A rare gem: Meet the Saudi jewelry designer who is not afraid to shine

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The designer creates the pieces in her home studio. (Photographs supplied)
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Abeer Angawi has made a name for herself with her stunning designs.
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The necklaces are delicate and unique.
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The designer creates the pieces in her home studio.
Updated 06 March 2018
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A rare gem: Meet the Saudi jewelry designer who is not afraid to shine

LONDON: Saudi jewelry designer Abeer Angawi is known for her unique style and handmade jewelry pieces. Arab News caught up with the designer to learn more about her ever-expanding business, creative drive and how a prediction by a market stall vendor could have sparked her success.
Her turning point, she explained, came in 2004 during a visit to Cape Town, South Africa. She was browsing the gemstones in the historic Greenmarket Square famous for its handcrafts. As she handled the stones, a vendor said: “You will be a great designer.”
Those words have proved prophetic as she has gone on to pour her energy into creating her handmade jewelry pieces which are now sold internationally.
“That was the beginning for me. When I returned home, I made just 10 necklaces. No sooner were they made than they were sold — so fast,” she recalled.
“One customer bought all 10 pieces. In the first pieces I used African malachite. It was an amazing color.”
Malachite is popular in jewelry and ornaments due to its striking green color and interesting, veined patterns.
“After that, I produced a new collection every two months in order to keep up with demand. I began to source stones from all over the world: Turquoise, jade, onyx, amber, agate, rubies, pearls, amethysts, opals, aquamarines, corals. I wasn’t doing any marketing — it was just word of mouth,” she explained.
The business expanded rapidly.
“In 2010, I sold 400 pieces in one year. One client ordered 14 pieces, which was a great support for me. My dream for the business is that it will sell all over the world,” she said.
Angawi has a warm and engaging personality and loves sharing her knowledge and answering questions about the particular gemstones used in each elaborate piece.
She described her design process, saying: “I work in a small studio in my home in Jeddah where I can focus on my designs. I work from my drawings. My designs come straight from my imagination — I feel a strong connection to the stones.
“I do commissions based on the wishes of the customer. Sometimes they are looking for designs for special occasions to complement what they are wearing. It could, for example, be for a wedding or an engagement. I spend many hours working on my designs.”
She described her personal feelings about the stones.
“For me, the green stones are the strongest — they give you power. The emerald is the strongest stone in the world — it immediately attracts the eye. The ruby gives happiness (and) the red color brings excitement,” she said.
Meanwhile, the designer added that “turquoise has a calming, relaxing effect and coral brings a feeling of freshness.” For its part, “the pearl, I call ‘the lady of the world.’ Pearls bring a smile — I love pearls! When I work with pearls, I hope that the wearer will have an inner purity like the pearl.”
Asked about her early creative influences, she recalled: “I was just seven when I started drawing necklaces as a hobby. My mother, who has passed away, told me to keep going.”
Her husband has also encouraged her creativity.
“When I got married, my husband told me to pursue my hobby. He strongly supports me in developing my creativity,” she said.
She is a dynamic woman who has somehow managed to follow her dream and build a business while raising a large family.
“I have seven children. Once I decide to do something, I do it. There is just something inside of me — I really want to do this,” she explained.
Angawi, who was born in Makkah, believes that Jeddah is an inspirational place for artists and designers. She founded her own local business, the Ruby Boutique, in the city.
“I feel Jeddah is rich in arts. For thousands of years traders have operated from this commercial hub, bringing in artefacts from all over the world,” she said.
She pointed out that all of the capitals of the Middle East and North Africa are within a few hours’ flying distance of Jeddah.
Even before being designated the port city for Makkah, Jeddah was a trading hub for the region. In the 19th century, goods such as mother of pearl, tortoise shells, frankincense and spices were routinely exported from the city. Apart from this, many imports into the city were destined for further transit to the Suez, Africa or Europe.
Angawi loves to collect antiques that reflect this rich history.
“I have many antique pieces in my house that inspire me. I particularly love the pieces from Italy and Morocco,” she said.
In her new collection, Angawi had added rings. She works with another designer who designs earrings to complement her pieces.
Her aim is to create jewelry pieces unique to her clients, whether they come from Moscow, Marrakesh, Kuwait City, Paris or London.
“For me — I see a lady as a lady — I don’t care about her nationality,” she said.
The key, she believes, is working closely with the individual and finding stones that match their moods and wishes.
“When I am designing, I am conscious that women are very sensitive. I think about their emotions and I want to bring them happiness through my designs,” she said.


Jessica Kahawaty gains recognition Down Under

Updated 22 October 2018
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Jessica Kahawaty gains recognition Down Under

DUBAI: Lebanese-Australian model and TV show host Jessica Kahawaty was honored with an award at an Australia Lebanon Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ALCCI) event in Melbourne this week.

The fashion influencer, who is based in Dubai but jets across the world to attend events, made an appearance at the event in a strapless black dress with a flared, tulle skirt completed with a thigh-high slit.
Kahawaty wore her hair in a tight bun and completed the look with dramatic blue eyeliner.
She took to Instagram to celebrate the honor, saying: “So yesterday, I received the highest honor a Lebanese-Australian could receive! Thank you so much to the ALCCI for awarding me with ‘Outstanding Ambassador to Lebanon and Australia. With my move from Australia to the Middle East five years ago, my aim was to bridge my two worlds and encourage intercultural dialogue and understanding. Couldn’t be happier for this recognition.”
The organization seeks to strengthen trade relations between Australia, Lebanon and the Middle East.

Before the gala dinner, she took to Instagram to post an image in which she poses on a Melbourne street in a white mini-dress with frilled accents and a dramatic, a-symmetrical train.
“Outside the International Chamber House after the private conference to honor some members of the Lebanese-Australian community who have made significant contributions in medicine, business, politics, philanthropy and more... can’t wait for the big gala tonight!” she captioned the photo.
While in the country, the former Miss Australia — who came third place in the Miss World 2012 competition — visited her childhood school to talk to the students and shed light on her career.
“It was such a pleasure to visit my old school in Australia, Tangara School for Girls, and speak to the bright, humble and ambitious Year 10 and Year 11 Girls. I had goosebumps being there, remembering how I was when I was 17 and what I wanted to hear. Thank you for listening to me,” she posted alongside a short video of cheering students on Instagram.
Kahawaty studied business, finance and law in Sydney and is a keen supporter of a number of humanitarian causes, including UNICEF and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Last year, fashion house Louis Vuitton selected Kahawaty to work with UNICEF at the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan to help children affected by the Syrian crisis, which has seen millions of people displaced.
The multi-talented celebrity also gave a talk at the TEDxSciencesPo event in Paris in April.
The conference, according to a press release, brought together influencers “who work toward breaking the wall between the East and the West” and aims to “provide an essential bridge, to fuse the gap between rising trends of neo-conservatism predominant in the South of France and the cultural diversity that characterizes the Arab world.”