My brain inextricably links sand to sea thanks to 25 summers spent on a New Jersey barrier island.
Middle East experiences have me now connecting the grainy stuff to locations and memories largely devoid of water, such as Wadi Rum’s white desert, the crumbled limestone skirting Jerash’s ruins, and Petra’s pulverized sandstone – a powderlike coppery red.
Dune Jewelry Design combines sterling silver with sand from your favorite beach, desert, golf course or ancient ruin to create one-of-a-kind jewelry that links to specific memories. The designs are simple, modern, and clean.
Self-taught jewelry designer Holly Daniels Christensen stocks sand from over 700 locations world-wide, or send her your own sand for a fully customized piece. A drop-down menu on her website lets you scan her granular library: she’s got samples from Morocco, Bahrain, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates.
Christensen is a native Cape Codder and direct descendant of the Cape’s Nauset (Wampanoag) Indian tribe. Deeply rooted in that Massachusetts beachline, she was struck by the observation that many of us have a powerful emotional connection with a specific patch of sand: special memories or adventures that took place on sandy spots spanning the globe. Her company credo is “Live for the moment, then take it with you.”
That visceral connection isn’t limited to surfside experiences. Sand is everywhere, and her artifacts may hold particular appeal in the Middle East. I met a caver who saved sand from an Omani expedition, sourced from the insides of his shoes. A friend has a small bowl of Abu Dhabi Corniche: she was sitting on the strand when she got the call confirming she was pregnant. Surely you’ve got your own sandy story?
Not into personal adornment? Then check out Beachsand Snowflakes™, created in 2003 by another Cape Cod artist, Kellie Quinn. She grew curious about the concept of sand as an art medium while building sandcastles with her children. Through trial and error, she created a unique binding agent to congeal the sand into final form, as well as a special setting procedure to harden it. The oddity of snowflakes made from beach sand is appealing: an ornament that could be displayed during the winter to recall happy summer days at the beach, on a desert eco-tour, or on a Bedouin camping trip.
As with Dune Jewelry, the ornaments are made with sand from your favorite places (discounts available if you send in your own). Quinn’s sand stash includes samples from Oman and the West Sahara. Each snowflake has unique color and texture, displaying natural variations in the grains of sand from its beach of origin. Snowflakes, approximately 3 inches in diameter, appear as seamless and delicate as the sand itself, yet are capable of maintaining its structural integrity over time.
There’s a charitable element to these small businesses: Dune has partnered with non-profit HOPE for Ariang Foundation and Le Moyne College (Syracuse, New York) to introduce the HOPE Collection. Each unique design supports construction and maintenance of educational facilities and programs in the Ariang Community of South Sudan.
This special line of jewelry is handmade with pieces of an actual brick used to build the Ariang Primary School.
Gabriel Bol Deng, a 2007 Le Moyne College alumni, and former Sudanese “lost boy”, is Founder and Executive Director of HOPE for Ariang Foundation. Under Gabriel’s leadership, the people of Ariang hand made more than 300,000 bricks to build the primary school for their children.
His parents were killed during South Sudan’s civil war, and 10 year old Gabriel fled Ariang to a refugee camp in Ethiopia. It was in the camps that Gabriel realized the importance of reading and writing: he learned English by writing on cardboard with charcoal. After university, he established the non-profit to provide an opportunity for children of Ariang to be properly schooled. Educating the children is key to achieving lasting peace and sustainable development in the region. Christensen says, “We hope when you wear this small piece of Ariang School you will be reminded of the students who are learning because of your generous contribution.”
Enterprises like Dune Jewelry Design and Beachsand Snowflakes™ tick all the right boxes for sustainable gifting: reasonably priced quality products, cued in to the environment, and with a bit of a give-back factor.