Look around the world to find designers making eye-catching baubles with a purpose.
One of the best things about travel (besides the people, the food, the landscapes, the art, and the adventure) is the jewelry. Buying a piece of statement jewelry abroad is a great way to remember your trip and support local artists. Plus, when invariably people ask you “Where did you get that?” you can regale them with stories about your travels, which they are definitely dying to hear.
If you can’t get away to your dream destination anytime soon, or just love collecting interesting and affordable pieces from abroad that you will never see on anyone else, here are ten fascinating local jewelers making big statements with their statement jewelry.
Colombia’s Mercedes Salazar
Her home country is the starting point for every piece in designer Mercedes Salazar’s collection. With Colombia as her muse, the possibilities are endless. She finds inspiration in the lush rainforests, the mighty mountains, the tropical fruits, the oceans, the cobblestoned colonial cities, the iridescent birds and the deeply rooted cultures of the indigenous peoples. Beetles, shamans, toucans, calico shells, shooting stars, dahlias, and wild bananas adorn her earrings, necklaces, and bracelets. Salazar, who studied jewelry and goldsmithing in Mexico City, incorporates into her collection bronze, gold, silver, semi-precious stones, blown glass, thread, emeralds, mother-of-pearl, feathers, raffia, and fabric woven by indigenous communities using ancestral techniques.
Her Four Golden Skulls bracelet is meant to evoke the wearer’s ability to let die what is not serving her and live her life the way she wants. While the Sinú Between Sapphires earrings from her Shamanic Flight collection pay homage to the tiny sculptures of shamans, which you can see in Bogotá’s astounding Museo de Oro.
India’s Bansri Mehta
There aren’t too many countries that do jewelry better than India. The subcontinent was the first place in the world where diamonds were mined and it has the longest continuous legacy of jewelry-making of any region, dating back 5,000 years.
However, that doesn’t mean they don’t do costume jewelry and do it well. Bansri Mehta’s statement jewelry is inspired by her love of travel and art. Mehta began her career as a fashion designer for brands such as BCBG and Bebe, but found her true calling when she began designing jewelry solely for herself, which everyone around her wanted. Her pieces are vibrant, eclectic and affordable. Her Gold Plated Emerald Collar Tribal Necklace is a showstopper as is the Gold Plated Floral Pattern Bodychain.
Korea’s Monday Edition
With all the hype around Korea’s K-pop music scene and Seoul’s designation as one of the world’s hottest fashion cities, it’s no surprise K-fashion gets it right when it comes to fun jewelry. Fun, feminine and idiosyncratic, Monday Edition was founded by two sisters, Sara Kim and Sun Young Kim. Their brand of understated but unconventional pieces blew up after being embraced by K-pop celebs Girls Generation and other Korean glitterati. These Vertical Pattern Glass Earrings deserve to be famous.
Under the Taliban, jewelry was banned; it could neither be made nor worn. During the group’s reign, a young man named Javid was exiled to Pakistan, where he learned the art of gold jewelry making. Javid returned to his homeland in 2001 and now runs a shop that employs men and women, a dangerous thing to do, but he is committed to a mixed gender workplace nonetheless. Now, thanks to his collaboration with London-based, ethical jeweler and anthropologist Pippa Small, the line of unique jewelry inspired by Ancient Afghan and Turkman design is available online.
The Turqoise Mountain Zeeb Double Long Earrings and Zeeb Long Necklace are wondrous examples of how ancient traditional design has been built upon to include modern tastes. Click here to see the entire collection from Afghanistan.
Mexican jewelry house, Caralarga, is all about nature, preservation and simplicity. They eschew metal for textile and the aesthetic exalts the raw material in its natural state. Their credo: we like things as they are.
Based in a workshop in Querétaro, México, where every single piece is made by hand, company founder Ana Holschneider uses natural fibers sourced locally. The bulk of the raw materials used are cotton threads, fiber from the sansevieria plant, recycled bull horn and textile waste discarded due to small imperfections.
Kenya’s Adèle Dejak
Crafted in the heart of Kenya, Adèle Dejak created the brand to remind women that they are stunning, which might be the greatest company mission statement ever. The company works with environmentally friendly and recycled materials, the same kinds used by local tribes to make their ornaments. The accessibly priced brand has high visibility across Africa and has even partnered with Salvatore Ferragamo.
The Lunaranne Earcuff is an edgy addition to any outfit, as is the Dhamani Maureen necklace, a solar system of eight folded brass wires with different starting and ending points, each of which can be removed depending on how extra you want to be when you wear it.
Morocco’s Moroccan Birds
Founded by two sisters from Casablanca who grew up playing dress-up in their mother’s magical jewelry box, Moroccan Birds embodies the magic of the North African country. As girls, Zineb and Rim Debbagh spent their summers buying beads and baubles and stringing them together to make bracelets to sell at family gatherings. Their unique line of silver jewelry blends traditional Moroccan design with international urban bohemianism. The pieces are inspired by bold Berber workmanship and traditional tribal signs. The siblings take pride that all pieces are one-of-a-kind, or, as they put it “zero duplication.”
One sister is based in NY, where the line is designed, and the other lives in Casablanca, where it’s ethically made. The duo work with local craftspeople who know ancestral Berber jewelry-making techniques. Their goal is to help preserve the fading tradition while exporting their love of Morocco to the rest of the world. The Al’Nasr-Malaki Red Necklace does an excellent job on both those fronts.
Brazil’s Lívia Canuto
Lívia Canuto’s jewelry pulses with the spirit of Brazil. Canuto, who has a degree in industrial design, brings a sculptor’s eye to the art of jewelry making. The Rio-based designer makes jewelry inspired by the amulets, figas, beads, medals, and candomblé culture with its orishas that were historically meaningful to the Afro-Brazilian population. She also makes pendants that take their cues from fish, moonlight, Paris, and Arab architecture. There is a delicacy and a strength in all her pieces. Her rose earrings are a good example of the former and her riding bracelet of the latter.
Mali (and Brooklyn’s) doublehighfive
Founded by Chloe Thompson, a world traveling graduate of Brown University and Wharton, doublehighfive sources bracelets made in Mali from recycled rubber flip flops. The rubber shoes slated for the trash heap get a second life when they are melted down by local women and made into whimsical, stackable rubber bracelets in a riot of colors. Fair-trade certified, you can wear them to the gym, the office or the beach. Thompson, who says she “loves both hugging trees and making business sense,” has managed to do both—creating value and building a company that sells cool stuff at the same time.
Israel’s Inbar Shapira
Tel Aviv-based jewelry designer Inbar Shapira cites her inspirations as ranging from ancient Egyptian culture to the geometry of modern urban metro lines. Founded in 2010, Shapira started making jewelry after returning to Israel from India determined to channel her creativity and her spirituality into her craft. She works in brass and sterling silver and designs and fabricates all her pieces by hand.
The Divine Feminine Silver Link Chain Tiara with Tassels is perfect for festivals and the Wing Gold Cuff Bracelet is great for every day.