Shamsa Al Omaira talks us through her love of art and jewellery, why it’s such as staple in Emirati culture and her biggest achievement to date.
A&E speaks to Emirati Jewellery Designer Shamsa Al Omaira
While Shamsa Al Omaira started her jewellery business in 2014, the Abu Dhabi native has enjoyed a lifelong passion for the art.
Art being the operative word, as the owner of The O Jewelry is also a practising artist, merging the two worlds together. Within her artwork – which has been exhibited in numerous exhibitions in the UAE – she takes reference from personal experience and conceptually explores both philosophy and the mind.
Speaking to A&E on Emirati Women’s Day, Al Omaira chats through her earliest jewellery memories, the significance of jewellery within this region and her biggest achievement to date.
Tell us about the ethos behind The O Jewelry, and how the brand came to be?
We believe in concepts, in unconstrained creations, in being inspired constantly; we believe in sentiments and memories. We innovate, we create and we lead by example. The brand was not forced, it came to be effortlessly, driven by a passion to design. The decision to start The O Jewelry happened overnight after having a conversation with a friend.
Why did you decide to focus on fine jewellery?
Jewellery is a form of self-expression for the designer and wearer both; being a part of that is so gratifying. With fine jewellery, I get to create and know these creations will be valued and cherished for a very long time.
You use gold within your designs – why was this your precious metal of choice?
Gold comes with its value, monetary and sentimental. I am a firm believer that jewellery can – and should – be sentimental. Whether it is self-acquired, gifted, or inherited; the value just increases. Gold feels like a necessity to me. It is a celebration when worn or a statement. It tells you about someone’s state of mind, their emotions, their personality and lifestyle.
You’re an artist as well as a jewellery designer – how do those two worlds meet in the middle and flow into one another?
Art and jewellery design are very similar yet different. Both are a form of self-expression. With art, you speak to a targeted audience, while in jewellery you are affecting a wider one. Being an artist, in my opinion, has pushed me into conceptualizing jewellery.
Instead of viewing jewellery as commercial pieces, I view them as feelings, concepts, expressions, as little works of art. I give them power, meaning, and beauty before bringing them to life. I do not think being an artist puts me directly in a privileged position, in contrary, I believe it makes me question every piece I design, get emotionally attached to certain pieces, and overthink collections. When I design jewellery, it is the exact same way I paint or create art.
When did your passion for each, jewellery and art, begin?
Childhood. I do not remember a day where I was not passionate about art or jewellery. Everywhere I went, I had my sketchbook with me. Obviously being a child, I was fascinated by everything and anything. Although I did not understand the value of the jewellery, I always had curious eyes every time I saw my mother dressing up.
I also believe my sisters and I were blessed to be raised by the most amazing mother, she instilled in us the appreciation of arts and the confidence to achieve anything we set our minds to.
What’s your first memory when it comes to jewellery?
My first memory is of a necklace my mother gave me. I remember being fascinated by the reflective surface, which now I know was mother of pearl. I used to play with it around my neck all the time.
And the most sentimental item you own?
A pair of stud earrings that were a gift from my late brother.
What’s your favourite piece you’ve ever created?
A piece I designed in celebration of the 45th National Day, a photograph of our beloved founder of the United Arab Emirates, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan. The necklace is made with round diamonds and 18k gold, giving the impression that the portrait has been painted with diamonds.
The inspiration was driven from a paragraph in William Thesiger’s book “Arabian Sands”, in which he describes Sheikh Zayed and writes about his welcomed visit to Abu Dhabi in the Sixties.
What about your heritage and upbringing has influenced your passion for jewellery, if anything?
Jewellery is in our culture. The women of the UAE are rarely seen with no jewellery. Ever since we are born we are adorned in jewellery, whether it is a fine jewellery pin on our swaddle or bangles on our wrists. Emirati jewellery in specific is a form of celebration, we wear our culture to express happiness, pride, strength and nationalism.
I remember being filled with excitement for the national day celebration as a little girl; anticipating dressing up in the most beautiful Emirati jewellery – from headpieces and necklaces to bangles, rings and earrings.
Was makes the industry in this region special or unique?
The women! We are surrounded by smart, sophisticated women who are fascinated with jewellery. They appreciate beauty and are always looking for the best. They are risk-takers and investors in beauty.
What are the main challenges you face in your industry? Are there any challenges you face as a woman in particular?
The challenges I face in the industry are not related to me being a woman, on the contrary, being a woman gives me more power. I believe I am most challenged when taking design risks due to the precious materials we use.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Some people would say dressing up celebrities, which we did, but I would have to say my biggest achievement is having the Sheikh Zayed necklace I designed exhibited in the founders memorial.
What is your motto in life?
“Thankful through everything.”
Find out more about The O Jewelry at theojewelry.com.