Gemstone and Jewelry Sector Development

Combining local natural resources and traditional skills with social enterprise is a strong basis for sustainable development, especially when the products crafted are beautiful, competitively priced and of high quality.

USAID has estimated that the gemstone industry in Afghanistan could generate at least 30,000-50,000 jobs, providing employment opportunity to both women and men.  

Since 2012, Future Brilliance has been working with student graduates of local organisations such as Turquoise Mountain Foundation, Rupani Foundation and GiZNW to enhance their ability to produce beautifully designed and well-made product for international markets.  Aayenda Jewelry, a collaborative effort between 36 Future Brilliance course graduates and award-winning international designers, now sells sucessfully at leading retail outlets from the USA to Azerbaijan. Production orders for Aayenda are distributed to members of the Aayenda Jewelry Co-Operative by our project partners, Turquoise Mountain, in Kabul.

Future Brilliance provides ongoing support to Aayenda Jewelry Co-operative members in the form of technical training and the provision of equipment and tools. For instance, in 2014, we sourced and provided world-class gold plating equipment and training to our colleagues at Turquoise Mountain. In 2015, royalties from sales of Aayenda Jewelry funded the completion of a bead-making workshop in the remote Balkh Province.

We continue to build a high profile marketing platform to promote the work of talented young Afghan designers. We commissioned star Turquoise Mountain graduate and Aayenda Jewelry Co-Operative Founder, Storai Stanizai, to design the commemorative coin for the Kellogg School of Management (in Chicago), and we developed and sampled her first collection using fine, ethically sourced local gemstones. We are currently developing the launch collection of bright young Afghan designer, Adela Wahdat. The work of Khala Zada, also an Aayenda Jewelry Co-Operative co-founder, will grace the cover of Cosmopolitan Magazine, in January 2016.

The project has been designed to empower Afghan artisans to work their way towards independence, abundance and creativity. In future, dividends from Aayenda Jewelry should be a sustainable source of funding for ongoing sector needs, reducing the need for foreign aid.

Purpose: Developing skills, employment, and enterprise opportunities for young women and men—through opportunities in the gemstone and jewelry industry

Timeline:

Stage 1: 2 years for enhanced skill’s training and launch of sustainable social enterprise (September 2012-September 2014)

Stage 2: 2 years for growth and development of Aayenda Jewelry Co-Operative and Aayenda Jewelry LLC, social enterprise, including securing social impact investment (October 2014-October 2016)

Beneficiaries:

  • Direct – 36 Afghan artisan trainees, including 11 women entrepreneurs, from all over Afghanistan
  • indirect – 1200 bead-making artisans including 300 war widows from Balkh Province, who receive ongoing commissions from sales of Aayenda Jewelry, plus over 30 skilled artisans, members of the Aayenda Jewelry Co-Operative, who hand-craft finished jewelry for the brand in Kabul

Goal: Contribute to building a safer, more competitive, more ethical, and sustainable artisanal mining sector in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan from which the local population directly profits

Activities:

  • Recruit international subject matter experts in manufacturing and design to collaborate with semi-skilled trainees
  • Train on-site and make study excursions as necessary to expose trainees to best practices in design and manufacture
  • Provide tools/equipment/space to design and manufacture products for the international market
  • Provide assistance with sales, e-commerce, and cooperative development to grow and sustain the social enterprise

Results to date:

  • Increased profits and capacity for local businesses: A commercially viable Afghan jewelry brand, Aayenda, was created by training program participants. The first order for Kabul production of Aayenda was reportedly the largest order of cast jewelry ever received by the Kabul jewelry workshops and was finished on time and at the required level of quality. A single order from a single brand generated employment for 38 artisans directly and income for many more Afghans down the value chain (bead-making, gem-cutting, jewelry manufacturing and production). 
  • Higher production and fulfillment standards, generating higher returns on investment: Trainees completed 222 courses for City and Guild certification. Twenty-six artisans completed and received City and Guilds Trainer of Trainer (TOT) certification and will be able to work as Master Trainers in Afghanistan. The artisans are also certified by the Indian Institute of Gems and Jewelry Jaipur on international standards and able to produce products according to “fine jewelry” standards.
  • Improved economic outcomes and job prospects for Afghan artisans: Thirty-four Afghan artisans from Badakshan, Mazar-e Sharif, Kunduz, Sorobi, Panjshir and Kabul completed advanced technical and vocational skills in Business Development, Gemology, Gem-cutting, Jewelry Manufacturing and Design, and Digital Literacy. Twenty trainees completed workplace skills placements (internships) in leading local workshops and co-created designs for the Aayenda Jewelry brand. At the end of 2014, 39% were working in their own gem-cutting/ jewelry workshops. Thirty-eight percent of students were employed as gem-cutters and jewelry designers, half of them in their family’s businesses and half working for other employers. Only 8% of the students were not working and 6% of the students were occupied in an industry other than the gemstone/ jewelry sector.

Zenab

Khala Zainab, an illiterate female entrepreneur, is the head of the Dawlatabad Gemstone and Jewelry Cooperation and employs four other program graduates. In the first 6 months of working with Future Brilliance on Aayenda jewelry production, she was able to double her annual sales. She hopes to use her profits to increase production capacity and give back to her community by building a school.