Silver Charms from Vietnam are some of the recent items added to our line at Nina Designs. This is a new project for us and in keeping with our commitment to Fair Trade, I made a special trip to meet the silversmiths and see if the shop lived up to our standards. It was my first visit to Vietnam and I was very impressed by the dynamic forces at work in a country that has only recently embraced capitalism. It seemed like everyone I met owned several small businesses into which they had thrown themselves 200%. Saigon is a teeming city where past and present collide in a colorful, chaotic tangle. The people I met were warm, friendly and eager to share their harrowing life stories of flight, war and the struggle to survive through the conflict and the regime that followed.
The workshop where our Silver Charms are made is located in a town South of Saigon that used to be a popular tourist destination but has fallen on hard times as visitors head to more pristine beaches further North. For the young in particular, the unemployment rate is high. Silver work is not traditional in this area but the young men and women at the shop seem to be taking to it enthusiastically. I was struck by their bright smiles and fierce concentration. The premises are modern and well equipped with imported machinery and supplies. There is a collegiate feel to the organization and everyone seems to own a motorbike and smart phone loaded with the latest apps. It is a testament to the circular nature of history that the new workshop was the brainchild of a Vietnamese immigrant who had fled on a leaky boat decades earlier and learned the jewelry trade as a refugee in the United States.
After many shared meals I returned home excited about our new Vietnamese friends and inspired to find more and more ways that we can work together to bring beautiful Silver Charms to Jewelry Designers around the world.