On the 10th anniversary of her Los Angeles boutique, the British jeweler opens up on her work in Afghanistan, her connection to Prince Charles, and how Markle boosted business.
Since 2008, British jeweler and avid globetrotter Pippa Small has been working with Afghani nongovernmental organization Turquoise Mountain, helping to revive the country’s ancient jewelry traditions while simultaneously creating new markets for its artisans.
But it wasn’t until last year, during a tea party to celebrate his 70th birthday, when she was introduced to His Royal Highness Prince Charles, who conceived of the foundation with the former president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, and Rory Stewart. Launched in 2006, the charity was envisioned as a way to preserve and pass down the war-torn country’s crafts from older master artisans to young Afghans.
“Pippa Small has collaborated with Turquoise Mountain for 10 years now and has been instrumental in establishing jewelry workshops in Kabul and mentoring young artisans. Pieces made in collaboration with Pippa exemplify the work of the foundation,” HRH Prince Charles said in a statement. “Pippa took the leap of faith with Turquoise Mountain and not only helped realize their ambitions but also proved that the Turquoise Mountain model can work.”
Small, who has worked with artisans in communities all over the world to revive and collaborate on traditional design since her namesake line’s inception, says she was drawn to the foundation by a shared belief in the importance of craft, design and “a feeling of hope in the future that creating can manifest,” she says.
“The school offers a haven for young men and women in Kabul, in a beautiful traditional environment they can escape the violent and uncertain world outside the walls, they can work together and create. In making jewelry the very focus and concentration needed to produce a piece of jewelry offers a reprieve like a meditation from the pain of the outside world.”
With a solid presence in Los Angeles — the Pippa Small Brentwood Country Mart boutique is now celebrating its 10th anniversary — Small’s ethically made designs have earned a loyal following in Hollywood, counting Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Thandie Newton and Angelina Jolie among its fans.
“The designs have a bohemian artisan feel, handmade in 18- and 22-karat gold, which works well with the relaxed and easy style of California,” explains the jeweler, counting dainty pieces such as her Opening Flower necklace, Jellyfish earrings and Cord necklaces (stones framed in gold with gold charms, best worn layered) among the brand’s best-sellers.
But it’s Prince Charles’ new daughter-in-law, Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, whose support of the brand has doubled sales for the Turquoise Mountain collection lately. There’s currently a waiting list for pieces sported by the Duchess on numerous occasions, including the wedding of Princess Eugenie of York and Jack Brooksbank, and most recently, a surprise appearance at the British Fashion Awards. The Duchess of Cambridge has also been spotted wearing earrings from the line.
“The artisans in Afghanistan are celebrating the increase in work for the workshop,” says Small, who recently spent a week in Kabul to visit the foundation’s newly built Design Centre, where she held a class in design.
With the worsening security situation in Kabul, Small continues to be in awe of the resilience shown by the artisans and students at the foundation, she says. “We spend time discussing designs, but also a great deal of time I find myself listening to the stories of life in a conflict area, their fears but also their joys, falling in love and marriages, new babies. They all just want peace and the ability to live their lives safely.”