London-based Sarah Al-Hassan’s design reflects her idea of minimalism: uncluttered, refined geometrical lines.
Pakistani-Arab designer Sarah Al-Hassan was raised in London, a melting pot of fashion, art, creativity and diversity. At London’s Regents University, Sarah studied Public Relations – she was convinced that was her calling until she landed the opportunity to work alongside some of the world’s most skilled artisans at Graff Diamonds. “This fuelled my desire to step out of my comfort zone and pursue jewellery design. I had no formal training and learnt as I went along the way. Luckily, I also had an incredible mentor, who has been in the high jewellery industry for over 25 years,” she says.
Her brand Sarah Noor, launched in 2014, mirrors her idea of minimalism: uncluttered, refined geometrical lines, while referencing the works of American artist Frank Stella. “His organic forms have inspired a lot of the hoops in my collections; and the use of simple geometric shapes and lines are elements that I enjoy incorporating and layering within my designs,” she remarks.
Her multicultural background, and love for nature, art, architecture and travels have significantly inspired her design aesthetics.
“I love to visit the galleries and museums in the city,” says Sarah, who has been particularly fond of jewellery since her childhood. “My mother has been collecting jewellery for as long as I can remember. She would have pieces made for special occasions too; sketching design ideas and seeing it come to life fascinated me,” she recalls.
A visit to the pearling site and museum in Muharraq – a port city in the Kingdom of Bahrain – designed by Swiss architect Valerio Olgiati stirred up Sarah’s imagination and sparked a love of pearls. “The open-air museum documents the cultural legacy of pearl diving. I also toured the ‘5,000 Years Of Pearls From Bahrain’ exhibition, which had on display some of the one-of-a-kind pieces created by Jacques Cartier.”
So, she adorned the Lulu hoops, from her Perle line, envisioned as an homage to her Pakistani and Arab heritages with pearls. “Lulu means pearl in Arabic, and pearl diving is an ancient tradition in the GCC region.”
Her creations in 14-karat gold, sprinkled with pearls and diamonds, are manufactured in a small family-run Italian atelier in the city. For the bespoke pieces, she sometimes buys raw diamonds from her supplier and has them cut at a lapidary in India. “Sourcing ethical diamonds is extremely important to me. All our stones are audited extensively and we work with reputed suppliers who source our raw diamonds and have them cut to our specification for the design,” adds Sarah.
How do you meld your Pakistani and Arab roots into the designs?
I meld my Pakistani roots into my designs by incorporating colour; Pakistani culture is bright and vibrant, and I use multicoloured sapphires in my works to mirror it. I was inspired to create the Perle collection as a tribute to my heritage using coloured gems alongside pearls from the Arabian Gulf. I buy Abyad and Qallabi pearls from local suppliers in Kuwait and Bahrain to support the region. These pearls are milky white and have a beautiful lustre, lending a quiet elegance to the Perle collection.
You design bespoke pieces too, what’s the newest jewellery you’ve made?
I design a variety of bespoke pieces such as one-of-a-kind statement jewellery and classic staples for engagements and weddings under the line Sarah Noor Atelier. I enjoy working with clients on this intimate, creative process; I am absolutely grateful that they trust me with the bespoke works. One of my favourite pieces that I designed recently is a two-tone diamond Cuban chain, weighing 400 gm. The chain is encrusted with 55-carats of diamonds in a pavé setting – and is a feminine take on a popular men’s jewellery style.
How have you adapted your business to the new reality and challenges?
The pandemic has affected the entire world in so many ways. I took the opportunity to reset and refocus my energy on myself and the direction I wanted to steer my jewellery business in. With the world slowing down during the lockdown, I began rebranding Sarah Noor. I launched an e-commerce website to engage with clients online – the pandemic changed the way consumers shop and online sales have surged. So, transitioning from showroom sales to online sales, I have to admit, is one of the best business decisions that I have made.
Lucid is a capsule fashion line that you launched during the pandemic. How did that come about?
Lucid came about at the height of lockdown … In the midst of the rebranding, I wanted to launch an accessible collection that was light and fun. The inspiration centres on the elements of light and is inspired by Lucida – the brightest star in a constellation. I wanted to bring the element of light into a tangible object during a dark time. We used a clear resin to emit luminosity along with colourful iridescent CZ gemstones that mimic a shining star when touched by light. I plan on adding new pieces to the fashion jewellery collection each season.