By Michelle Graff
Brooklyn, N.Y.— Award-winning jewelry designer Yupadee Kobkul Boonsiri died April 28 in Brooklyn, New York after a month-long battle with COVID-19.

She was 51 years old.

20200429 Dee pictureYupadee Kobkul BoonsiriBorn and raised in Thailand, Kobkul Boonsiri earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Silapakorn University in Bangkok.

After immigrating to New York, she attended the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) School of Art and Design. Later, she taught at FIT as an adjunct professor.

“Yupadee was a superb designer and a bright star among her peers,” said Michael Coan, chair emeritus of the Department of Jewelry Design at FIT. “We were lucky to have her return to the classroom to teach.”

Kobkul Boonsiri created both classic and avant-garde jewelry described as “sculptural, bold and often fantastical”—hand-woven gold cuffs studded with Tahitian pearls, rings made from iridescent abalone shell, chic platinum necklaces that extend down the back, and hand-knit gold chain link scarves.

Over the course of her career, she won numerous awards, including the Gold Virtuosi Award at the International Jewelry Design Competition in Venice, the North American Tahitian Pearl Trophy, and a JCK Jewelers’ Choice Award.

In 2012, the Fashion Group International recognized the designer with its Rising Star Award.

“Yupadee was a free-spirited genius, by far the most talented jewelry designer, bar none. Even her stationary work seemed to be kinetic, complimenting the human body and emphasizing every movement of those who wore her jewelry,” said James Grunberger, third-generation owner of Grunberger Jewelers in Stamford, Connecticut, which produced her designs.

Kobkul Boonsiri lived her life with kindness, compassion and a playful exuberance. Like the precious gems in her workshop, she radiated beauty and light.

She also was a devout Buddhist, and her family said her spirituality gives them some comfort.

“As part of Buddhist philosophy, Yupadee was resolved with death,” her family said. “During her month-long intubation, we are confident that she was meditating and we have faith that she left this earth to reach nirvana.”

Kobkul Boonsiri is survived by her husband, Steven Fishman of Brooklyn; her mother, Pornthip Sae Wong; her father, Manus Kobkulboonsiri; and three siblings, P’Yuth, P’Jim and Satta, all of Thailand; sister-in-law Rivkah of Israel; and aunts, uncles and cousins in Massachusetts, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

Her family is grateful for the attentive care she received at the temporary intensive care unit at Woodhull Medical Center in Brooklyn, especially to Dr. Steven Short, a critical care pulmonologist from Manhattan, Kansas.

Donations to honor Kobkul Boonsiri can be made to Temple Forest Monastery, 32 Derbyshire Lane, Temple, NH, 03804. Her hope was to fund a kuti, a monastic cottage, for the practicing monks there. Her husband has created a fundraiser for the kuti via GoFundMe.

Get the Daily News >
National Jeweler

Fine Jewelry Industry News

Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.