A Queen Anne jewelry company founded on the principles of people and ethics has expanded that mission even further in the last couple of years.
Last summer, Boma Jewelry moved its headquarters to 41 Dravus St., near the Fremont Bridge. This family-owned business was founded in 1981 by Boon and Chieko Chaya, who focused on the triple bottom line: people, planet and profits. They built their own factory in Thailand that would, in turn, support and build their community of artisan jewelers. At the highest production levels, they employed hundreds of workers and sold their jewelry at retailers like Nordstrom, American Eagle and Target. In time, the Boma owners decided they preferred a smaller operation so they could more easily control the quality for which they had become known. Today, the Boma Jewelry operation is modeled like a family and led by Chaya’s daughter, Suzanne Vétillart.
Vétillart lives in Queen Anne with her four children and her husband, Étienne. She was born and raised in Bellevue and spent some of her formative years studying architecture at Columbia University in New York City. In 2009, she moved to Thailand to be closer to some of her extended family, and that is when she started to more appreciate the finer workings of the artisan community she had known all her life.
Six years ago, Vétillart was delighted to return to the family business.
“It’s jewelry that tells a story,”she said. “My parents were always kind of behind the scenes, but today’s audiences want to know what kind of products they are buying.”
Vétillart said she wanted to be sure to communicate the quality of the jewelry as well as the provenance of their gemstones. Boma jewelry is made entirely from ethically sourced materials. The sterling silver earring studs are their most well-known product. The turquoise comes from a family-owned mine in Arizona. And Boma’s semi-precious stones are sourced from safe and transparent mines throughout the globe.
“We want our customers to feel good, to know the quality of the pieces and to be proud of it,” Vétillart said.
Raising that awareness for her customers made her think about where Boma was as a business and where it wanted to go. As she was looking for a tool for benchmarking or certification, she started to learn more about the B Corp model.
B Corp certification is for businesses that meet the highest standards to balance profit and purpose. It is a rigorous certification process and provides an added layer of governance and accountability. Some of the more well-known B Corp companies include Patagonia, Seventh Generation, Athleta and Beautycounter.
“There are only five B Corp jewelers in America, and it really shows our commitment to the holistic view of how to run a business,” Vétillart said of achieving the B Corp certification.
Boma Jewelry is also a social purpose company, which means social and environmental factors are considered in decision-making.
When the world shutdown because of COVID, and the Black Lives Matter movement came to the foreground, Vétillart realized that she had never worked with a Black jewelry designer before because the company’s “diversity beyond Asian immigrants was limited.” Relying on the flexibility of the family business and the commitment to consider social factors, she immediately thought about “how we can do better.”
In the summer of 2020, the family launched the Boma BIPOC Grant Program. It is open to BIPOC jewelry designers, creative directors and entrepreneurs who are looking to grow their business or learn to work with a production partner. This grant provides selected applicants $500 worth of sample production resources and mentorship. Since most of the applicants have not worked with a production team before, this opportunity helps bridge the gap between a one-off piece of jewelry and a full-scale production line. Boma has already worked with four BIPOC designers and is currently selecting the third round of grantees.
The Boma Jewelry headquarters is not a retail space. It is part office and part showroom, frequently opened for special events. This month is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and Boma is hosting an AAPI pop-up event featuring several local businesses from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. In addition to Boma Jewelry, shoppers can browse Lulumiere Candles and REDBYJO leather goods while snacking on goodies from Marimakan Crab Chef, Grayseas Pies and Seattle’s newest chocolatier: Marble Chocolates. Kat Larson will be doing tarot card readings, and 10 percent of all Boma Jewelry sales will be donated to #StopAsianHate.