"Capturing the essence of ancient kingdoms"

We sat down with international jewellery designer Katherine Parr to talk inspiration, sustainability and her latest collection created with Turquoise Mountain supported jewellers in Jordan.

20170503 FAB 5965 copy copy

Firstly, tell us a little more about the inspiration behind your brand.

My brand draws inspiration from ancient cultures around the world. My designs try to capture the essence of ancient kingdoms, while adding a contemporary spin to create modern classics.

I work with skilled artisans in a variety of countries and have a mission to create pure jewellery with minimal waste and thoughtful packaging. Equally important to my brand is ensuring transparency about how and where all products are produced, as well as supporting education in communities where artisans live and work.

How did you first get into jewellery design?

I’ve been an artist since childhood. I began my career as a fashion model after I graduated from university, which enabled me to work with some of the top design houses in the fashion industry. My jewellery design skills evolved from time spent as a decorative artist. I transitioned from artworks in mixed media, exhibited in European galleries, to jewellery, using precious metals and gemstones.

Simone Crop 1024x1024 2x jpg CROP

The Katherine Parr x Turquoise Mountain Collection

As a designer, what inspires you?

I am inspired by global cultures, both past and present. Each collection of mine features important cultural motifs from historical civilisations, such as the wheat motif, the evil eye, the feather, and the scarab. I can see the pride that it brings when artisans create pieces that honour heritage and traditional arts.

What are the biggest challenges you face?

The biggest challenge I face is my ability to focus and refine a collection when there are so many possibilities and fascinating cultural histories to explore. I could spend a lifetime immersing myself in design research - travelling, reading, and visiting museums. But the editing is so difficult!

When did you first start working with Turquoise Mountain?

My partnership with Turquoise Mountain began in the autumn of 2016, and I produced my first collection in Afghanistan in 2017. The collection was inspired by the history and culture of the Persian Empire, using culturally significant semi-precious stones native to the country and employing local artisans supported by Turquoise Mountain’s wonderful staff in Kabul.

Tell us about your latest collection. Why did you decide to work with jewellers in Jordan?

My latest collection is with Turquoise Mountain’s newest outpost in Jordan. It was so fulfilling building bonds and bridges with the artisans in Afghanistan that I couldn’t resist working with Turquoise Mountain again. I have previously spearheaded a cross-cultural partnership with Jordan and the United States through the United Nations Girls Education Initiative Secretariat, so Jordan has a special place in my heart.

Some of the jewellers in Jordan are refugees from the Syrian War. That inspired me to explore the similarities in the design vocabulary of each country. I used the eagle motif, which is relevant to both Jordanian and Syrian history, as well as the colour red in the stones, which represents the Hashemite Kingdom. The entire collection is created in sterling silver.

From a humanitarian perspective, it is inspiring to provide employment, purpose, and pride to those who have lost so much but who still hold on to their talent and spirit. They infuse every piece they make with this spirit.

Workshop 1 2

Aya, our Jewellery Workshop Manager in Amman, Jordan

Why is sustainability important to you?

Sustainability is important to me as I firmly believe in respecting both people and planet. While doing research for my TEDx Talk on Conscious Consumerism, which featured Turquoise Mountain artisans, I learned how the fashion and jewellery industry is rife with the unethical treatment of workers and shows a complete disregard for the future of the planet. This is part of why I chose to partner with Turquoise Mountain, an organisation that prioritises fair trade practices, ethical production, and community support. By doing so, I am humbly trying to lead by example with regard to supply chain ethics and hope to inspire others to do the same.

What are you most excited about over the coming months?

I’m delighted to announce the launch of this new collection with Turquoise Mountain Jordan. I am celebrating not only the launch of my second collection with Turquoise Mountain artisans, but also the success of our partnership in advancing the causes of sustainability and heritage preservation. We live in an evolving and increasingly interconnected world, and I am filled with optimism about the future, for humanity and for the preservation of cultural heritage.

T Mx KP Jordan Sketches

A look at some of the sketches for the Katherine Parr x Turquoise Mountain Jordan Collection

The Parr Fellowship currently supports education in Kabul, Afghanistan.

To shop products designed by Katherine Parr and made by Turquoise Mountain artisans, head to Katherine Parr Jewelry here, and stay tuned for the launch of the new Turquoise Mountain Jordan Collection.