Green Eyes On: In Afghanistan, a New NGO Creates Gorgeous Jewelry, and Supports Traditional Artisans


Double-emerald nugget ring by Pippa Small for Turquoise Mountain. Jewelry from the collection helps benefit traditional artisans and craftspeople in Afghanistan.

We all like a feel-good gift idea around the holidays. And here's it would be hard not to love. At the request of His Royal Highness Prince Charles and President Hamid Karzai, the non-profit NGO Turquoise Mountain was born to regenerate Afghanistan's traditional crafts and historic areas, and, in turn, create jobs, skills and a renewed sense of national identity. Using irresistible indigenous raw gems from Afghanistan -- emerald, ruby, lapis, amethyst, aquamarine, tourmaline -- designer and anthropologist Pippa Small creates mesmerizing jewelry designs for the NGO. All jewelry is handcrafted in Turquoise Mountain's Kabul studios by master artisans.

This month, Turquoise Mountain Jewelry will be available for the first time in the U.S. on ElegantRoots.com, with prices ranging from $69--300. For each piece of Turquoise Mountain jewelry sold on ElegantRoots.com, every dollar goes directly to the charity.

So how did a Prince get involved with a jewelry company?

On a 2004 state visit to Britain, Afghan President Hamid Karsai discussed with Prince Charles the imminent loss of Afghanistan's traditional crafts and how revival of those arts would help renew a sense of national identity. Prince Charles, an aficionado of traditional arts, committed to help. He raised seed money for a charitable foundation and enlisted his friend (and former tutor to his sons) Rory Stewart (author of The Places in Between and now a member of British Parliament) to lead the effort.

To achieve the revival of Afghan arts and the creation of a thriving art and design community, Stewart brought in many talented volunteers, including architects, urban planners, engineers, and artists. Among them was Pippa Small, renowned designer and anthropologist, whose design brilliance resulted in the line designed around Afghanistan's native raw gems.

Turquoise Mountain has restored many of of the historic buildings in the Murad Khane district of Kabul, employing many talented wood carvers and bringing life back to the arts center; has created the Institute for Traditional Afghan Arts to pass along the skills, create employment and preserve these arts; has created primary schools for children many of whom had never been to school before; and has created a girls' school.

Wearing this designer jewelry with raw-cut emeralds or rubies, promotes fair trade and aids in their rebuilding efforts to help restore historic buildings in Afghanistan, build schools, and create employment.

Looking for more green gifts this holiday season? Check out our Holiday Gift Guide: Low-Impact Luxury for High-Impact Giving

More on Fair Trade and Afghantistan
Exquisite Afghan Rugs Woven with Social Entrepreneurship : TreeHugger
Farming Helps Iraq and Afghanistan Vets Heal - Planet Green
Will Afghanistan Become the "Saudi Arabia of Lithium : TreeHugger
Afghanistan Protects Rare Bird, Snow Leopard, and Other Species : TreeHugger

Tags: Accessories | Fair Trade