by Monique Pean, this golden beryl, fossilized
dinosaur bone and conflict and devastation free
white diamond necklace, 18-carat recycled yellow
gold, 0.44 TCW retails for $17,150
ANGELES ó Monique Pean is one of the most talented new
American jewelry designers working today. She founded
her line in 2006, bringing a sustainable approach to her
work by using recycled gold and conflict-free stones.
then, sheís attracted the attention of the Council of
Fashion Designers of America, winning the Vogue Fashion
Fund Award in 2009, and of First Lady Michelle Obama,
model Karlie Kloss, actresses Jennifer Lawrence and Emma
Watson and many more who have worn her unique designs.
time the New York-based Pean creates a collection, she
travels to a new place, immerses herself in the culture,
connects with artisans to learn traditional techniques
and researches new sustainable materials.
her fall Tuítil collection, she visited the Tikal
region of Guatemala, where she was inspired by the idea
of Maya architecture juxtaposed with midcentury
architecture, and she made use of the areaís black and
gray jade to stunning effect. The result? Pieces that
include a zebra agate and black jade pendant with a
dramatic diamond pave point and a black jade open
pyramid ring encased in 18-karat recycled white gold.
asked Pean a few questions about her philosophy and her
When you say your pieces are sustainable, what do you
Mining is very detrimental to the environment. For
example, mining enough gold to produce one simple
wedding band produces 20 tons of waste. Thatís the
equivalent to 2 Ĺ full-grown elephantsí worth of
mercury and cyanide going into the environment. When I
started designing, I wanted to make sure that while I
was making beautiful things, I was not impacting the
environment in a negative way. I support the No Dirty
Gold campaign and other programs trying to incentivize
the mining industry to clean up their practices. I only
use recycled gold and sustainably mined materials,
meaning that they are mined artisanally, using a hammer
and a chisel, not using blasts and mercury.
What kinds of materials do you work with?
I use unique stones created over thousands of years, so
each piece is collectible. I just started working with
fossilized dinosaur bone from a stegosaurus. It comes
from the Colorado Plateau, which is the only place in
the world where there was a perfect storm of
mineralization, so that as parts of the dinosaur bone
and flesh disintegrated, minerals went into the bone and
it agatized. Most of it is brownish red. But
occasionally you will find pieces in colorful blues and
purples, like the ones Iím using. Itís kind of
amazing to be able to wear something from the Jurassic
Your signature material is fossilized woolly mammoth
tusk, which you source from indigenous Alaskan natives?
Yes. If the woolly mammoth tusk was trapped in ice, it
maintains its creamy color. But if itís exposed to
silt minerals, it turns a brown or caramel tone. And if
itís exposed to salt, you get these amazing blues. I
also have some that are peachy pink. On some pieces, we
use a scrimshaw technique, where we etch into the woolly
mammoth tusk with a knife and inlay vegetable dye.
Did you use any new materials in the Tuítil
Yes, I met with local artisans to source sustainable
Gutatemalan jade on my trip. The jade was discovered
near the Motagua Fault. Guatemala is the only source of
gray and black jade, and the hues are stunning. For the
ancient Mayans, jade signified life, fertility and
Tell me about a couple of your favorite pieces from the
I am excited to introduce my signature ring in solid
18-karat recycled gold. The gold can be engraved with
oneís initials and is the perfect pinky ring. I also
introduced a three-dimensional carving technique in the
collection, usable on fossilized woolly mammoth,
fossilized walrus ivory and dinosaur bone. My purple
fossilized dinosaur bone ring is surrounded by conflict-
and devastation-free white diamond pave and is over 150
million years old. Itís definitely a conversation
You grew up in Washington, D.C., and started your career
in investment banking. How did you become interested in
My father worked for the United Nations for the African
Development Foundation, so he was always taking me all
over the world. My mother is an artist, and we built a
large indigenous art collection when I was growing up.
It came naturally to me to want to work with artisans.
Pean collection, $1,000 to $300,000, is available at
Barneys New York.