and Anthropologist Kelly Marsh. Ms Marsh’s cousin-in-law, a local Palauan woman named Dativa made glass bead necklaces and jewellery using beads and shells and gave them away as gifts. After discussing the idea of starting a small bead jewellery business to supplement their incomes and to preserve the symbol of Palau’s ancient glass money beads, they went into business.
“I liked the idea immensely,” said Ms Kloulubak.
They started scouting the internet for beads especially glass beads because most of the ancient Palauan women’s money beads were made of glass.
The soon found a business that specialized in melting glass bottles and making beads out of the melted glass, called recycled beads.
“We liked the idea of recycled beads because of its recycling rationale and some of the glass beads actually looked like the glass money beads of the Palauan which they still hold preciously today,” she said.
Ms Marsh then invested and ordered all the beads that looked closest to the money beads they wanted to symbolise.
“Once we received the glass beads, Kelly bought all the supplies and labels locally that they needed to make the finished products, and they started working happily.
“It was one of the best times we ever had together,” Ms Kloulubak said. They named the business, Dakevia Jewellery. Da is for Dativa, Kelly’s sister in-law, Ke is for Kelly, and Via is for Sylvia.
After just two years, Ms Kelly had to return to Guam where she lived.
“Unfortunately, our dear friend and partner Dativa passed away and I was on my own,” Ms Kloulubak said.
However, Ms Kloulubak was proud that her friend’s investment was fully repaid by funds earned from selling the products in the local markets and hotels.
On her own, Ms Kloulubak eventually registered the jewellery business under her own name as sole proprietor of Cheldoech Jewellery.
“My goal is to hold this business for as long as I can because I would really want to preserve the small legacy that my two dear friends and I started, in the hope that one day it will be elevated to the next level,” said Ms Kloulubak.
“Each necklace and earrings are hand crafted just the way we did them in the beginning, with our own hands and nothing else, and I’m still doing the same thing today. It’s a work of love for preservation’s sake,” she added.
For more information email Ian Furlong, PTI NZ Trade Development Manager on firstname.lastname@example.org