Wednesday, December 26, 2012


18K Gold Maya Butterfly Pendant Necklace
The limestone caves of the Jeita Grotto in Beirut, Lebanon are a series of lower and upper caves.

The lower caves encapsulate merging rivers that provide freshwater to Beirut while the upper caves, which consist of three main chambers, are a popular tourist draw.

Lebanon is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Nadine Kanso.

The essence of ethnic jewelry is presenting one’s culture within the guise of the designer’s materials of choice. 

For Egyptian designer Rabab Salem’s calligraphy-inspired jewelry the material is sterling silver; while Turkish jeweler Vanessa Kandiyoti’s stunning evil eye pendants are cultivated from pavé sets of pink diamonds or rubies in outlines of 18-karat yellow or rose gold.  What I enjoy about ethnic jewelry is the unequivocal stamp of distinctiveness that says this is who I am.

The 18-karat gold creations of Kanso’s handcrafted jewelry brand, Bil Arabi (which literally translates to “in Arabic”) is expressly Lebanese.  Lithe, Arabic calligraphy takes center stage in cuff bracelets, pendant necklaces, and cocktail rings that highlight words of endearment and pride. 

It is a bold, captivating visual of black or white diamonds, and turquoise that offset the lyrical flow of single letters or single words.
18K Gold Fdeytak Cuff Bracelet with Gemstones
The Dubai-based jewelry designer initially sought a career as a photographer.  Her keen level of specificity resulted in exhibitions at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum as well as the B21 Gallery in Dubai in 2006.  Both exhibitions “included a series of portraits depicting Arabs from across the region with an eclectic mix of artistic, creative and cultural milieus.”

Her quest to showcase positive Arabic images evolved into an exploration of meshing two art forms: calligraphy and jewelry making.  “I wanted a jewelry line to reflect a personal message as well as a strong cultural one. 

I started off designing a ring with an Arabic letter.  One letter led to the whole alphabet and then complete words, and eventually phrases.

I am very interested in providing a basis to express pride in being Arab.  After 9/11 the media was so against Arabs that people felt they had to hide their identity.  I wanted to do something more in your face than photographs; more modern, more bling. 
18K Pink Gold Peace Ring with Black Diamonds
Arabic calligraphy is very graphic and beautiful.  For me it is about being proud of wearing an Arabic letter on your wrist.  This is what makes me keep going.”
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