Modern modular jewels created with traditional techniques in Beirut

Alia Mouzannar designs clever concertina earrings and tantalising two-in-one rings

The bespoke Caché ring, from £4,000, with preliminary sketches
The bespoke Caché ring, from £4,000, with preliminary sketches

Alia Mouzannar’s background sounds like the start of a fable – she is the sixth generation of a renowned family of jewellers in Beirut and works alongside her father and cousins at The House of Aziz & Walid Mouzannar. She is also, however, a trained architect and the creative force behind her own eponymous label, which blends luxury with humour to create “modular, flexible, ingenious pieces of jewellery”, says Syma Debbané, director of online gallery House of Fly. Debbané highlights the intricate In-Folio earrings (from £5,500) as a prime example of Mouzannar’s aesthetic; made from 18ct gold and diamonds, they can fold or extend, be worn forwards or backwards, to match the wearer’s “lifestyle, mood or outfit”.

A gold “cage” ring, from £2,700, enclosing a client’s own ring
A gold “cage” ring, from £2,700, enclosing a client’s own ring
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Such clever, contemporary designs are produced by skilled craftsmen in Beirut, showcasing their “legacy of oriental traditional techniques”, says Mouzannar, whose process starts with sketches, before she moves on to prototypes in “any material I can turn into a jewel. I cut it and fold it, until the design reveals itself. Then the technical constraints are solved – form follows function.” Bespoke commissions evolve in a similar fashion, “transforming desires into a wearable and seducing jewel”, with a timeline of a few weeks. “Most clients have a rough idea of what they want, but it is usually after a brainstorming session that we end up finding the concept together.” 

The 18ct-gold and diamond In-Folio earrings, from £5,500
The 18ct-gold and diamond In-Folio earrings, from £5,500
Alia Mouzannar’s commissioned portrait ring of Zaha Hadid, similar from £2,500
Alia Mouzannar’s commissioned portrait ring of Zaha Hadid, similar from £2,500

One of Mouzannar’s most regular commissions is to give new life to a client’s existing jewelled ring; she designs either a clever bespoke Caché “shell” (from £4,000) that encases the central gem snugly in gold, enamel and diamonds, or an angular gold built-in “cage” (from £2,700) that turns a vintage piece into a highly modern statement. Another bespoke option is her Portrait Collection (from £2,500), which translates an image of a beloved into precious form. Mouzannar needs a couple of photographs to capture the character, then creates a graphic likeness with different golds for skintones and diamonds to match hair colour. One previous client to have opted for a Mouzannar portrait is the late Zaha Hadid; after The House of Aziz & Walid Mouzannar collaborated with the renowned architect on a line of jewellery, Mouzannar created a portrait ring of Hadid’s distinctive profile, which, says Mouzannar, “she liked so much she commissioned a whole series of them.”

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