Meet Abeille Bijoux
Abeille Bijoux is a manufacturer of ocean-inspired sterling silver jewelry based in Phuket, Thailand— a destination known for sunshine, nightlife, and beautiful beaches. Since the ocean is so important to us here in Phuket, it’s not surprising that our unique jewelry designs are inspired by the huge array of marine creatures one can find under the waves here in Southern Thailand, like sea turtles; whales, and even sharks!
Each piece of our silver jewelry is carefully crafted using locally sourced sterling silver and gemstones. We’re fortunate enough to be based in a country that is world-renowned for the mining and trading of gemstones, most notably the one-of-a-kind black star sapphire, which can only be found here in Thailand. More than anything, our jewelry is a celebration of Thailand itself— its’ people, its’ culture, and above all, its’ natural wonders.
Respect for our oceans infuses everything we do and every piece of jewelry we sell. In Thai, we call this “rak tahlay,” which means “ocean love.” As an experienced diver, I saw how pollution and human activities destroyed the ocean ecosystem. Jewelry would allow me to raise awareness of this problem and donate to environmental causes actively trying to save ocean animals, like the Thailand Whale Shark organization.
Fun fact: despite our company focusing on marine animals and conservation, you might notice that our logo is a honeybee. That’s because my name, Pueng, means “honeybee” in Thai— as does “Abeille”, which I chose as our company name as a tribute to my husband, from France.
Our story began in 2017 when I worked as a dive instructor in sunny southern Thailand. Diving is a common tourist attraction here in Thailand, and introducing them to the ocean’s wonders was a dream come true. However, it was an exhausting dream come true at the same time! Although I loved watching the huge variety of marine animals swimming peacefully in the warm, sparkling waters, I missed my husband and young son during my long, physically demanding days.
In a burst of inspiration, I realized that I could combine my love of the sea with my interest in jewelry-making— and that was when Abeille Bijoux was born. I like to think that the waves whispered the idea into my ear, and I’m so glad I listened. However, my interest in jewelry didn’t start with the sea. After all, we Thais love it! Thailand has a long, rich tradition of gold and silver jewelry making, stretching back centuries— and these days, the Thai jewelry market generates nearly $30 billion U.S. dollars per year in revenue. Luckily, I have an uncle who is a living continuation of this ancient art. He’s quite well known for his craftsmanship— he was responsible for constructing an intricate golden fence that protects the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi tree in Sri Lanka, the oldest human-planted tree on Earth and an important site in the Buddhist religion. With his guidance, I started learning jewelry-making’s challenging and humbling craft.
Once I found that I was skilled enough to replicate the complex designs I had envisioned, I launched Abeille Bijoux. To this day, all our silver settings are forged in-house— and by in-house, I mean in my house! My jewelry workbench has become a piece of furniture as vital to our home as a dining room table, or television could ever be. Best of all, I get to spend my days close to my husband and son, which was what I longed for more than anything during those long days underwater.
The Challenges We Face
As I mentioned earlier, Thai people love jewelry. However, traditionally they prefer gold jewelry—just walk around any shopping mall in Thailand, and you’ll see gold shops everywhere! Silver can be tougher to sell to Thai people ( but we’re actively working to change that). Undoubtedly, most of our business comes from tourists from Europe and North America, where sterling silver jewelry is more commonly worn. Year after year, Thailand has always been among the world’s top ten tourist destinations, so there was always a steady stream of new customers— until Covid hit.
Phuket’s economy has always depended heavily on tourism so you can imagine the effects of the Covid pandemic on our island. In a word, times were extremely tough for our business and everyone else’s! However, Covid allowed me to conceptualize bold new designs and take the time to learn how to create them flawlessly. We also had a big incentive to quickly shift our business’ focus from in-person to online sales, which was incredibly important to our survival during the pandemic.
Capturing the true essence of sea animals requires a lot of careful attention. While learning the craft, my uncle stressed the importance of paying close attention to detail, which was important because the jewelry I wanted to create was going to be pretty intricate. For example, our Ocean Treasures bracelet is constructed of several tiny, highly detailed, interconnected silver shells. Even though it can be challenging, I’ll always be grateful to the jewelry-making craft for awakening my creativity and allowing me to have my own business. It’s also proved incredibly fulfilling, especially because I can give something back to the ocean that has inspired me so much.
Opportunities For Growth
Silver production is a major industry in Thailand. Fifty thousand metric tons of silver come from Thai mines every year! In addition, people worldwide flock to Bangkok to deal in raw and polished gemstones, especially rubies and sapphires. All this makes it easy for us to get the raw materials we need to create our jewelry. Now that Phuket is opening back up to the world, we can show off our jewelry at our brand-new Island Magic showroom and on our website, www.abeillebijoux.com. We also host intimate jewelry-making workshops that have proven to be quite popular with tourists and locals alike.
Thai culture itself is a deep source of inspiration for us. Even as a Thai, there’s always some new corner of my culture to discover and explore. For example, we recently launched our new Jai Dee collection. The words “Jai dee” mean “good heart,” and this collection celebrates the importance of kindness and tolerance in Thai culture. “Jai dee” is a common way to describe people who are quick to help others— a trait that we think the world could use much more of.
Thailand is full of creative people, so we often collaborate with local artists and designers. For example, Thais’ Red Lace Agate Drop Earrings were created in partnership with Sainamthip Pornthammapricha, a talented Thai artisan. These collaborations not only help support local artists, but they also keep our designs fresh and the inspiration flowing!
Advice For New Entrepreneurs
Even in the best of times, changing careers can be tough— but changing careers and opening a business simultaneously are twice as tough. However, just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean it’s not possible with the right plan and support system.
If I could offer any advice to prospective entrepreneurs, I would say:
Embrace what makes you unique
It takes courage and commitment— and may require you to make a radical change in your life. If you’re not fulfilled in your career, there’s no better time than now to start thinking about how you can find joy in your work.
Look to your loved ones for inspiration
Luckily I have a talented uncle, an incredibly helpful circle of friends, and a loving and supportive husband. Without them, I couldn’t have started my business or achieved the level of success I’m enjoying now. In addition to my friends and family, I draw inspiration from nature and Thai culture— two other things I love deeply. As you begin your entrepreneurial journey, your loved ones and the things you love can be a tremendous source of inspiration. Embrace them!
Give back whenever possible
Us Thais believe in karma— what you do in this life affects everything around you, so whatever you do, don’t forget to do something good for the world. Your way of giving back can be unique and special. No matter what cause you’re passionate about, there’s a way to impact the world positively. Find it, and good things will find you!
Five years ago, Abeille Bijoux started with a dive and a dream. Now, Abeille Bijoux’s future looks brighter than ever. Keep your eyes on us— as we grow, we’ll focus on making the world a little shiner and the ocean cleaner!