Precious metals have a long and noble history in the MENA region. Throughout the years, locals and foreigners have flocked to the Arab world’s jewelry souks to buy gold, silver and other precious metals. Four MENA region brands competing for this year’s FTA Prize are creating dynamic new designs, continuing the region’s venerable jewelry tradition.
Dubai-based jewelry designer Alia bin Omair creates distinctive pieces inspired by traditional crafts that focus on materials, textures and their relationship to their cultural surroundings. The UAE native has participated in a number of mentorship programs, with such organizations as the Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council, Sharjah, in collaboration with the London College of Fashion, and with celebrated Egyptian jewelry designer Azza Fahmy. Her eponymous jewelry brand includes such collections as Leaf, featuring pieces made by gold-casting leaves, and Safeefa, a collaboration-based commission with Bedouin weavers.
Azza Skhiri Bouchamaoui’s jewelry brand is inspired by the Queen of Carthage. Named Didon – after the founder of the Phoenician empire of Carthage – the label is a tribute to strong women, with sculptural pieces made from quality materials. The Python ring, for example, adorned with black and white diamonds and pink sapphires, is a statement piece that works for both nighttime and daytime wear. Azza hails from Tunisia.
Casablanca native Julien Riad Sahyoun always had a great passion for precious stones. He studied design and gemology at the Gemological Institute of America in both New York and California, and then launched his own brand, JRS, in 2016. The Moroccan designer pushed boundaries by introducing genderless jewels, such as ear cuffs and bracelets that look just as fabulous on men as they do on women, taking the wearer into a boundless jewelry adventure.
Tania and Dima Nawbar Sisters Tania and Dima Nawbar are fourth-generation Lebanese jewelers – in 1891, their great-great grandfather opened the family’s first jewelry store in Beirut’s historic gold souk. Together, Tania and Dima launched L’atelier Nawbar, becoming the first woman jewelers in their family. Their capsule collection, Fragments of Beirut, is particularly poignant – it’s both a tribute to their beloved capital city and a testament to all things beautiful that were violently blown away in 2020, during the August 4 Beirut blast.