Born to a long-line family of jewellers that goes back to the Ottoman Empire era, Selim Mouzannar spent most of his childhood in his father’s jewellery atelier and shop in Beirut city. Following his family’s heritage, he studied Gemology in France and Belgium, and was employed by various jewellery companies before taking this precious experience back to his dear home country to setup and expand his eponymous brand locally and internationally. A lover of sea, stars, and music, Mouzannar’s emotions and passion for life are translated into his various collections.
The jeweller believes in the power of synergy and therefore has collaborated with many creators. From his early influences in the field, to the ideal Selim Mouzannar woman, and to the soul of Beirut in his designs, here the Lebanese jeweller shares his views, inspirations and much more.
Tell us a little about yourself and the experiences that influenced you to become a jewellery designer?
Growing up in Beirut city, I used to roam the incense scented halls of the souk, where there were hundreds of jewellery workshops, with my father and grandfather amongst them. I spent most of my afternoons helping my father, and used to walk by all the displays jammed with jewels crafted in the Falamenk Ottoman style (our region was heavily influenced by the Ottoman Empire), it is something I can never forget; and despite my very young age I was familiar with all the different jewellery craftsmanship techniques.
When I was 17, during the Lebanese civil war I had to travel to pursue my education further. My first stop brought me to Paris where I studied mineralogy. After taking on an internship in the Belgium diamond market in Antwerp, I joined an international jewellery company in Saudi Arabia; where I was testing stones, and managing the workshop. Then I went to Thailand on a stone seeking adventure in a ruby mine, which was a highly enriching experience.
Finally, in 1992, I decided to go back to Beirut to build my own eponymous fine jewellery brand.
You come from a long line of jewellers; did you always know that you wanted to be part of the jewellery industry?
I have always been interested in journalism, and growing up I tried to resist my professional heritage; but after a while the energy of the industry called out to me. Yes, I was torn between transforming my heritage to make a new start, and following it as it was set out to be; but finally, I chose to respect the rules and decided to pursue jewellery, however I made sure to do it my own way!
Who is the ideal Selim Mouzannar woman? Do you imagine that woman before designing?
Women are different and each one wears my jewellery in their own personal way. For me, a jewellery piece is something that embraces three principles: the designer who created the piece, the woman who wears it and the person who is touched by seeing it on this particular woman. I always try to focus on these elements to ensure the message behind the design before it comes to life. Making jewellery is a way to communicate happiness and peaceful feelings, and all women deserve to have that.
You work with both diamonds and coloured gemstones; what are your favourite stones to work with?
My favourite stone is ‘nature’, and each gemstone is a love story. I am always amazed by the stories they carry, and I can spend hours looking into each and every stone. What keeps me dreaming and creating are nature’s vibrant colours and shapes.
What is your take on the changing perception of coloured gemstones versus plain diamonds?
I can’t see the world in black and white only; there are plenty vivid colours in between. Mixing them all is my therapy. I love the rose cut, it is shaped with less facets than the modern cut, which are more poetic and reflect soft light without competing with feminine beauty.
Tell us how important Beirut’s vibrant history is for your designs?
I breathe the soul of Beirut; its energy of freedom, of rebels, of violence and love runs through my blood. Its traditional houses and architecture is a part of my heritage and it’s only natural that it influences my designs. Sticking with tradition is a question of elegance, but also human strength. We all carry our own history, and it’s an honour to carry mine.
When are you at your best when it comes to designing?
Definitely when I am around stones; their colours and shapes drive me to design, and in return makes my heart grow bigger each time.
Tell us a little bit more about your latest collection. What’s your current favourite piece?
My latest collection ‘Mina’ is inspired by the three times millenary technique: enamel. It was born on the shores of the Mediterranean as indicated by traces found in some ancient vestiges, and it is still difficult to master. I think it gives a very special pattern around stones, and a twist of art deco design. My favourite piece in this collection so far is the Mina necklace, made with exceptional cabochon emeralds from the renowned Muzo mine in Columbia. The deep emerald green colour perfectly complements the black enamel surrounding it.
In your opinion, how important is it to maintain high-quality practices in an industry that is always demanding more?
Perfection is hidden in details! Our workshop uses traditional techniques combined with modern tools. I work in perpetual motion, always testing new ways to improve jewellery quality and creativity.
How would you like the world to remember you?
As someone who creates jewellery that brings happiness, carries peace, and creates memories.
Name one artist or someone you admire that you dream of collaborating with one day.
Each designer has his or her own personality and talent. I always learn from others; this is my way of keeping an open-mind. Relationships with other designers have always been a great reward for me. Two years ago, I opened MACLE, a multi-brand jewellery store across the street from my own store here in Beirut; and this is a way to show the link between jewellery designers that come from all over the world. It seems that even if we have different cultures, we all share the same spirit towards creation, craftsmanship, heritage, and poetry.
Can you share with us an unforgettable piece of advice that you received from your father?
To always be optimistic!
What is a message that you would like to end the year of 2017 with?
Life is plenty of opportunities and optimism is a moral duty.
By Dana Mortada