El Minara is an edgy and raw jewellery range which gets its inspiration from Middle Eastern and North African countries. With powerful and uni-sex pieces, El Minara is making quite the waves in NYC, Instanbul, and Australia.
We spoke to head designer Reema Elassaad about her jewellery line and the amazing inspiration she has pulled from her travels around the world.
Tell us a little about yourself
Well this pretty much sums up my journey up:
Birth – puberty – first kiss – uni – jewellery business – success – void – meltdown- london – bender – depleted funds – waitress – china – jewellery designer – copious amounts of hotpot – London – waitress (again) – Istanbul -kebab – ancient byzantine jewellery studies – kebab – life – kebab – El Minara Jewellery – kebab- to be continued…
Wow – what an interesting and fun timeline! We want to hear about your latest jewellery line, El Minara…
When I began El Minara a while back, I was specialising in tribal jewellery from the Middle East and North Africa. As times changed and my taste developed, I grew a desire for an edgy, raw, rock aesthetic as opposed to tribal. I began El Minara by initially buying and selling accessories from abroad whilst designing on the side. It was not until I discovered and learnt Byzantine jewellery making whilst living in Istanbul that I had complete creative freedom over the designs and the aesthetic of the jewellery label.
I spent a year in the Grand Bazaar learning and creating jewellery, and relaunched El Minara in NYC, September 2015. The new El Minara style and direction has been extremely popular, gaining attention from media and stores alike. I have designed and made every piece in the collection by hand with a unisex market in mind. The designs have been just as popular with men as they have been with women. The jewellery market is saturated with delicate pieces these days, and I wanted to create something with attitude!
So this ancient Byzantine Jewellery technique you use … how does it work?
Byzantine jewellery making is a specific technique where metal is cast into handmade moulds as opposed to beating metal. Creating sculptural pieces feels very natural to me, the byzantine technique allows for great detail. I am able to create a raw aesthetic which is the El Minara signature.
We want to hear all about your travels as well! What did you learn from each country about their specific jewellery making techniques?
My travels have been insane. From London, China, Instanbull, Turkey and many more places, I have traveled many places and picked up some nifty jewellery making tricks from particular countries.
In Turkey, one of the best experiences of my life would be learning and practising (whilst drinking thick black coffee and eating kebabs by the hour) jewllery making in one of the oldest market places in the world.
When I was spending time in Morocco, I found their skill set and techniques were quite specific to beading and often beaten metal. Jewellery making is an ancient language in itself. I was mainly interested in Berber jewellery. It was fascinating to learn that each bead, each colour, each shape had a specific meaning and regularly placed in a specific order to symbolise events, such as: coming of age, marriage, new life etc.
My experience in North China was the complete opposite – I was working as a jewellery designer for high street brands such as Zara, Mango, New Look etc. Obviously the techniques used for jewellery making in such environment are based on mass production. The bulk of production was manufactured by machines at high speeds and large quantities. Although fascinating to learn, the process was based of volume rather than soul and creativity.
Istanbul was a completely different experience! The art of Byzantine and Roman Jewellery making has been passed down through the generations traditionally by men. It is uncommon to see women working in the back streets of the Grand Bazaar making jewellery. Although I took a raw and bold approach to the technique, traditionally it is used for embossing, filigree, granulation and inscription amongst other things.
Such amazing stories and techniques you have acquired! What prices do you generally sell your pieces for?
I wanted to make El Minara accessible to all so my price range begins at $45 all the way up to $420 for the large, sculptural collars.
Images via El Minara.