Our History


Where It All Began

The "Cary" family is an established old Zuluand family, dating back to the 1800's.

Lionel Cary was one of the first game guards at the Hluluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve back in 1895. Prior to working in the Reserve, Lionel owned a transport company which carried goods between Zululand and Johannesburg by ox wagon. This trip would take 3 months. It was during this time that he first came in to contact with elephant hair bracelets. He began making and trading them with the local tribesmen.

Lionel Cary, the first true elephant hair bracelet connoisseur.
Lionel Cary

There are many stories about his exploits including one when he was bitten by a black mamba snake and miraculously survived after his tracker treated him whilst still in the bush.

When Lionel got married, his wife insisted that their names were combined, so the family name became Cary-Smith.

Francis Cary, second generation elephant hair bracelet craftsman and connoisseur.
Francis Cary
(AKA Frank)

Lionel's son Francis (AKA Frank) was involved in the rehabilitation and remodelling of numerous Game Farms in the KZN area as well as the "Save the white rhino" project. He carried on his fathers tradion of making the fantastic bracelets, and he then passed on the skills to Francis (AKA Neale) when he was a young man.

Francis (Neale Francis Cary-Smith) was born in 1956 and after being involved in various Zululand wildlife projects he set up JustElephant.com.

Francis is now the 3rd generation elephant hair jewellery artisan, having been trained by his father and grandfather.

Neale Francis Cary-Smith, third generation elephant hair bracelet craftsman and connoisseur and the face of JustElephant.com
Francis Cary-Smith
(AKA Neale)

Whilst the traditional 'knot' style is still incredibly popular, he has recently introduced metals to make them more contemporary. All the closures and fittings are molded and made on-site; and the entire elephant hair bracelet continues to be hand crafted by him.

Today Francis relishes in the rich history of his ancestors and takes great pride on his workmanship. It is with great sadness that his trade will end in a few years time once his current stock of elephant hair is depleted.

JustElephant.com not only designs and manufactures exquisite hand crafted genuine elephant and giraffe hair bracelets, but is actvely involved in the local community. Francis, along with other members of the staff, are members of the St Lucia Honorary Wildlife Officers Association. This Association is a non-profit volunteer organisation which assists Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife with its monitoring and enforcing of conservation related issues.

JustElephant.com is also actively involved in many of the schools and pre-schools assisting with providing a daily meal and books for the pupils.