Nearly 1,500 years ago the ominous cathedral Hagia Sophia, located in Istanbul, Turkey, was built by the order of Roman Emperor Justinian. Renowned for its spectacular dome, the magnificent structure was considered "the epitome of Byzantine architecture." Turkey is also home to featured jewelry designer Özlem Tuna.
Jewelry complements the personality of the wearer while also being an extension of the designer's personality.
A custom-made design is a double treasure cultivated from precious materials while the arrangement of gemstones carries a hidden message of love.
Jewelry from the sleek and elegant to brazen extravagance reflects the influence of shape, color and texture found in nature and man-made structures.
Tuna's understated yet fluid jewelry items quietly borrow from the succulent form of fruit and flowers, a twelve-year-period during the time of the Ottoman Empire, Persian mosaics, and the high energy of Istanbul's Grand Bazaar.
In short, she contains the country of Turkey in jewelry items composed of 18-karat gold, sterling silver, onyx, pink quartz, and multi-colored ceramic granules.
The elegant proportions and pastel gemstones of her sleek, sterling silver Anya (Mirror) Necklace, and the blackened, textured metal of the Güzel Kokulu (Beautiful Scent) rings embody the essence of Turkey's Tulip Period (1718- 1730).
"My Tulip Period body ornaments are inspired from this open, free period. It was well known as being an era of pleasure and enjoyment," she says. "The names I use for individual pieces are derived from various tulips grown during this fascinating period of Ottoman culture."
Tuna blends the love of sculptural lines and basic structure while also giving her designs distinctive nuances of color.
Her beautiful Kapalıçarşı-Kubbe (Grand Bazaar Dome) ring--a stunning interpretation of the famous market place--is a unique rendering of a reverse dome setting accented with small, tourmaline stones tied to the dome's circumference.
"I tied the tourmaline stones to the dome with copper wires to illustrate that the molded fabric inside the Grand Bazaar is rotting yet exists with the richness and diversity of this production market."
Her unique, sterling silver cutout designs are masterful examples of abstract metalwork patterns. Tuna's remarkable mosaic jewelry, the Arzu-Kes (Desire) Collection is a beautiful play of subtle color with striking texture.
"Constructing micro-mosaics is a arduous practice that requires patience. In my journey to find my inner voice, I produced this particular collection and in building it I found myself at my most peaceful moments."
The former ceramic teacher has designed jewelry and home accessories for 17 years, and established her company, Özlem Tuna Design Office in 2002.
Five years later, in 2007, she opened her first gallery, called Design Zone, near the Grand Bazaar.
Photo 1 (top right): Sterling Silver Rose Thorn Ring
Photo 2 (bottom left): Sterling Silver Aphrodite Necklace with Sapphires, Diamonds, Pearls, and Ceramic Micro-Mosaics