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Not Your Average Jewelry: Crafted From Recycled Brass Bombshells

Decades of war have left Cambodia’s fields littered with brass from bullet and bomb casings. Rajana Association, our fair trade partner in Cambodia, is using them to create symbols of hope and peace from this literal war shrapnel, bringing you the Bombshell Jewelry Collection.

In a workshop in Cambodia, 4 members of the Rajana Association stack and inspect salvaged bomb shells. They are brass and 2-3 feet long.

The bombshells left behind are relics of horrors still in living memory: the site of one of the most horrific mass genocides in history occurred in Cambodia during the regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, from 1975-1979. Then, the country endured a civil war as backlash, initiating political controversy with echos from Vietnam to the U.S., continuing through the 1990s.

It is, therefore, no small feat that creative artisans choose now, to salvage the wreckage quite literally. Rajana Association, who has taken their name from the Khmer word for “design,” is committed to preserving and rebuilding Cambodia’s rich cultural traditions, while creating jobs and opportunity for rural families in a developing nation still reeling from trauma.

“Here at Rajana Association we are happy to transform old bombshells into jewelry—we see it as a statement of the peace we’ve discover(ed) since the fall of the Khmer Rouge,” stated jewelry producer, Thorn Raksmey.

Jewelry Production

Rajana Association purchases brass bomb and bullet shells after they have been salvaged and cleared for safety by a local de-mining agency. From there, the brass is melted down, then forged into the beautiful symbols of peace Raksmey spoke of. Lastly, they’re exported to international markets where folks may carry these artisans’ stories of resilience and healing with them, while making artisans’ sustainable livelihoods possible through sustained orders.

Two artisans work together to cut brass pieces off a bombshell to be melted down and turned into jewelry. Image shows one person's hands holding down the bombshell and sawing through it, while another set of hands peels pieces of brass metal away that have been cut.

One of the artisans responsible for creating these pieces is Mr. Heng Sopheanith. Once a refugee in Thailand, he was able to travel to the Battambang province where he was trained as a silversmith and eventually chosen to help lead the Rajana artisan group.

“Thank you very much for helping and supporting us. Buying our products means giving us salary. Buying continuously means supporting our sustainability to live. Our family is benefiting from all of your support.”

Rajana artisan, Heng Sopheanith is pictured in a workshop, seated at a workstation, holding up a bombshell ring he has fashioned from the recycled bombshells.

Heng is married with three children. When we asked him if there is anything he’d like to express to his customers, he shared: “This work affects my life by creating employment, giving job satisfaction and a wage that can help me support my family, send my children to school for education and provide good food to help my family have better health, as well as feeling a part of the community.”

Every piece of jewelry that is crafted from this recycled material is a symbol of hope for the future, and peace redeemed. By transforming the very same material that had been used for destruction into something used for beauty, Cambodians find a means of supporting themselves and a way to heal.

Bombshell Jewelry Collection

The Leaf Ring and Leaf Cuff were thoughtfully designed with a modern look and the brass that had once been part of a weapon holds a certain weight, literally and figuratively.

Bombshell Jewelry pieces, Leaf Ring and Leaf Cuff are pictured with an herb sprig on a white background.
Bombshell Jewelry Collection: Leaf Cuff, Leaf Ring

The Graceful Lotus collection, including earrings and a matching pendant necklace bear refined symbols of resilience, culture and enlightenment. The lotus flower is plentiful in Cambodia and carries symbolic meaning in Hindu and Buddhist cultures because it roots in muddy water, then rises and blooms above the murk. A material once rooted in war, has bloomed into something beautiful in every piece from the recycled Bombshell Collection.

Bombshell Jewelry pieces, The Graceful Lotus earrings, and The Graceful Lotus necklace are pictured on a model with long dark hair. She is smiling and looking off in the distance.
Bombshell Jewelry Collection: Graceful Lotus earrings, Graceful Lotus necklace

The War and Peace Earrings are stamped with the Khmer word for peace. Wear this message proudly, knowing that the materials and process of the Bombshell Collection support peace as well.

Image reads: Not Your Average Jewelry. Crafted from recycled brass bombshells. It shows the War and Peace Earrings, stamped with the Khmer word for peace on them.

Discover all of these handmade brass bomb casing designs in our online shop and carry these stories wherever you go.

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Erica Martin

Content Writer for Ten Thousand Villages, Erica’s heart beats for travel, sunshine, campfires and great chai tea lattes. You’ll generally find her in the garden, behind a camera, curled around a good book, or chasing her 3 children who insist upon getting faster and more cunning every year they’re alive. Words bring Erica life, and she’s hoping you’ll excavate something gratifying from hers.

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