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

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.

Know your Arab jewelry designers

Updated 15 August 2018

Know your Arab jewelry designers

DUBAI: The Arab world is known for its love of jewelry. Here are some emerging and established home-grown brands.

Alia bin Omair

Born in the UAE, Alia bin Omair’s collection, Leaf, is based on the ever-present palm trees found in the region.

Nuun Jewels

Nuun Jewels was founded by Saudi Arabian Princess Nourah Al Faisal, who opened a boutique on the shopping avenue Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris.

Mukhi Sisters

The Lebanese-Indian sisters Maya, Meena, and Zeenat Mukhi come from a long line of jewelers. Their line incorporates tradition with extravagant settings.

Bil Arabi

Lebanese designer Nadine Kanso launched her brand, Bil Arabi, in Dubai in 2006. It went on to quickly become one of the region’s hottest lines.

Jude Benhalim

Egyptian Jude Benhalim launched her jewelry brand when she was 17 in 2011 and hasn’t looked back since.

Azza Fahmy

The most well-known internationally, Egyptian Azza Fahmy began her trade in the 1960s when she became the first woman to serve an apprenticeship in Egypt’s jewelry district.