War and Stone
Being able to create in a world shaped by war, even creating a separate world from war. This is exactly what Selim Mouzannar, the jewelry designer from Lebanon, does.
The departing point of Mouzannar’s Kastak collection is a forgotten accessory from the past: watches with long chains. Link is inspired from the relationships that link people to one another; the main figure is the chain and the materials are sapphire, wood and diamond. The center figure of Terra collection, a creation with the inspiration from nature, a circle representing the world decorated with sapphire, diamond and rubies.
Interview by Zeynep Yapar
If your city of birth is Beirut, no one should be surprised by the fact that your career has mainly been shaped by “war”. Selim Mouzannar is the son of a family of jewelers for three generations. After the civil war started in 1975 in Lebanon, his family sent him to Paris to study in 1980. The war in 1996 conduces to display his designs in the international arena. “What has been lived was the feeling of a permanent insecurity”, he says. “I have three siblings. During this period, my family preferred us to be far away from home rather than losing us: so we left the violence.” The reason behind creating Beirut, one of the favorite collections of Selim Mouzannar, was to translate this violence into beauty. “The place I lived in Beirut was full of buildings inspired from Ottoman architecture. I saw their disappearance one by one each day. History has been erased with the buildings. With Beirut collection, I wanted to send a message of ‘these beauties were ours’ and keep that energy alive.” Pink and blue sapphires cut in rose cut style, brown diamond and ruby. Stones, nailed to pink and white gold. The carrier of Beirut designs is a figure of pigeon and heart.
I don’t like the feeling of sadness
Selim Mouzannar is a graduate from Paris Institut National De Gemmologie. After graduating, he does an intership in Belgium diamond market and starts to make market researches. His aim, instead of embracing traditional Middle Eastern jewelry styles like his father, is to give meaning to his designs the way he feels like. “Although I depart from the memories, I don’t like the feeling of sadness embedded in classical jewelry. You know, the jewelry remaining from your mother or grandmother that you keep but you don’t use. My jewelry should have gone beyond this.” Following Belgium, he works for Mouawad, the most significant stone collector in the Middle East, as Product Manager in Arabia and Purchasing Manager regarding the assessment of precious stones. He continues his duty in Thailand; however, he leaves his job in Mouawad, to become a ruby prospector in Ba Borai mines in Thai at the border of Cambodia. “This period of my life is perhaps the most rebellious but also the most nourishing one. 90 percent of the jewelers are not familiar with this mineral deposit which they built their life on it, solely labors know about it. It is really unbelievable to be that close to the stone. What shapes my designs is certainly my curiosity.” Selim Mouzannar returns to Beirut and opens Ashrafich workshop in 1993 and then his first store. In 1996 the outbreak of war gives him the idea of taking his jewelry to the other counties with him this time. He attends to Paris Fashion Week right after Jeddah Art Exhibition. He selects Christie’s collections for the auctions organized in Dubai. He collaborates in London and Singapore with Annoushka and The Link Bagbar. Selim Mouzannar finds himself lazy despite all of his successes. “I like to design by touching the stone, not on paper. I train my mind by imaging all the time; however, in reality I work just to extend my holidays.”
The luck of the devil in his pocket
Mouzannar, whose designs are decorating shop windows of Midnight Express in Istanbul, thinks that it is the woman herself who gives meaning to the jewelry. “Say, it is such an ostentatious jewelry but wanes out on the person who carries it. Or say, it is such a small piece but gets bigger with the energy of its owner.” As soon as he gets off the elevator opens to the café of House Hotel in Nisantasi with his t-shirt says Live Simply, jeans and glasses with round frames, starts listing his excuses cutely for being 20 minutes late to our meeting. Yet obviously he loves sleeping a little bit too much. Even if he doesn’t look like over 35, his age is one dozen more than this number. Whatever they say the luck of the devil is, Mouzannar carries it in his pocket. In the promotion night of the designer held in Istanbul House Hotel, the answer to the most curious question for women other than his jewelries is: Married with children.