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Southeast Asian Jewelry Designers to Watch

With a fresh take on traditional design, these three next-gen jewelry-makers from across Southeast Asia bypass the handicraft styles of earlier eras, instead shaping local treasures into wearable modern art. By ELOISE BASUKI.

Published on Jan 8, 2018


Nga Duong
Duong Jewelry + Objects, Hoi An

Flitting between Hoi An and Milan has imbued Nga Duong's jewelry line with an East-meets-West sense of design. "I first came to Milan in 2002, to start my studies at Istituto Europeo di Design," she says from her home in Italy. "People here have great passion in life and in creativity. Its breathtaking landscapes, architecture and art are great sources of inspiration." When her father opened GAM (, a museum containing 600 pieces of the rare gems he's collected throughout Vietnam over the past 30 years, Duong temporarily returned to Hoi An to not just support his endeavor, but also to set up shop with her new line, Duong Jewelry + Objects, utilizing her father's precious goods. "Spinel has a very special connection to me. I love their spectrum of colors: red like rubies, blue like sapphire," Duong says. "I can see their beauty even if they are not cut perfectly." Visit GAM's converted shophouse on the Thu Bon River for a glass of wine while browsing Duong's one-of-a-kind sparklers. Or, her range can also can be found at resort boutiques such as Amanoi in Ninh Thuan, Vietnam, and The Chedi Muscat Hotel in Oman.

The Rugiada Cuff
The Rugiada Cuff. Courtesy of Duong Jewelry + Objects.


Boom Chappell THAILAND
Boom Chappell
Metal Studio, Chiang Mai

The culturally rich hills of Northern Thailand serving as her muse, jewelry designer Boom Chappell's singular pieces are a subtle nod to the generations of traditional Chiang Mai silversmiths and crafters before her. "Many of the design elements I take inspiration from are hidden within craft work—the woven texture of a bamboo basket or the small details around temple doors," Chappell says. Although her designs are often classed as modern and industrial, Chappell still uses the hand-held antique tools she trained with. "Most people use electric wire-pullers now because they are faster and easier," she says. "I have an electric one, but never use it; I just like the antique one better. I'm not mass-producing jewelry, so speed is not really important to me." She also spends time handpicking the gems for her pieces, particularly rubies and free-cut sapphires from Chanthaburi, in Thailand's east. Located in Chiang Mai's coolest quarter, Nimmanhaemin, Chappell has opened a second spot in town, Monrasoom (, a gallery-like space for local designers.

Metal Studio
A selection of Chappell's laborodite pieces. Courtesy of Metal Studio.


Ly Pisith
Garden of Desire, Siem Reap

After escaping the Khmer Rouge as a child, Ly Pisith spent more than 30 years in France. These formative years shaped his creative style today, with experience designing for esteemed Parisian eyewear duo Alain Mikli and Philippe Starck. Returning home in 2008, Pisith began Garden of Desire, a jewelry line intrinsically linked to his Cambodian roots. "With the history and culture of my birthplace, there are endless possibilities [for inspiration]," Pisith says. Influenced by the intricate architecture that surrounds his Siem Reap studio, Pisith's jewelry often embodies the regal shapes of ancient temples, Khmer motifs and the environment. "I'm still working on my 'branch' series—forms of dried branches leftover from the hot season," he says. Favoring the vivid hues of tourmaline and labradorite, Pisith keeps his stones the star of his work, designing around their original form. "I want to keep them at their raw and most natural stage." Pick up one of his prized pieces in the ancient capital or at his second shop in Phnom Penh.

Garden of Desire
Pisith's Blues earrings. Courtesy of Garden of Desire.



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Duong's Mirror Mirror ring and Abstract ring. Courtesy of Duong Jewelry + Objects.
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