Inspired by a love of Beirut’s vibrant history and an appreciation of the boons of the earth, Selim Mouzannar’s latest two collections are at once both classic and relevant.
“I was the black sheep,” says Selim Mouzannar with a laugh. The Mouzannar family has been in the business of crafting fine jewellery for over a century, but this wayward son decided to take the path less travelled, branching out on his own and garnering glowing reviews for his innovative designs.
His journey began in 1981, where he spent four years studying gemmology at the Institut National de Gemmologie in Paris while simultaneously gaining practical training at a gem centre in Antwerp. In 1984, armed with his diploma, Mouzannar went straight to work with the Mouawad Group who posted him to Saudi Arabia, the Far East and then Europe. Finally in 1992, he returned to Lebanon to work for his family business but in 1999 he took the bold decision of opening his own shop. The small but luxurious premises in Ashrafieh established his brand for its unique creations of understated elegance and Selim Mouzannar quickly gained a loyal clientele quite separate from that of his family’s. Harking back to classic cuts, styles and designs, he charts a course that runs in direct opposition to the established norms. “People are nostalgic. Human beings like to remember things,” he says when asked about his vintage take on design.
mouzannar jewelry collections
His latest ‘Beirut Collection’ is clearly inspired by the city during its post-modernist heyday. The settings hark back to the balustrades and ironwork of Beiruti houses, and the precious stones are cut in a fashion that previous generations would have been familiar with. These include the rose cut among others, with such techniques creating a sense of antiquity and refined style. Mouzannar explains, “With the rose cut, we remember our grandmothers wearing these stones. It’s history. In fact it was the Indians who began to use this cut because of wastage that occurred when they used other cuts, such as the pavilion.”
The rose cut creates what Mouzannar refers to as a “soft” look, there’s no ostentatious glittering, but rather a warm glow when the stone reflects light. It’s a step back from brash displays of worth that we, perhaps unfortunately, have become accustomed to. The use of rose gold for the settings again takes us back to yesteryear. This gold and copper alloy may be very much back in fashion, there’s no doubt, but it’s also a classically inspired choice of material.
There’s a distinct thought process behind each quirky decision, “A piece of jewellery always has a message of power relations. You’re showing your wealth, that you’re richer than the others,” Mouzannar says with a wry smile upon his face. “This is not our purpose. Our purpose is to show the softness of the stone, we want to feel the jewel.” The idea that a woman should love the piece, not for the appeal of the large stone, but rather for the full effect, is something that reminded me of my mother’s love of
While the ‘Beirut Collection’ is rooted in an appreciation of all things classic, the ‘Terra Collection’ is something altogether different. Inspired by the beauty hidden beneath the earth, Terra pieces are almost floral in their appearance, the spherical arrangements are certainly eye-catching and stand out from your average fare, inspired by “all the fruits of the earth”, Terra lends itself to a mix-and-match approach, “It’s a whole thing, a bouquet if you like. With the rings we have so many styles, so you can play with the pieces. You can put them together, different colours, it’s like a story.”
Again, Mouzannar stresses his approach, “We don’t want to use the jewellery piece as a precious thing, in terms of price. We want it to be precious because the woman wants to feel good.” Terra’s unique style and sense of playfulness are never going to appear cheap, but he’s right, it’s the sense of style and youthful appeal that leap out at you, not the size of the stones or the value of the piece.
The company has expanded into Dubai and has been well received, with the ‘Beirut Collection’ leading the way, “We were surprised, because we’re competing against large jewellers. It’s been very good. The feedback was outstanding,” Mouzannar says. When asked about the future, he revealed a potential project with Abdul Qadir, the Emirati painter, with Mouzannar designing limited pieces inspired by Qadir’s work. What’s more, Europe and the US beckon – Selim Mouzannar is clearly in his ascendancy.