A talk with Pippa Small, a superwoman do-it-all from jewelry designer to NGO activist.

London-based, the jewelry designer Pippa Small has set a foot in the city of Geneva for an exclusive exhibition inside Jill Wolf’s jewelry boudoir. An excuse to cross Swiss borders in order to discover the exquisite world of colored gems, ethical jewelry combined to a genuine artistic and philanthropic personality.

Author By Eleonor picciotto

She is anthropologist, a world traveler, an adventurer, a benefactor and mother of twins. Megan Markle loves her. She has stores in the coolest places such as Los Angeles and London. She is the British version of Marie-Helene de Taillac in her approach to stones and love for colors. She has been working with the Afghani NGO Turquoise Mountain supporting ancient jewelry traditions. She takes pride in working with mines from all over the world and for decades mixing different cultures to pay tribute to heritage, culture and traditions. Based in London, she has been surrounding her team with craftsmen from remote places in the world such as Afghanistan, Myanmar, Bolivia,  Colombia, Rajasthan or Jordan. She has been awarded as the Ethical Jeweler of the Year and won the Walpole Corporate Social Responsibility Award. She loves jewelry and respects it. She creates ethical pieces inspired by a specific culture and makes sure to implicate local artisans into the making process. In other words, Pippa Small does it all and does it well. Interview with Pippa Small a woman of multiple facets.

The Eye of Jewelry – How do you define sustainability?

Pippa Small- Oh well … we are not there yet! It’s a complex matter because it seems that we only look at the matter from the sole value of the material and its provenance. On one side we have tiny minerals that have an extraordinary value such as diamonds and on the other we have crystals considered as semi-precious stones that have a very minimal value. We mine huge amounts of semi-precious stones.  But no one is really looking at them because they don’t have any value.

The Eye of Jewelry – Why is that ?

Pippa Small – In a way it is obvious. People are investing huge amounts of money in diamonds instead of investing in quartz  stones that have a low value but I am confident that it will change… As an example, I have been working in Afghanistan for the last 10 years and when people ask about the ethical elements that are implied there, this is about sustainable jobs over the environmental impact. The most important things are young people because they are the educated generations that we need to work with in order to think about the future.

The Eye of Jewelry – What are the limits and boundaries in the desire to move towards more transparency?

Pippa Small – It’s a work in progress but in each place you have to focus on what is possible and available there. Each place is different and there are conflicts all over the world.

The Eye of Jewelry – What does ethical design mean?

Pippa Small – It means that each piece of jewelry we are creating, we are embedded in their culture. From the artisans to the mines – it’s rooted there. It creates a sense of pride and looking at their culture and traditions : it’s theirs.  You are not just taking a pattern from them.

The Eye of Jewelry –  How did you get so involved in those remote cultures?

Pippa Small- I have studied anthropology, then started working with the human rights and working with indigenous tribes and groups in different areas. I could see that people had skills. Within each community they had something special where they make something. They just did not have markets or did not understand how it worked. You have to create a bridge between their culture and your clients in pulling something that every culture can relate to such as nature inspired themes, the sun, the leaves … We look for things we can connect to.

Saeeda and Pippa working together in Kabul
Saeeda and Pippa working together in Kabul

The Eye of Jewelry – Are all the pieces unique?

Pippa Small- Not necessarily, they can make series but because it’s all hand made – they can differ. Pieces are made from all over the world ! For example, doing hand-made chains is very important to me because they are very labor intensive and you can employ a lot of people. In Afghanistan for example, women can work from home making chains.

The Eye of Jewelry – Why focusing on yellow gold?

Pippa Small – It’s mostly because of  taste. But it’s also very cultural. In Korea they prefer 24 carats, in India they prefer 22 carats gold, in Europe they like 18kt, In America they like 14kt. Since I have been going to India since I was 17, I am quite rooted in this culture. You see gold as being auspicious. If you have gold you are probably lucky. Not to forget that yellow is its original color!

The Eye of Jewelry – What is your creation process?

Pippa Small – Each project has a different meaning, motivation and intention. It either involves the environment or the people. Humans respond to story telling. We are like children!

The Eye of Jewelry- What is your thought about litotherapy, the power of healing with stones?

Pippa Small – It all depends which way you look at it. In the Sanskrit culture, the Nav Ratna is a combination of 9 gems recognized to be sacred and royal. There is a strong belief that these 9 gems are related to 9 planets that can have a huge implication on your life energetically wise. The Sun is represented by the Ruby, the moon by the pearl, Mars by red coral, Jupiter by yellow sapphires, Mercury by emeralds, Venus by diamonds, Saturn by blue sapphires, the rising moon by Hessonite and the descending moon by cat’s eyes.  The setting of each stone has to let it touch the skin. In the new age meaning, I feel like I don’t understand whose authority is giving the meaning of things. Where are these traditions are drawn from? I personally believe that instinct is very important. You might look at these stones and your eyes can be drawn by an Agate or anything else and you don’t necessarily need to know more if you feel something. I believe in the power of stones in a more primal matter.

The Eye of Jewelry – What is your favorite stone?

Pippa Small –Quartz crystal because you can find all over the world in different environments and they are not hugely expensive but each has a story to tell. There is life going on inside of them.

The Eye of Jewelry – Who will perpetrate your work?

Pippa Small- My two children who are now 6 ! Funny enough, my daughter isn’t really drawn to things but my little boy – he’s always  suggesting about making this or this thing in gold and shows real interest… but again, he’s only 6. Overall, there is this move of people wanting to know stories, the provenance where things are from, who made them, what do they mean, why are they making them which I believe is what makes them interesting.

Pippa with her twins: Mac and Madeleine
Pippa with her twins: Mac and Madeleine
Pippa Small - Pacific blue fringe necklace and triple drop earrings
Pippa Small – Pacific blue fringe necklace and triple drop earrings
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