Jewelry designer Monique Pèan has always used her travels to far-flung, remote places on the planet to inspire her fine jewelry collections, which has also led to deep concerns about sustainability and the environment. In fact, Pèan has built several clean-water wells in communities affected by jewelry production. It adds a hefty dose of authenticity to her modern yet organic designs. For her new Tarai collection shown at Momofuku Ko, she traveled to Chile, where she explored Easter Island and Patagonia, among other places.
On Easter Island, she discovered a native stone, cosmic obsidian, which is found on the ground so there’s no need to mine it. Pèan worked with the local indigenous artisans, who are the only people skilled to work with the stone, to create a centerpiece of this collection, an 18-karat white gold diamond pavè ring with Scandinavian meteorite and the rare gemstone.
The designer also looked at the structures she saw along the way, such as the amazing marble caves in Patagonia and the Moai on Easter Island that the local people use as refuge from storms. The former became a linear gold pendant with a plume agate stone, and the latter inspired long cylindrical shapes with pointed edges for a canoe shape that resembled the ancient structures. These became a torque-style ring with the canoe-shape on each side of the band as well as pair of “front-back” earrings. The Moai structures, which boast a Stonehenge-like mystique, also influenced a tiered motif on pendants and earrings that suspended gemstones within the framework of the jewelry. The result gave an open airy effect to a triangular pendant with green rutile and diamonds and a linear hoop earring in oxidized white gold with moss agate and diamonds.
Pèan learns about more than just the local gemstones in each locale, often meeting with glaciologists, marine biologists, scientists and locals to get to know the specific environmental concerns of the places she visits. Recalling a lunch she and her assistant had on a glacier, she learned of its diminishing size, something she has witnessed a lot in the last 10 years. And global warming has affected many of the people she works with. “The Shishmaref people of Alaska have declared a state of emergency as their homes are going underwater,” she said. “Multiple species will cease to exist in the next 10 years. To hear the scientists show you the facts, it’s shocking to hear those who deny global warming.”