Luxury Jewelry By Way Of Afghanistan

With shops in Notting Hill as well as Los Angeles, London-based jewelry designerPippa Small has developed a large following for her statement-making bohemian jewelry which works with the natural contours of gem stones for a “river-tumbled, imperfect feel”. But even more impressive than the stunning aesthetics of her pieces are the incredible partnerships Pippa forms with local artisans around the world.  Developing jewelry lines that draw on their heritage but can be sold in a global market, Pippa has worked with everyone from the Kuna Indians of Panama to the Batwa of Rwanda to the San Bushmen of Botswana, to slum dwellers in Kenya and Aymara goldsmiths in Bolivia.

Her latest line, The Turquoise Mountain collection, is a striking collection of strong, bold pieces handcrafted by young men — and women — in Afghanistan.

Jewelry-making in Afghanistan, a country rich in gem stones, was a longstanding cultural tradition almost wiped out by decades of conflict and Taliban rule. Talented artisans were forced to flee the country or give up their craft that almost succeeded in stripping the Afghan people of an important cultural piece of their heritage. Then in 2006, supported by the President of Afghanistan and the Prince of Wales, Turquoise Mountain was established to revive traditional Afghan craft of jewelry-making, woodworking, calligraphy and ceramics. Turquoise Mountain revived the once derelict Murad Khani section of Kabul as well as training young Afghan men and women in skilled trades that would lead to entrepreneurial careers.

Kirsty Hume models the Turquoise Mountain collection for Pippa Small (credit: Tierney Gearon)

How did you first get involved with Turquoise Mountain?

I’ve been working with this group for about seven years now. I went out initially to design a collection with a charity to go with the Bactrian collection, a horde of gold from the second century around the time of Alexander the Great. The gold had been hidden by the museum director in Kabul when the Taliban came through. He buried it and when the Taliban fell, he had opened where he hidden it. They’re beautiful exquisite pieces that have touring around the world. The charity thought because it was touring, they’d have a craftsman make jewelry that they could sell in the museums.

I found a group of craftsmen at Turquoise Mountain and went back twice a year to make collections with those craftsmen that I’d sell to Barney’s. We did a few collections for Monsoon, which since it’s on the high street is great for volume, great for them to get consistent orders so we’re working on our third collection for Monsoon.

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