DAY TWO: MATTAR JEWELERS, JEWELLERY ARABIA BAHRAIN 2016
Whispers of respect and envy circulated when word got out I was spending a day discovering the world of the Mattar family during Jewellery Arabia in Bahrain. It amused me at first, but as the day progressed, I became more and more impressed and honoured to be a part of this world and see behind the scenes of Mattar Jewelers.
Before oil was discovered in the Arabian Gulf, natural pearls were the number one source of trade. Few pearl merchants from that era are around to tell the stories today, except for the Mattars – a family of jewellers whose involvement in the pearling industry in Bahrain goes back more than six generations.
Before arriving at Jewellery Arabia, Faten and Lubna Mattar took me to visit the Bin Matar House in Muharraq, which is also a museum. Once home to the pearl merchant Hussain bin Salman bin Matar, the museum is devoted to the history of pearling and has an airy gallery with contemporary artwork on display. The Bin Matar House is the perfect setting for my fashion look wearing Mattar Jewelers.
Old documents from the 1850’s tell the story of Mattar Jeweller’s ancestor Hussain bin Salman bin Matar and how he switched from trading in palm, dates and timber to trading in natural pearls. He was a man of remarkable talent and curiosity. In the late 19th century, after he joined his father’s pearl business, Bin Matar became one of the top pearl merchants in the entire Gulf region. Everyone, especially people from France and India, came to rely on his expert advice as a pearl merchant. To save the natural pearl industry, Bin Matar founded the Natural Pearl Protection Society in 1936. As a point of interest, cultured pearls are forbidden in Bahrain.
All that history certainly works up an appetite, so we made a stop at Saffron by Jenna for a traditional Bahraini breakfast and continued our discovery of jewels from the Mattar family collection.
Over breakfast, I learned that in 2007, Talal Reem and Faten became the first female members of the Mattar family to join the business. The future legacy of Mattar Jewelers is now in the hands of these magnificent women. In the early days of pearl diving and trading, the Mattar family owned a huge fleet of ships and supported smaller merchants on their diving expeditions. The Mattars always got first pick of the pearls, and made sure these smaller merchants were justly rewarded.
Natural pearls open up a world of versatile and traditional designs, like this piece from the Mattar Jewelers’ personal collection, that can be worn as a necklace, bracelet, and even as a belt.
Surrounded by local traditions and sipping some rich Arabic coffee, I go through some more pieces, admiring their beauty and historical influence. Jewellery and tradition go hand-in-hand with the jewellery we wear. It’s deeply rooted in our history, which is why visiting places like the kingdom of Bahrain is so inspirational for a jewellery lover like me.
What a beautiful colour these natural pearls are! I can’t imagine how many years it must’ve taken to find the perfect pearls to match for a set of earrings like these.
Here we are just trying to keep up with GEMOLOGUE Insta Stories and Snapchat. I have to admit that sharing on the go, creating content, and processing photos is a challenging part of my jewellery trips.
A quick transformation and I’m ready to spend an afternoon at Jewellery Arabia at Mattar Jewelers. You might wonder why my face is covered with blue flowers. It’s my way of covering my face as is the tradition in Saudia Arabia.
Mattar Jewelers has one of the biggest displays at Jewellery Arabia in Bahrain, with a massive selection of natural pearls for sale. Whether you are looking for pearl studs or an investment piece, whatever your heart desires, you’ll find it here.
From generation to generation, the Mattar family have built and passed on an impressive inventory of natural pearls, with such wonderful variety to please even the most discerning of clients.
It takes years to collect enough pearls to make the perfect strand or necklace. After the pearls are collected, they are brought back to the lab for cleaning. They are then drilled and sorted into categories based on the quality standards of Jiwan, Golwa, Badla, Fusoos and Khashrah. Pearls such as the Jiwan, Golwa and Badla are then further categorised based on their shape, size, shine, weight, softness, and lustre. The necklace above can take anywhere between 8-10 years to complete. What makes this necklace truly precious is the amount of time dedicated to completing it.
Take a look at this unique pearl scarf. It’s 500 grams of natural pearls! A passionate endeavour, considering it would take a lifetime to collect this many pearls of the same size and colour. But Mattar Jewelers has many years of collecting light cream, Nibati pearls and have created a one-of-a-kind pearl scarf. Offset with 78 carats of rubies, 80 carats of emeralds and 62 carats of diamonds, it is just priceless.
Pearls are not old-fashioned. Mattar Jewelers have made sure of that with modern, intricate designs alongside their elegant pearl jewellery, there’s something for younger women as well. It’s the smaller, more delicate pieces that appeals to these ladies. They love the classic yet youthful style of Mattar Jewelers.
The younger generation of Mattars has influenced modern pieces like this clutch and elevated the brand to include an array of other novel designs.
My favourite piece of jewels with natural pearls and gold, so intricate. The photo on mother of pearl shows some family members of the Mattars.
I love this bookmark with natural pearls. What a wonderful gift that is! The most precious I have even seen.
Chokers are always trendy and this butterfly choker, my favourite motif, is so beautiful.
To complement my striking makeup, I have adorned my hair with over 30 meters of pearls. After all, I was surrounded by pearls and I could not resist making a bold statement. I had a lot of fun during Jewellery Arabia, chatting with clients and trying on jewels. There is never enough jewellery…or time to try it all on!
I would love to hear what you think by leaving me a comment below. Thank you!
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I am extremely happy to announce that my new jewelry book – GEMOLOGUE: Street Jewellery Styles & Styling Tips – is now on Amazon. I’m so excited. It’s the first book of its kind solely dedicated to jewellery.
GEMOLOGUE jewelry blog by Liza Urla is a celebration of fine, fashion and vintage jewellery featuring talented jewellery designers, trendy urban street style, exclusive interviews and rare jewellery reviews. This jewellery blog’s goal is to encourage and educate about jewellery online in a fresh and original fashion to inspire women and men across the globe in a fashion and travelling context.
Jewellery blogger, writer Liza Urla, the founder of GEMOLOGUE, is a London-based and NYC-educated gemologist, who has travelled to and lived in many countries. She is now one of the most influential digital jewellery tastemakers. Her jewellery influence has been acknowledged by Financial Times, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.
*Photographed by Julia Flit. Styling and Art Direction by Liza Urla. All photos belong to GEM Kreatives for GEMOLOGUE.
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