Whatever it is you want to say, let these elaborate baubles do the talking.
Aug 3, 2020
Let’s be frank; the purpose of statement jewellery is, in the words of Emile Zola, “to live out loud.” You didn’t select that pair of chandelier earrings dripping with intricate beading because you’re a shrinking violet. You’re wearing them because you’ve got something to assert. Similarly, in the African context, statement jewelry has historically been an expression of more than itself: From its denotations of social hierarchies in certain cultures (particularly Masaai society) to the symbolic use of particular colors and materials in certain jewelry—the very idea of statement jewelry—that is, jewelry that itself tells the story of a culture—is something that is intrinsically African. Choosing to let your jewelry speak for you: that’s a decision that’s universal. Here are five jewelry designers from the continent who give you an opportunity to proclaim your own presence through their pieces. Shop the full collection, here.
“Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off,” goes Coco Chanel’s famous dictum. If she’d encountered Pichulik, however, perhaps she wouldn't have been so quick to dismiss the idea of a little maximalism. Founded by South African designer and entrepreneur, Katherine-Mary Pichulik, the celebrated jewellery, accessories, and womenswear atelier transforms everyday materials into handcrafted talismans that are alluring, luxurious, and unique. Though they’re busy and eclectic enough on their own, many of Pichulik’s pieces actually work incredibly well when paired together. Take the brand’s Araci Necklace and Bossa Nova Earrings for example: Inspired by Southern Brazilian coastal towns, they feature horn, venetian glass, as well as Pichulik’s signature rope, and when worn together they create a visually mesmerizing composition. Team the set with garments in solid, corresponding shades.
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Photo: Dhamani Adele Earrings teamed with other pieces from the brand. Courtesy of Adele Dejak
by Adele Dejak
Forget making a statement; the unflinching creations of Kenya’s Adele Dejak practically command a room look your way. Made from up-cycled brass and aluminium, the pieces of Adele Dejak’s collection are all presented in rich golds and classic silvers, resulting in an aesthetic that is at once sophisticated and bold. Whether it’s an adornment for your neck, your ears, or your wrists, Adele Dejak’s range is characterized by large, sculptural pieces. Her Dhamani Adele Earrings are a particularly special piece meaning precious in Swahili, they certainly live up to their name. The hammered brass concentric hemispheres dangle with aplomb from the ear, swaying gracefully with the wearer’s stride. Their golden tone will lend an element of elegance to everyday, casual looks. For a piece that’s particularly transformative, turn to the brand’s Fapiyo Neckpiece—a grand shoulder-bearing necklace that resembles more armor than jewelry.
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Photo: Collar Necklace. Courtesy of Ami Doshi Shah
Featuring warm earth tones, smatterings of minerals like Zoisite and quartz, and polished brass accents, the work of Ami Doshi Shah is unapologetic in its boldness and highly considered in its use of materials like wood, stone, and metal. A jeweller and applied artist based in Nairobi, Kenya, Shah’s design work stems from a fascination with the talismanic and symbolic roles of adornment. A Birmingham School of Jewellery graduate, she has also been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including Goldsmiths Award for Best Apprentice Designer UK, and the African Designers for Tomorrow Award. Everything in Shah’s collections is crafted using ethically and sustainably sourced materials. Her Collar Necklace has emerged as a firm editorial favourite among the array of her offerings. To make this piece, a semi-circular brass tube is spliced and splayed and then topped with a regiment of aventurine spheres to form a piece that looks quite regal upon its placement on the collarbone.
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Hand-crafted in sterling silver and 18-karat gold, every Patrick Mavros piece subtly demands attention, but it is the brand’s Pangolin Collection that catches the eye above all else. Inspired by the endangered mammal’s scaly protective exterior, the Mavros family have created a collection of rings, bracelets, earrings, and necklaces that embody the creature’s strange beauty. Part of an effort to help save these much-trafficked animals, the collection includes a lightweight snake chain adorned with scales that graduate in size, called the Pangolin Haka Necklace, as well as a pair of tapered silver earrings called the Pangolin Haka Earrings. For this heritage Zimbabwean jewelry brand, family comes first. Mavros’ dedication to conservation goes beyond wildlife and extends to the idea of family; everything they produce is intended to be a timeless heirloom that can be passed down from one generation to the next.
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Photo: Kifungo Short Tassel Earrings. Courtesy of Sidai Designs
Lessons from the Maasai
Based in the Arusha region of Tanzania, Sidai Designs boasts creations that are rich in heritage, imbued with stories, and crafted by local artisans who possess an inveterate understanding of their craft. Drawing inspiration from the traditional beading patterns of the East African Maasai people, Sidai’s offerings include soft leather bracelets and necklaces embellished with glass beads, hoop earrings enriched by gold fill, beaded bars, and tassel earrings that graze the neck. The Kifungo Short Tassel Earrings, part of their Pembetatu collection, really up the ante. Crafted from supple suede and featuring a sterling silver stud fastening, two-and-a-half inch long glass-beaded tassels hang from the pale pink baubles. Though subtle and pared-back in color, when worn with a contrasting shade, these chandelier earrings are brought to life, resulting in an overall look that speaks of power, beauty and authority. Sidai’s most emphatic statement, however, is creating sustainable employment for women in the region by employing them in the crafting of their pieces.
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