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 opportunities 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 products for international markets. Aayenda Jewelry, a collaborative effort between 36 Future Brilliance course graduates and award-winning international designers, now sells successfully at leading retail outlets from the USA to Azerbaijan. Production orders for Aayenda are given to the elected Chairman of the Aayenda Jewelry Co-Operative and distributed to members companies.
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 for jewelry students at Turquoise Mountain. In 2015, Storai Stanizai, Aayenda Jewelry Co-operative co-founder received training in the design and development of a new collection – and commemorative medallion for the Kellogg School of Management. In the same year, royalties from sales of Aayenda Jewelry funded the completion of a bead-making workshop in the remote Balkh Province, and in 2016, cooperative member companies received marketing and quality control training in Delhi and Jaipur. In 2017, member companies received training in Kabul for cooperative management. In 2018, the co-founders of the co-operative are receiving product development training from an award-winning U.S. jewelry designer.
Future Brilliance continues to market and distribute the work of talented young Afghan designers. Several new collections, designed by Afghan women artisans under the guidance and mentorship of Future Brilliance trainers have been sampled. A new collection by talented young Afghan designer, Adela Wahdat is currently in development.
The Gemstone and Jewelry project was designed to empower Afghan artisans to work their way toward independence, abundance, and creativity. In future, dividends from Aayenda Jewelry should be a sustainable source of funding for ongoing training needs, reducing the need for foreign aid to support sector development.
Purpose: Developing skills, employment, and enterprise opportunities for young women and men—through opportunities in the gemstone and jewelry industry
Stage 1: 2 years for enhanced skills training and launch of sustainable social enterprise (September 2012-September 2014)
Stage 2: 2 years for ongoing skills development (quality control); planning and registration of Aayenda Jewelry Co-Operative and development Aayenda Jewelry LLC, social enterprise (October 2014-October 2016)
Stage 3: 2 years for the transition of Aayenda Jewelry LLC to Afghan management (inc members of the Aayenda Jewelry Co-Operative) (November 2016-November 2018)
- Direct – 36 Afghan artisan trainees, including 11 women entrepreneurs, from all over Afghanistan plus 10 co-operative members companies and their employees
- indirect – 1200 bead-making artisans including 300 war widows from Balkh Province, who receive ongoing commissions from 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
- 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
- Provide training in co-operative development and management
- Provide training to Afghan nationals (Aayenda Jewelry Co-operative members) to assume management and ownership of Aayenda Jewelry LLC.
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.
- Improved visibility for high-end artisanally made, branded Afghan jewelry product: Multiple press mentions and profiles in the international media, on the cover of leading fashion magazines globally (Cosmopolitan), features in national and regional newspapers, trade magazines and on BBC TV.
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 doubled her sales. In 2015, she co-founded the Aayenda Jewelry Co-operative and she remains an active participant. She has built a training workshop for women at her village home, delivered hands-on training to over 80 local women and completed a sales outlet for their fine hand-carved beaded jewelry product in Mazar-e-Sharif.