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