Jewelry Designer Yupadee Kobkulboonsiri Dies From COVID-19

Award-winning jewelry designer Yupadee Kobkulboonsiri has died at the age of 51 after a monthlong battle with COVID-19.

Kobkulboonsiri’s husband, Steven Fishman, wrote on Instagram last week that she passed away on April 27 in Brooklyn, N.Y., at Woodhull Medical Center.

Kobkulboonsiri created gorgeous diamond engagement rings and luxurious-feeling daily jewels. But her bespoke pieces were almost always otherworldly and outsized, embodying her love of bold, avant-garde adornment that nearly always layered toughness with delicacy. One of Kobkulboonsiri most recognizable pieces is a metal neck collar that anchors spindly spikes softened by multicolored pearls at their ends (see at top). In a series of abalone shell cocktail rings she explored the concave, creating amorphous vessels pocked with luminous pearls. 

She also made beautiful, tactile furniture and home accessories for her husband’s furniture retail business, Ideal Forms.

Over the years Kobkulboonsiri won several awards for her designs, including a JCK Jewelers’ Choice Award; a JCK Rising Star Award; the Gold Virtuosi Award at the International Jewelry Design Competition in Venice, Italy; the North American Tahitian Pearl Trophy; and, in 2012, Fashion Group International’s Rising Star Award.

Yupadee Kobkulboonsiri
Designer Yupadee Kobkulboonsiri as a child, and recently (image via @idealformsnyc)
Yupadee Kobkulboonsiri bracelet
Yupadee Kobkulboonsiri bracelet in 18k gold

A devout Buddhist, she lived in a sparsely furnished room at the Jeanne d’Arc Residence on West 24th Street, women’s housing run by the Sisters of Divine Providence of Kentucky, for nearly a decade, the New York Times reported in its obituary on the designer: “The residence was a cost-saving measure so she could send money home to her family, which she did every month until her death.”

Fishman was teaching sculpture at the School of Visual Arts at the time, and “in the years before she moved into his loft in Williamsburg, he would dash over for lunch or to steal a kiss,” according to the same article.

“Yupadee was a devout Buddhist,” he wrote in his Instagram post. “We take comfort in having known Yupadee as a spiritual being—she had developed a spiritual attachment to life. As part of Buddhist philosophy, Yupadee was resolved with death. During her month-long intubation, we are confident that she was meditating and we have faith that she left this earth to reach Nirvana.”

Her final wish was to have a small cabin for monks to live, called a kuti, built in her honor at Temple Forest Monastery in Temple, N.H. Fishman has set up GoFundMe page to collect donations for the project. 

Top: Yupadee Kobkulboonsiri necklace (all jewelry photos courtesy of Yupadee Design)

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JCK Magazine Editor