Dubai-based Tamara Al Shamari, Founder & Designer Taiia Jewelry, uses nature as her muse, but articulates it in the Art Deco design language. Organic and symmetrical patterns co-exist in a well-balanced orchestrated act in her modernist creations populated with coloured gemstones and diamonds. Tamara shares her journey as a designer and plans to work with only recycled gold. The young designer sure knows how to add spark and sass to her creations.
Tell us about your early years … What was the turning point for you to move on to designing?
Like most of 18-year-olds, I never knew exactly what I had wanted to be or study or venture into, but I was always mesmerised by jewellery from an early age. I clearly recall trying to apply for the newly implemented jewellery design major in the university I was in at the time but was disappointed to find out they had paused the launch of this course until further notice.
My next best logical choice was to enter business school and peruse the most artistic part of it – marketing. That is where I learned to sell and deal with the consumer, understand the market and what the consumer needs. I acquired my MBA, and then I was stuck. I had a career I was unhappy with; it wasn’t who I was. I am not bureaucratic, nor can I ever be. Then, my father guided me into the field of gemmology, and that was the turning point for me. I fell in love, and I felt like I finally belonged.
Art for every human is subjective and arts can come in many forms, whether its music, theatre, painting, writing, etc. Art was an essential component in my life, and it was a day-to-day ritual where I had to express myself in any medium. Directing my efforts into jewellery design changed my life. I sketched daily, even if it was a simple “jot down” idea; its liberating to turn extreme thoughts, happiness, frustration, even love, into a form of beauty. I can humbly say that I am not a good artist, but I do try my best to express what I feel.
When did you establish your brand TAIIA? What does the abbreviation stand for?
I established TAIIA in the beginning of 2019. It was scary but liberating at the same time, to put my ideas out there not knowing what the feedback would be.
TAIIA is extremely special to me as it is an abbreviation of both my daughters’ names, Thalia and Yasmina. Although my daughters are very young, their knowledge and support for what I do is profoundly overwhelming to me, and I am ever so grateful for having them in my life as my support system.
Where are your boutiques based?
Currently I am retailing online. I tried brick-and-mortar for a year, but I found that online is more flexible; it’s more ‘me’ for the time being. I do private viewings as well, along with one-on-one meetings with my customers for bespoke jewellery.
How has the journey been so far? How have you evolved as an artist?
The journey so far has been extremely rewarding. It’s a beautiful feeling to meet people, who work within the same dynamic as you, who believe in the same cause and effect. The love and passion they share for the jewellery industry keeps me motivated and gives me hope that something brilliant is always waiting out there – a new opportunity is just a human away or better yet, a gemstone or a diamond away.
Your lines are based on nature and Art Deco… tell us why.
I grew up around my family’s jewellery that was mainly all Art Deco, so this is the type of jewellery that spoke to me. I believe that Art Deco had a certain edge to it.
Nature is also very important to me, and it is clearly reflected in my work. Gemstones are a part of almost all my jewellery, and going back to the subject of nature, gemstones to me are the epitome of life; how can something so beautiful and colourful grow under the harshest conditions and yet have the most brilliant of structures. I work around the gemstone and not the opposite when designing my creations.
I recut most of my stones to fit my designs. Diamonds are very important to me as well, and I feel that coloured stones and diamonds have a harmonious, unbreakable bond that allow each to heighten the beauty of another.
Do you have any favourites among gemstones?
I have many favourites, but I cannot pinpoint one at the moment. However, emeralds, pink morganites, Paraiba tourmalines, and lately tsavorites, have a special place in my heart.
How long does it take for each piece to come to life?
I get asked this question a lot, and every time my answer varies. I came to understand that inspiration is dynamic, ever so evolving and not stagnant at all, no matter what style a person may have, it might alter with experience and exposure to new elements. There are weeks when I’m extremely inspired and think of a design on the spot, and then are days when I go back and forth perfecting what I’m trying to envision but I can’t seem to get it right.
You also remodel old jewellery. Is it aligned with the concept of sustainability?
Yes definitely, remodelling old jewellery is a passion of mine. I love old jewellery that is inherited from older generations; and sometimes its inheritors don’t see the value of such pieces. Many want to sell, melt, or redo, and this is something I refuse to do.
I work around the old piece to retain its structure and entity, but something that the client can agree with. The process is very rewarding, as it’s a beautiful feeling when you have saved a piece of art from being melted or sold. The making process of jewellery has changed from decades ago, and sometimes the “old” imperfect “finishing” you get from old jewellery is what adds a soul to the piece, and that is priceless as it cannot be recreated nowadays.
Do you also work with recycled gold?
Yes definitely, I work with gold given to me by clients; but “recycled gold” is something that I would love to implement permanently into my brand. As you may know, various technological entities use gold chips in numerous electronics, like laptops, remotes, old stereos, etc. It’s my dream to acquire gold from these recycled electronics and implement them 100% into my creations.
Did you expect your rise to stardom in the world of jewellery would be so quick? Is fame intimidating?
I don’t see myself anywhere close to stardom in the jewellery world. I am doing what I love, I’m extremely lucky to be meeting the coolest, most brilliant people in the industry. I learn from them daily, and that for me is what my career is about. Whatever comes along the way is a plus! For now, being recognised by my superiors is a reward in itself.
What are your hobbies?
Traveling — it can be backpacking through a country or region, staying at small boutique hotels, hence trying to get immersed in the real non-touristy part of towns, etc. Studying the environment around me, the ‘where and how’ and taking that back and implementing it in my work is priceless for me. I also make sure to visit jewellery factories and jewellery museums wherever I go.
Collecting gemstones from my travels is another hobby of mine, a habit which I acquired from my father, long before entering the jewellery business. I love reading historical fiction, biographies about jewellery houses, and the origins of jewellery.
My goal is to learn from what I read, and try to implement it into my designs. Reading for me is a medium that allows me to paint a picture of unseen architecture and a colour scheme not visible to the naked eye.
Do you follow any Indian designers?
Yes! The late Munnu Kasliwal, owner of The Gem Palace, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, and Neha Dani, who’s my ultimate favorite. I recently met Arun Dhaddha of
Gyan Jaipur and Gyan Museum, who has some beautiful designs featuring outstanding gemstones.
You visited IGJS Jaipur. What was your overall impression about the jewellery showcased there?
I was fortunate to be invited to IGJS Jaipur and the vibe, the dynamics was nothing short of exquisite. I also visited the first IGJS Dubai, and it was great as well to have that event hosted in the UAE.