The Heritage Collection, a new range of handcrafted brass bullet jewellery, was launched last week at Heritage Suites Hotel. Created exclusively for the boutique hotel, the collection is designed by Saomao founder owner Marie Hill and Ammo Jewelry front-woman Madeline Green.
Green, who has been working with Hill for the last two years, says the collection reflects each of the designer’s unique styles.
“There are two sides to the collection,” she says. “We wanted to offer the customers both the traditional Cambodian style of jewellery, and more of a contemporary fusion, East-meets-West kind of feel.
“So the Saomao collection designed by Marie and her master jewelers references some of the more ancient patterns that Khmers used in the past. For example there’s a pattern called ‘buffalo tooth,’ and a lot of the patterns are directly related to sketches that have been made from Angkor Wat carvings and Apsara dancers’ textiles.”
Hill creates big, dramatic statement pieces, like polished cuffs and necklaces made from flattened bullet brass, with intricate patterns hand-stamped onto them.
“The necklaces are almost like neck-plates, but she’s complemented that with some really nice fine black ribbon to make it more elegant,” says Green. “So even though it’s a big piece of metal it’s actually quite light to wear.”
Green’s style is more modern, combining the bullet brass with slinky silver chains to create a series of delicate necklaces and earrings.
“The Ammo range still uses recycled brass bullets but what I’ve done is complemented that with very fine silver snake chain, so that it creates a totally different look,” she says. “More feminine, very subtle, but we make them in really long lengths because it’s quite popular at the moment to wear a really long necklace. And then we’ve got really long drop earrings as well.”
Green has also made earrings by soldering the end of a bullet to small circles of brass, creating a kind of lace-like bubble effect.
“Of course the idea of using the brass bullets is, in Marie’s words, to transform weapons of war into products of peace,” she adds.
The Heritage Collection, ranging from $40 to $90, is on sale at the Heritage shop and at Saomao.
And for all those budding jewelers out there, Green, who has had studios in the UK and Australia, recently started running jewellery-making workshops at Saomao.
“Many customers were coming in who really wanted something unique, and they’d often ask Marie or me if we could make something for them,” she says. “Having learnt how to teach my apprentice Lai, I thought maybe I could pass that onto visitors as well.”
Green runs half or one-day courses where customers can learn how to work with the recycled bullet metal – cutting it, stamping it and eventually creating their own piece.
“There are two options,” she says. “I can give them a number of different templates for earrings, rings, pendants or bracelets, or if they’ve got their own idea we can work on it throughout the day.”
In the next six months Green and Hill also plan to hold workshops on recycled jewellery-making using a variety of different materials – from aluminum cans to cake tins to leather.
“There won’t just be fine jewellery workshops – we’re going to do something that’s really open-ended,” she says. “But very much on the theme of recycling.”