Lebanese jewellery designer Selim Mouzannar has a spent over twenty five years building his luxury jewellery house and turning it into a global success.
Selim Mouzannar has lived and breathed jewellery since his childhood. Growing up in Beirut Mouzannar spent his days helping his father at his atelier and jewellery store. Coming from a family of jewellers, Selim’s father trained him to be a craftsman while working in Beirut’s old souk. When he was 17, he left his home country of Lebanon to study in Paris. He graduated with a degree in Mineralogy and Gemology setting him up for a career working with precious stones.
Returning to The Middle East, Mouzannar quickly built up a career working as a production and purchasing manager for a renowned jeweller based in Saudi Arabia. His work then took him to Thailand and then back to Paris before returning to Beirut in 1993 to establish his own jewellery brand Maison Selim Mouzannar.
Expanding his brand globally since the launch of his first store, Mouzannar has designed jewellery for the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Gwyneth Paltrow, Emma Stone and Rhianna. The designer now has a presences not only in his home country but also in Turkey, The United Kingdom, France, Switzerland and the UAE amongst many others.
The designer has a strong passion for stones having dedicated his life to sourcing some of the most natural and unique stones in the world. He is known for his crafting technique, known as ‘Falamenk’ (“Flemish” in Arabic), which combines rose-cut diamonds, with silver-bottomed bezel settings. Mouzannar’s designs are inspired by the Ottoman Art Deco architecture of old Beirut and his passion for the sea.
Here Selim Mouzannar talks to A&E about his love for precious stones and the lessons he has learnt during his lengthy career in the industry.
What do you want the world to know about precious stones?
I can spend hours looking at stones, I am always amazed by the small world that lives in them. By nature, all the colours and shades make me dream. I can’t see the world in black and white; in between there is plenty of colours. Mixing them all is my therapy. I love rose cut gems, they are shaped with less facets than modern cut giving them a less aggressive and more poetic aspect.
What are the challenges you face when choosing which gemstones to work on?
It is not a challenge for me but a pleasure, I play with stones. Stones drive me to the design of a jewel, this is what makes each piece unique.
Tell us about your favorite precious stone.
My favorite stone is ‘Nature’, and each gemstone is a love story on its own. All the shades of blue remind me my favourite place; the Mediterranean.
What are the common mistakes women in the Arab world make when choosing a new piece of jewellery?
There is no mistake, the only way to choose jewellery is to follow your emotions.
What is the most common misconception people have about diamonds?
The beauty of a diamond is not a question of clarity or colour. For me, falamenki diamonds – which is an old cut- are very poetic and give a hint of vintage that brilliant diamonds don’t have.
Why did you choose to leave Lebanon and your family at the age of 17?
When I was 17, the Lebanese civil war was still in full swing. I had to travel to pursue my education further. My first stop brought me to Paris where I studied mineralogy, and from thereon I set out on a journey around the globe, accumulating experiences and life enriching adventures.
What did you learn during that period?
My childhood was spent in Beirut roaming the incense-scented halls of the souk where ran hundreds of jewellery workshops, my father and grandfather among them. During afternoons helping my father there, I walked past all the showcases jammed with jewels crafted in the Falamenk Ottoman style. It is something that you never forget, I was raised there and despite my young age I was familiar with different jewellery craftsmanship. You could say it shaped me in a way.
What is the most important lesson you have learned during your career?
Stay positive, keep learning and enjoying life.
What philosophy do you follow for work?
Pleasure and following my intuitions; I love when finding ideas is random.
Which celebrity or person would you most like to design a unique piece of jewellery for?
For me, jewelry must complement the person wearing it; it should be in harmony with their character and personality firstly. I do not sell jewellery just for the sake of establishing a transaction; I make sure that every client of mine buys something that suits them body and soul, something that makes them feel good about themselves. Making jewellery is a way to communicate happiness and peaceful feelings, and it is meant for all women.
What do you think about the outburst of new jewellery designers, and what advice do you have for them?
Each designer has his own personality, his own talent. I always learn from others; this is my way of keeping my mind open. Relationships with other designers has always been a great reward for me. 3 years ago, I opened MACLE, a multibrand jewellery store across the street from my own store. 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 toward creation, craftsmanship, and proudness of our own history, and poetry.
What is your favorite quote?
Life is plenty of opportunities and optimism is a moral duty.
Your favorite book and why?
It would be a shame to only have one!
If you were not a jewellery designer, what other profession would you have chosen?
How do you view the future of Selim Mouzannar house of jewellery?
Flying to the moon!
By Charline Deek