Beenish Mahmood: Turning Childhood Fascination into a Dazzling Career

Dubai-based jewellery designer, Beenish Mahmood, is committed to transforming her childhood fascination with jewellery into a promising career. From her education in haute couture to her successful pivot into jewellery design, Beenish’s journey is a testament to her passion and craftsmanship.

Beenish Mahmood was raised in a world that she describes as “brimming with enchantment.” Her father was a bureaucrat in the Pakistan Government and later a Diplomat in Saudi Arabia, while her mother, of Pathan roots, built cars as a hobby and played golf for fun. “From sprawling old colonial homes in Pakistan to fantastical Middle Eastern palaces to cramped European apartments. It’s been an exciting life,” says the Dubai-based designer.

Beenish Mahmood

Art became a significant part of her life as did books, a love inculcated by her parents. Her family, in the meantime, nurtured a love of jewellery — her grandmother fondly passed down treasured jewels, while her father gifted her exquisite gemstones bought during his global travels.

Her parents offered Beenish their support, when they realised her childhood fascination could lead to a promising career. She enrolled at The Pakistan Institute of Fashion and Design, closely linked with L’Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, and over the next three years, she delved into haute couture, gaining a deep appreciation for refined design and superior craftsmanship.

“During my final college year, I pivoted towards jewellery design, crafting a portfolio to pursue my dream as a designer. Alongside, I undertook a course with the World Gold Council and created a line of bold sculptural jewellery for the brand SAH London. Securing a prestigious position at Khaleel Al-Sayegh propelled me into the industry immediately after graduation. The rest, as they say, is history,” Beenish adds.

The Dragonfly ring by Beenish Mahmood Fine Jewelry

As their inaugural designer in Pakistan, her primary focus for Sayegh was the Noor Collection, for which she explored traditional Mughal jewellery and ancient goldsmithing techniques. She worked with big hand-carved gems like 50-carat rubies, the size of doorknobs, and designed bridal jewellery as well as weighty gold pieces.

“As I worked closely with skilled artisans in Pakistan, I began to delve into intricate designs similar to those done on couture garments and fabric,” she recalls. To hone her skills further, the designer pursued Gemology and Jewelry Design at GIA in the USA. This was followed by a two-year stint at Tiffany & Co. in Toronto, where Beenish dived deep into customer service and jewellery repair. Though seemingly routine, the experience proved to be invaluable — it allowed her to work on exquisite pieces and collaborate with talented technicians.

“This exposure not only familiarised me with Tiffany’s contemporary and vintage designs but also highlighted the emotional significance of jewellery, echoing sentiments from my own cultural background, where jewellery symbolises memories and relationships,” she points out. Marriage and a kid followed, and her dream had to take a pause. The subsequent loss of her parents saw her seek solace in art and design; “it was cathartic in many ways,” Beenish remarks.

The Leaf necklace by Beenish Mahmood Fine Jewelry

Her namesake brand, launched a year ago, features designs referencing the stories of Shahrazad in One Thousand and One Nights. It was a “meticulously illustrated” early edition of One Thousand and One Nights, a gift from her beloved father, which served as her “gateway to a realm of wonder.”

Beenish, also a poet, began to weave tangible tales through words and gold. She drew on her rich Eastern heritage for the creations, employing marquetry, mosaic, and enamel alongside hand-carved gemstones. “I also infuse my pieces with a deep-rooted sense of emotion and boldness, making each element essential to the narrative,” explains the jeweller.

Her debut collection, though, evolved from a poem that she penned for her son, titled The Secret Garden — a tribute to life’s perpetual cycle of creation, farewells, and rebirth.

 The Secret Garden 

You are my garden of secrets
My oasis of dreams
Where I plant my jewels
Water them with hope
I nurture you with words of love
Bathe you in the colours of creation
Shape you with wisdom of the ages
Give shelter as you bloom and thrive
My beautiful sapling my greatest treasure
With the heart of a warrior and the soul of a poet
Who will flourish and grow into a great tree
One day in turn you will bestrew your seeds
And my magic garden will live on forever

For my Pasha

“By incorporating childlike entrancing shapes and lines, I aim to evoke the magical memories of my life filled with innocence, romance, and whimsy. As my collection and brand evolves, you will see bolder, more organic shapes symbolising my growth and transformation,” she points out.

The Parrot necklace by Beenish Mahmood Fine Jewelry

Oftentimes, nature becomes the muse: the Wildflower Ring, for instance, began with a simple idea that blossomed into a piece replete with elaborate detailing. The ring was carved in wax and then transformed into a sterling silver mould. Further details were added to enhance the texture of the petals and the stem. “I wanted it to be a living, breathing entity that sits on the finger in all its glory. With each detail perfected, it was then cast into 20 grams of 18-karat yellow gold. The beautiful black diamonds in the flower’s stamens and the white diamonds in the stem were the final touches incorporated before the ring was polished,” she explains.

While she purchases all the significant gems for her work, sometimes a stunning stone serendipitously comes into her possession and becomes the focal point around which the design evolves. It’s not just about value, but what the stone communicates to her that guides the creations.

“I source most of my sapphires from Thailand, South Sea pearls from Australia, and cultured pearls and coral from Japan. My main source for uniquely carved gemstones is, of course, India. I get several unusual and stunning stones from Pakistan — amethyst, every kind of tourmaline, topaz and turquoise, not to mention the most ridiculously stunning emeralds.”
While all the pieces are made in the United Arab Emirates, she collaborates with independent craftsmen internationally for specific artisanal work. “I work mainly with smaller workshops since I appreciate the intimate atmosphere they provide and value the close relationships that I’ve built with these artisans who share my dedication to the final product,” says Beneesh.

Supporting local small industries is important to this emerging Pakistani-Pashtun designer, as she strives — in a myriad of ways — to preserve the wealth of craftsmanship available in the UAE.

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