During the reign of the Taliban in Afghanistan, there were many restrictions placed upon the local people. As well as the headline-grabbing injustices, such as no access to schooling for girls, the Taliban also banned any indulgence in traditional crafts such as woodwork, calligraphy, ceramics and jewellery-making. But now, British jeweller Pippa Small is helping to revive the latter skill through an ethical jewellery project.
Following the loosening of the Taliban’s chokehold on Kabul, Afghan arts charity Turquoise Mountain was formed and has been busy reintroducing arts and crafts to the city’s inhabitants. The focus of the charity is not only to preserve these traditional skills but also to give the people of this war-torn country a chance to support themselves.
British jewellery designer Pippa Small, who is an intrepid traveller, has been blatantly flaunting the UK Government’s foreign travel advice, which today cautions against all but essential travel to Kabul, to regularly visit Afghanistan. The reason for her trips over the last eight years is a collaboration with Turquoise Mountain; a partnership that this pioneer of sustainable luxury would certainly deem essential.
Small has been working with the craftspeople of Turquoise Mountain to train them to create seasonal jewellery collections sold under a diffusion brand called Pippa Small Turquoise Mountain. By setting up this regular flow of work, Small says she hopes to “help support local artisans and businesses at such a crucial time in Afghanistan’s economy.”
The jeweller describes Afghanistan as a turbulent country with limited employment opportunities that most international companies are unwilling to invest in, which she says can lead to young people joining the ranks of the Taliban or IS just to survive. Projects such as Turquoise Mountain, she hopes, will give them another alternative.
This spring marks the launch of the second instalment of ethical jewellery from Pippa Small Turquoise Mountain. Named the Shah collection, the line of jewels draws inspiration from Afghanistan’s history, particularly the legend of Alexander the Great who, after conquering Persia, settled in Afghanistan with his Persian bride Roxanne. Small, who was an anthropologist before she became a jeweller, has let her imagination run wild to design jewels that she imagines Roxanne would have worn.
The result is bold, geometric silver jewellery lavished with rich yellow gold plating and livened with splashes of lapis lazuli, chrysocolla, garnet, tourmaline and quartz. The Shah collection also incorporates traditional Tunis chain that links flat hammered circles together to form necklaces and bracelets.
And, best of all, this is a collection that not only helps to celebrate Afghanistan’s rich cultural heritage, but with every piece sold, will contribute to ensuring its future too.