FASHION: YANGON – ‘Jewels made in Myanmar’

Out of an extraordinary woman, come extraordinary creations.

We know since Aung San Suu Kyi that living under house arrest forges one’s character. It turns out it also prompts one to forges jewelry.

Mar Lar Maw had no particular interest in jewel-making before she was confined to her house in 2006. The wife of a British diplomat, she is also the daughter of a former brigadier who had fallen from grace with the military intelligentsia – following internal purge he was sentenced to 146 years in prison.

One day, at the airport, as her husband was getting ready to depart for a new job in Shangai, Mar Lar Maw (now Mrs Marlar Blackwood) discovered that she was not allowed to leave the country. Worse, the authorities locked her up and her daughter in the comfort of their house near the British embassy. Going out required a special government authorisation. Working was not an option.


With no visitors allowed and few distractions, she started designing jewels to pass the time. As a little girl, she never liked simple accessories. Whenever she would go to the jewel store with her mum, she’d ask the goldsmith to create something for her. She would often design it herself. She knew she had something in her for it. So did her husband. He encouraged her to create and design as a way to hold on during this difficult period.

After six months, she was finally allowed to join her husband abroad. First in China, then in Australia. During her time abroad, she kept on crafting jewels for herself. Friends would often ask her to sell her pieces, or design new ones for them. But she always turned down the offers.

When the family came back to Myanmar after the country opened-up, she finally opened a jewelry business. She called her brand “Marlaw Maw”.


Some of Marlar Maw’s creations and accessories: Shin Moe Myint/The Myanmar TimesSome of Marlar Maw’s creations and accessories: Shin Moe Myint/The Myanmar Times


Beyond the myth

Beyond this background story, what are unique with Marlaw Maw are its creations. Not a single of her jewel is the same. All are tailor made. And if you want one you will have to add your name to a long list of people waiting.

She buys her stones on Bo Gyoke market in Yangon. Her style is rough. Contrary to the rest of the industry here, she does not work the stone too much in order to give it an almost raw appearance.

She thinks that her jewels are out of norm. And so are the people wearing them.”Women who want to wear jewelry just for wedding receptions do not come to me. My customers wear my unique creations to feel free and confident,” she says.

Indeed, you have to be confident to wear Mar Lar Maw’s creation. She takes uniqueness as far as designing pair of earrings that do not match.

With the help of her western husband, she finds inspiration in Greek mythology.



Each of her craft design is based on an ancient Greece myth. Sometime a stone or a design would remind her of a myth. Some other time, she would start with the myth, and carve a jewel out of it.

When selling a jewel, Mar Lar Maw prints the myth behind it on a fancy brown paper and offer it in a hand-made envelop.

But the originality does not stop there. The boxes the jewels are sold in are specially made by a woodworker and decorated with dried flowers.


Mar Lar Maw and her husbdand, Mr Blackwood Shin Moe Myint /The Myanmar TimesMar Lar Maw and her husbdand, Mr Blackwood Shin Moe Myint /The Myanmar Times


“All of my crafts are made with Metta [the Buddhist equivalent of peaceful love]. What I want is for the person who receives it to feel loved. To feel special.”

Mar Lar Maw’s palette includes over 100 designs. From little pieces  designed for young girls, to more elegant ones for older women and cufflinks for men.

The prices of her creations can reach up to US$ 2950. The entry price is US$45 for a bracelet.

Mar Lar Maw has also her husband to thank for. He is supportive of her work, and without him, there would be no Marlar Maw, she says. There is a bit of their love in each of her creation, it seems.

More info on  / NYEIN EI EI HTWE 02 MAR 2018


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