With Saudi Arabia opening its home to tourists, the Middle East is set to see a resurgence in many ways. It’s already home to renowned couturiers like Michael Cinco and Mohammed Ashi of Ashi Studio. But with jewellery being an intrinsic part of the culture and newer designers exploring contemporary design forms, a whole new chapter in the region’s jewellery scene is being written. From minimalist designs by Donna Hourani to Alexandra Hakim’s environment-friendly creations, these are the best Middle Eastern jewellery designers you need to know about.
Raised in Dubai, Hourani’s eponymous label focuses on minimal, feminine designs that easily transition from day to night. With a focus on craftsmanship, she uses natural, precious and semi-precious gemstones, which are not only ethically sourced but also hand-picked by her. Most popular are her signature mismatched earrings. “I like to use mismatched earrings to give my pieces more modernity and edge, even when the earrings themselves have classical elements in them,” she says.
Launched last spring, the Saudi Arabian-born and Dubai-based Kamal’s label is already on everyone’s radar. Her debut collection, Leaves of Joy, featured pieces made in 18k gold and zirconia stones in shades of blue, aquamarine and pure white references natural elements like raindrops, leaves, flower motifs, branches, ladybugs, and nests. “Many of the pieces are designed to change with movement, thereby creating a three-dimensional masterpiece inspired by the wind that gives movement to trees,” she says. Lana, who was an architect before venturing into jewellery seeks hints from solid shapes and weaves them into her design narrative. Minimal with an undertone of luxury, that’s how we um up her work. On our wish list: The ever-gorgeous Jasmine necklace.
Without a doubt, one of the coolest and the most talked about labels in the region is Beirut-based, Alexandra Hakim. Known for her playful designs, her inspiration comes from everyday objects one would find in a traditional Lebanese living room, like nuts and matchsticks. Plus, she focuses on sustainability with the aim to reduce waste. “I collect materials that typically go to waste such as tomato stems, lemon peels, and recycled sandpaper, and transform these fragments into jewellery that tells a story,” says Hakim. The handmade pieces are crafted with metals like brass, silver and gold, and semi-precious stones. No moulds are used during production so no two pieces are the same.
Founded by friends Tatiana Fayad and Joanne Hayek in Beirut, Vanina beautifully combines glamour and activism. A jewellery and lifestyle label, it fiercely promotes local craftsmanship whilst aiming to reduce environmental waste. Upcycling is part of their DNA: The brand used devalued Lebanese currency for their debut collection, and for their collaboration with Swarovski, created statement jewellery by using discarded plastic bags. In addition, the duo also only uses Lebanese artisans, and tie up with NGOs to preserve local handicrafts. The whole idea behind the label is to promote effortless elegance; from Arabic scriptures to flora and fauna Vanina seeks inspiration from a variety of sources, only to experiment with metals, fabric and a variety of stones.
Cairo-based designer, Jude Benhalim started her eponymous brand when she was only 17. Her edgy designs are a result of her passion to modernise traditional Egyptian jewellery combined with her love for contemporary art. Her creations are inspired by everyday things – water pipelines, cracks in concrete and even a city’s roundabout, and the use of beautifully coloured resin stones against the metal makes every piece stand out. Benhalim employs an all-female team of Egyptian artisans, in the busy and historic souk of Khan – El –Khalili in Cairo, who bring her designs to life.
After trying her hands at photography, product design and illustrations, Alia Bin Omair took up jewellery design. In 2013, she received Emirati Jewellery Designer of the Year Award from Damas Jewellery Academy in Dubai, where she also pursued her Diploma in jewellery design and production. A UAE national, Alia Bin Omair’s designs are inspired by her country’s heritage – her debut collection, ‘Tears’ is an inspiration by the native Frankincense tree that is found all over the region. The result, jewellery that is textured and with a raw appeal. Her latest offering, ‘Satami’ features a handmade, 18k gold ring made from seven textured gold discs attached to each other. She has always taken inspiration from her own country and its topography to create ‘art jewellery’ pieces, making her one of the best jewellery designers in the middle east.
(All images: Courtesy brands)
This article first appeared on Lifestyle Asia India.