by Robby Robinson
Baubles, and bangles, and bracelets – oh my!
Saigon, 2016: Jen Pham hands over $200 and follows her dream by purchasing an armload of jewelry supplies and begins designing fashion jewelry in her bedroom. Fast forward one year. Ms. Pham opens a jewelry store in an expat-favorite outskirt of Saigon (Thao-Dien) and her dream of being a jewelry designer becoming a reality. Her shop rapidly becomes a Must Visit destination in Saigon’s guide books. Well done, Jen!
Jen began traveling to the U.S. to attend gem shows and met and fell in love with La Jolla (who doesn’t?). Sadly, her Saigon store was forced to close due to the pandemic, but, magically, a perfect space became available on Fay Avenue, La Jolla. One door had closed and an absolutely beautiful door opened! She relocated to La Jolla, and Jen and her husband (an engineer) built out the store and decorated it, bringing in bits of Vietnamese flavor, such as the bright yellow colors of the Vietnamese colonial past and photos of former Vietnamese female leaders. “These important women were way ahead of our time in women’s rights issues”, proudly states Jen. “I’m proud to have come from Saigon – a city where I grew up and explored – almost all on my moped of-course!”, smiles Ms. Pham.
The store is elegantly merchandised with a variety of gemstone jewelry made from labradorite, larimar, agate, lapis lazuli, jasper, malachite, amber, and the list goes on. “Each piece is a one-of-a-kind unique piece – just like each of us”, says Jen. Saigon Spring displays a varied selection of water buffalo horn pieces. This domesticated ox-like Asian mammal is an integral part of life in Southeast Asia and here’s why:
- The animal is used on farms for labor and milk.
- When the animal dies, no part of it goes to waste.
- The buffalo provides meat, milk (Mozzarella Cheese), leather, and from the bones and horns – jewelry.
- The crafting of jewelry from the buffalo remains a tradition in Southeast Asia that goes back many generations.
- By using the horns for jewelry, they are not being incinerated and thus, offending the environment.
- The buffalo is never killed only for the horns – the animal is much too valuable for that.
“I am in awe of the beauty of La Jolla and the caliber of the jewelry designers who live here. I hope to follow in their footsteps”, says Jen.
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