In the competitive world of fine jewelry, the UAE is proving its mettle. Most importantly, it seems to be drawing in thousands of jewelry enthusiasts from all over the world.
This is not without reason if you really look at the magnificent designs being created by the Dubai-based Gafla-The Arabian Jeweler, founded six years ago by three Emiratis: Creative Director Abdulla BelJafla, Managing Director Hamad bin Shaiban and Designer Bushra bint Darwish. Even though it is quite a recent phenomenon, it was something long-awaited.
They embarked on this journey because they wanted to create objec
ts that one day will be heirlooms passed from one generation to the next. It all fell into place for them thanks to the transformative power of drawing that later changed into reality.
Starting with Darwish, she had taken many courses throughout the years and started off studying diamonds and gemstones. But it was in 2015 that she enrolled in a three-month course of jewelry design at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in London.
“It’s a technical and delicate task that involves a lot of precise and accurate measurements, with the help of which these elegant pieces of jewelry are totally made possible,” Darwish said.
The growing popularity of Gafla jewelry is very much tied with the fulfillment of a promise that is at the core of its foundation.
“The focus of our brand is to take the clients on a journey throughout the past,” Darwish said. “When we conduct private viewings, we tell our clients the story of each of our pieces, the historic inspiration behind them and how we transformed that inspirational factor into a unique design for women to wear blissfully.”
“The name ‘Gafla’ literally means caravan in Arabic, which has a greater influence on our brand ethos,” she said.
The team’s overall inspiration, Shaiban said, mainly comes from the unforgettable journeys of nomadic traders who traveled from the Gulf to different cities and countries sourcing food, textile jewelry and many other materials that the region heavily depended on.
“Growing up in Al-Ain culture and heritage has always been an important aspect of our daily lives,” Shaiban said. “Both my grandmothers had and still have an immense clout over my knowledge about the history of jewelry, food, traditional garments and a lot of other things. These elements can be described as the essence of our designs.” BelJafla comes back to women’s love for jewelry. “They’re looking for simple yet statement pieces they can express their style with. And we hope our designs match their expectations.”
Developed in their backyard, Darwish believes that their jewelry is designed to fit anyone and everyone around the world. “We have clients from Europe, Asia and Africa, and of course the Middle East,” she said.
Arab women’s appetite for jewelry
Women in the Middle East have spectacular taste for jewelry. In this region, the importance of gold is shown throughout their history; the heavier the piece, the more valuable it would be.
“In the Middle East, we women love to see gold, particularly yellow gold,” Darwish said. “Looking through my mother’s jewelry that she bought in the 1980s and the 1990s, I noticed that most of the beautiful items were yellow gold with diamonds and emeralds. Compared to that period, today’s Middle Eastern women prefer modern pieces that are practical with different mixes of gold and collections that have something to convey.”
BelJafla also contends that there are no differences between Arab women and their Western counterparts in terms of what types of jewelry they take for themselves. “I believe every lady chooses the type of jewelry that gives a new lease of life to her style and personality,” he said.
Sourcing materials from different places
For this purpose, they use only the finest diamonds, gemstones and gold. “Since Abdulla and I are certified gemologists, we handpick all the stones by ourselves to make sure only the best quality comes our way,” Darwish said. “We source our materials from all over the world. We get our diamonds from Belgium, India and other countries. Not only that, our gemstones come from different continents too.”
Their “Bahar” collection is the most popular creation to date. Bahar translates to “sea” in English so this collection uses organic gemstones such as pearls and corals. Pearls are a big part of the history in the Gulf.
“Our ancestors used to dive for pearls as a source of employment and during off-seasons, they would travel to countries like Sri Lanka to find pearls,” Darwish said. “We created fresh water pearl tassels in rose gold and yellow gold then expanded the fine jewelry collection by introducing a white gold line with red corals.”
These pieces became so popular in the market that they had to create a high jewelry line, which was exhibited during Dubai Design Week 2016, using handpicked akoya and south sea pearls; each piece was inspired by an element from the sea.
The trio’s artistry has once again been proven by their “Merwad” collection. Merwad in Arabic means the perfume wand that Arab women often use when it comes to applying mesmerizing scents. The shape of the rare gold bottle is inspired by the sensual movement of smoke that is released from burning Oud wood, as well as the gentle ripples created by the drops of essential oils stored inside. “With it, we’ve reinforced our Emirati custom in the form of a masterpiece,” BelJafla said.
With the same degree of passion and innovation, they are about to launch another exciting collection very soon. The “Baraag” collection, which is inspired by the traditional Arabic gold, highlights how the pieces available in the market today are very poorly designed. “We took the idea and modernized the entire thing by recreating the shapes and structures giving it a more symmetric and contemporary look,” Shaiban said.
As the brand moves closer to becoming a global presence in the years ahead, it is important for Shaiban to take part in high-profile exhibitions to build a stronger client base, create awareness and offer the Gafla experience to their existing and potential clients.
“We’re focused on the expansion and growth of Gafla, working on our new office as well as adding beautiful new designs to our line,” BelJafla said. “To capture such moments of beauty, I always look up to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid as a father, leader and beyond all a very creative artist whose words are a constant inspiration to us.”