Creation by Rany Som
Handcrafted jewelry with natural seeds from Cambodia.
Precious metal and gemstone do not feature in Siem Reap designer Rany Som’s gleaming jewelry collection, instead, she uses over twenty different kinds of seeds, such as the tiny white “Mary’s tear”, the brilliant red “jambie” seeds or Som’s favorite, the lotus seeds, found growing locally to create delicate, intricate necklaces, bracelets and earrings.
Som founded her company, Graines de Cambodge, in 2011. Som grew up in Cambodia and moved to India in 2007 with her husband. After four years, she was forced to return to her home town of Siem Reap because the marriage failed. Som had no choice but to leave her son behind. On her return to Cambodia, time were tough for Som as her parents disapproved of divorce and did not welcome her back into the family house. It is a cultural thing. She moved out of the house but struggled to find work.
” One day I was driving my motorbike and I was so sad in my life, so lonely. I saw some seeds on the road so I stopped and collected them, ” she says.
Som thought they were pretty and immediately saw potential in the small, colorful seeds. She thought perhaps she could thread them together to crest some jewelry. But initially struggle to put her idea into practice.
” I have no idea how to make a hole, so I borrowed a drill from neighbor,” she says. ” the seeds were very hard and I cut my hand. I couldn’t do it so I paid a guy but he only worked for me one day. He said it was very hard, that It was a girl’s job, and didn’t want to do it. ”
Reluctant to give up, Som persevered and slowly worked out how to drill the tiny holes. Eventually producing a pair of earrings. Som gradually built up a modest jewelry collection and started showing her work to friends at her birthday party. They were impressed and urged her to make more.
Despite having no formal training, Som clearly has a natural talent for design. She has always had an artistic streak and loves being creative but, as the oldest of seven children, she never had the opportunity to study or indulge her creative side. Until now. She designs all the jewellery pieces herself from headrests and necklaces weighing almost seven kilograms to delicate earrings and bracelets.
“I’m keeping in their botanical nature, they gleam with a rich gloss achieved not from varnish but being rubbed with coconut and lemongrass oil, which also gives them a pleasant aroma.”
The selection of seeds is a painstaking process. Each one must be a perfect size, shape and symmetry to fit Som’s design.
” At the beginning, I went out and found the seeds myself,” Som says, ” but now I go to the villages and villagers know what I want. They collect them for me.”
Fast forward six years and Som is “killing it”. She runs two standalone shops in Siem Reap, wholesales to boutiques in France, Australia and Switzerland and now Canada, and employs over ten women from her village and is stocked in countless local hotels & market stalls.