Between 1965-1973, 2.7 million tons of bombs were dropped in Cambodia — 30% of which failed to detonate. These weapons of conflict serve one unimaginable purpose. Now, we typically don’t associate the words empowerment, ethics, or sustainability with weapons of conflict but Purple Buddha Project (PBP) is doing just that — one piece of jewelry at a time.
The vision of Forrest Curran, PBP empowers disadvantaged local Cambodian artisans by creating fair-wage jobs making upcycled jewelry. Each jewelry piece is hand crafted of unexploded ordnance (UXO), bomb, bullet, or plane parts from the remains of conflict in the countries of Cambodia and Laos.
PBP taps into local associations such as Ranjana Association of Cambodia and Ten Thousand Villages to oversee PBP work. Local associations are tasked with jewelry making training, a skill which can be practiced worldwide.
PBP’s partner cooperative works exclusively with Halo Trust, a humanitarian landmine clearing agency. Halo Trust safely clears weapons of conflict from war torn communities. Recovered UXO, bombs, bullets, and plane parts are then handcrafted by PBP artisans into unique pieces of art.
Transforming intended destruction into beauty
Purple Buddha Project jewelry is based on one foundation — that we can learn something from the past and use it today to change the future. Upcycling artifacts from around the world, PBP integrates these objects of history into jewelry constructed in Cambodia.
Typically, these bullet shells, bombshells, or weapon remains would be sold as scrap metal (by the kilogram) to large corporations — or worse, reused as weapon parts by armies and rebels.
Based on virtues in sustainability and upcycling, PBP looks to change the future through the past while embedding a strong message into each jewelry piece. With the sale of each jewelry piece, PBP makes a donation to inspect and remove 3m of land for UXOs that have yet to detonate.
Purple Buddha Project’s 2014 Kickstarter campaign raised over $20,000, providing the funding to get Curran’s vision off the ground. As stated on the website, “The project has been largely successful because of our social media where we apply the theory that positivity is the most viral content.”
It continues to operate without using traditional ads for marketing. Instead, it shares positive content on social media. You can find inspiration from Purple Buddha Project on Facebook, Twitter @PurpBuddha, and Tumbler. Their handcrafted, fair-trade jewelry is available for purchase at Purple Buddha Project.
Imagery provided courtesy of Purple Buddha Project.
Editor’s note: This article was updated in June 2019.