Turkey’s growing legion of jewellery designers look to their country’s vivid past to create pieces that celebrate history with a touch of modernity.
Love Ring by Nida Bulut
Hexagram earrings by Nida Bulut
Jewellery set by Nilgun Kadioglu
and diamond ring by Nilgun Kadioglu
Rose-gold bracelet with rose-cut diamonds from George Seker’s River from Storm collection
Cube ring by George Seker
There's a common element that ties together almost – if not all – jewellery pieces designed by the Turkish: They are all patently personal.
The overall look is distinct, with gold as the precious material of choice and a focal theme that alludes to Turkey's rich history and tradition.
A familiar motif is Turkish literature, according to Nida Bulut of Bu Jewels. The designer, who established her brand in 2014, eagerly displayed her “Love Ring” in 14-karat gold when asked what feeds her creative soul. The piece pays homage to her belief of Sufism, a mystical form of Islam that centres on introspection and building a personal relationship with God.
The ring shows a whirling figure, inspired by Persian poet and Sufi mystic Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi. “Everybody in Turkey knows who Rumi is and his influence in Turkish history. The whirling dance is a form of physical meditation that's prominent in our culture,” she noted.
Bulut, a history major, cited her love for history and artistry as her recipe for success. Her collections are sold in various department stores in Istanbul. A hotel in Maldives started carrying her brand in April last year – her first foray in the international market.
Her designs could very well be the modern face of Turkey's jewellery-making tradition. Her jewellery, while inherently traditional in concept, exudes a contemporary style that appeals to a wider range of buyers.
Designers also draw inspiration from Turkish architecture. Nilgun Kadioglu has more than a decade of jewellery designing expertise under her belt and in her collections lay items of jewellery that pay tribute to Istanbul's architectural wonders, including Hagia Sophia and the Galata Tower.
Anatolian patterns and motifs likewise figure a great deal in her work, a glittering example of which is a jewellery piece that celebrates Shahmaran, the queen of snakes in Anatolian legend.
Shahmaran – who fell in love with a poor man but was ultimately sacrificed on a king's selfish whim – is extensively illustrated in many artistic forms to symbolise prosperity and health, revealed the designer.
Kadioglu designs bespoke 18-karat gold and silver jewellery adorned with diamonds or coloured gems. Over the years, the brand gradually started gaining international recognition through trade exhibitions.
George Seker takes pride in handmade jewellery pieces as these bring out a designer's true creativity. Coming from a family of jewellers, he values tradition more than trends.
Like Bulut and Kadioglu, Seker looks to his surroundings for design muses, including a bracelet that depicts an old town in Turkey, as well as rings that feature ocean-inspired themes like an octopus or star fish.
The pieces come in 8-, 14- and 18-karat gold, silver, titanium or ebony wood, and are further adorned with fancy colour diamonds and coloured gems such as emerald or turquoise. “I'm very flexible when it comes to raw materials. I prefer non-traditional items, too. What's important is the jewellery piece is handmade,” he remarked.
Seker's creations are highly sought after by European buyers who put a premium on a designer's creative process. For instance, some customers would solely base a jewellery piece's price on the gold content or the quality of diamonds. “There's also value in the design and the craftsmanship behind the piece. In Europe, artistry is highly regarded,” noted Seker.