Founded at the request of HRH Prince Charles and Hamid Karzai, The Turquoise Mountain
foundation was originally set up in 2006 in Kabul with the aim to revive the country’s traditional crafts. In 2014 Turquoise Mountain partnered with the Suu Foundation, a humanitarian organization, and began their dedicated mission in Myanmar. Starting with restoring historic areas of the country, they hope to contribute advancement of health and education of the Burmese people through reviving traditional arts and crafts.
Whilst jewellery making has always been a huge part of Myanmar’s society, people are
increasingly favouring poor quality, machine-made imported designs and as a result, the
jewellery industry is rapidly declining. As Myanmar itself is one of Southeast Asia’s poorest
countries, it was crucial to help this ailing industry and the suffering craftsmen to preserve
the traditions of their ancestors.
Turquoise Mountain found goldsmiths, many from Ramree in the recently troubled Rakhine
state who were looking for work and opportunity and they soon set up a workshop to produce
designs to draw from the rich heritage but also to engage consumers all over the world.
Young men and women apprentices are learning these ancient skills and ensuring the survival
of this tradition.
My first collection was inspired by the gentle chiming of bells which followed behind me in
the distance. The temples were like a chorus, calling the spirits to listen to the prayers being
offered. Elephants and other animals each had a bell made especially for them so their sound
was distinct. Mesmerized and enamoured I began incorporating sound into my designs,
allowing each piece to have its own voice.
I worked with Aung Chay a goldsmith in Rakhine to create the collection and sourced the
stones from women ‘pickers’ and dealers in Mogok (an ancient source of the best rubies and
sapphires in the world). Outside the gemstone mines, women gather at the end of each day to
take home waste rock. They are free to sort through the rubble and search for Spinels,
Tourmalines and Peridots, before selling them at an all-female market nearby. They may go
without finding anything, yet the prospect of discovering just one substantial stone could
change their lives overnight.
I have since created 2 collections a year which we show in international fashion weeks to
buyers from around the world. I continue to be inspired by ancient Pyu designs but also the
many extraordinary designs of the different ethnic groups around this diverse and fascinating