WITH AZZA FINE JEWELLERY IN BAHRAIN 2015
There’s something special about being in the Middle East, the place where some of the world’s first jewellery was discovered. Here, jewellery is perceived not as luxury but as a necessity – a worthwhile investment. With Bahrain being the capital for gold and natural pearls, how could I resist Azza Al-Hujairi’s invitation to join her at the Jewellery Arabia exhibition! This is a major jewellery show for jewellery lovers all across the Gulf region.
GEMOLOGUE GUIDE TO BAHRAIN:
EAT IN BAHRAIN:
Ventus Lounge, Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay
SPA IN BAHRAIN:
The La fontaine centre of contemporary art, Manama
MUSEUM / GALLERY IN BAHRAIN
The Bahrain National Museum, Manama
The La fontaine centre of contemporary art
Al Riwaq Art Space, Adliya
You might miss Bahrain, if you try to find it on a map. It’s just a tiny island, not too far from Qatar off the Persian Gulf. I fell in love with the place, and everything about it – the city and people and food and culture! Such passion and pride for jewellery, I have never seen.
In a strange way, I felt at home here. It has an international, cosmopolitan flavour, and we met many expats. Julia, my photographer and partner in crime, and I both fell in love with it, and even entertained the thought of setting up our creative agency here. It would be a great spot for GEM Kreatives.
But there’s no time for dreaming. We’re on our way to The Ritz to meet Azza Al-Hujairi, the founder and creative director of Azza Fine Jewellery. Azza is the youngest female member on the GCC’s Jewellery and Diamond Association Board of Directors. It’s her aim to bring recognition to up-and-coming jewellery designers in this region.
Azza studied politics and law at the University of Kent, but it’s as a designer and gemologist where she really shines. Her creations are as delightful as she is, and you can feel the warmth of the region in each piece.
Reflective of 4000 BC and the symbols, embroidery and craftsmanship of the time, her designs are modern and full of passion.
We wasted no time in making our way to the Jewellery Arabia exhibition. It was already busy with jewellery lovers from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait. Nobody misses this show! To say that the ambiance was sparkling with diamonds, is an understatement. The tradition here is to wear diamonds on special occasions and weddings. This occasion is very special to me, so a diamond crown seems the right choice! Tons of fun being a part of this world.
Trying on this beautiful diamond crown right by the entranceway failed to impress anyone walking by! I did get recognised though! I’m just happy that I got to try on a diamond crown and actually wear it. Something so rare and valuable is usually locked away in a glass case and off limits. As a jewellery blogger, it’s my privilege to try on thousands of carats of diamonds in one day.
It’s a great honour, especially when I think of all the messages I get from my dear readers, asking why they were denied permission to try on an exquisite piece of fine jewellery. It’s for insurance reasons, and because of the rarity of these jewels, not many pieces are photographed and shown to the world.
Where to begin, where to begin? This place is massive! There’s more than 600 exhibitors from 30 nations here, thanks to the generous support of His Royal Highness Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain.
About to try on one of these amazing flower dresses. And I thought my dress had it covered! It’s funny how the show doesn’t open until late in the afternoon.
Just taking five minutes to chat with Azza Al-Hujairi, before heading off to her busy jewellery stand. Royals, socialites, and local celebrities love Azza Fine Jewellery.
Here we are at the AZZA booth, and I’ve stumbled upon something I’ve never seen before. A first for me, a gold, engraved pacifier by AZZA Fine Jewellery.
Even babies in Bahrain get their own everyday jewellery. This is what it’s like to be this cherished and adored (and a little spoiled!)
Bahrain’s history inspires AZZA’s designs. You can see the symbolism and mythology come to life in her modern, everyday pieces.
A symbol of strength, the triangular shape has strong symbolism in Bahrain. The flag of Bahrain is even made up of a series of five triangles.
If I had wings!
Six hours later, and the show is about to wrap up. It’s 10 p.m. and time for a quick wardrobe change before dinner at a very special location. Azza is flying out a few distinguished guests to join us.
The centre masterpiece of La Fontaine is a magnificent 26-ton, handmade structure that comes alive with light and colour, generating a feeling of harmony. The architectural beauty took millions of dollars and 3.6 million hours of labour to complete.
We had a bit of trouble finding this amazing place – La Fontaine Centre of Contemporary Art – the most beautiful place I’ve seen in Bahrain. But not before getting lost. Roaming the streets late at night in our evening dresses and heels – scary! And so dark!
But the beauty of this place soon put our minds to rest. La Fontaine is one of a kind. Restored to its natural beauty by French artist, Jean Marc Sinan, it houses one of the finest restaurants, as well as an amphitheatre, exclusive spa, and a museum for contemporary art.
How beautiful is this evening? Like something out of Arabian Nights! Some exciting news to share with you. As I was savouring my delicious appetizer, Azza announced their expansion to Qatar. Renovations are already underway at a select boutique. Stay tuned!
The beautiful Azza is such a generous host. She treated each one of us to a Bahraini natural pearl string bracelet. Such a lovely memento of this magical place.
The perfect background for so many interesting and distinguished guests. Its allure has attracted other gems like CHANEL, who also hosted a dinner here.I had the pleasure of meeting Fashion Designer Noof AlShekar, and Fashion Consultant Shooq AlShawi, also from Bahrain. They were kind enough to agree to an interview.
Can you feel the warm, golden hues of this special evening? All this sparkle, the perfect lighting for magnificent jewels to twinkle.
This mystical place was Azza’s first choice for her wedding. Such a enchating place to get married. Can you picture it? (wink! wink!)
We also had some fun exploring La Fontaine’s art gallery.
Where’s Liza? It’s interactive art! Couldn’t help getting up close to this piece.
The private museum at La Fontaine is a first for Bahrain and the perfect setting to display contemporary art. Its high ceilings offer light and space to heighten the senses. Artists from all around the world show art here several times a year.
A show of hands from Azza and the girls (jewellery by Azza Fine Jewellery).
It’s four in the morning and I’m beginning to wilt. We arrived just 23 hours ago and it’s been a whilrwind tour. Sad to say, the Hed Candi party will have to wait for another time.
What a view! So much space and blue sky! Welcome to Bahrain – the pearl oyster of the Middle East.
Here we are back at the busy Jewellery Arabia on the last day of the exhibition. These traditional robes look so comfortable, and the headdress is made of three parts – keffiyeh, ghutra and agal. Glad to see Chopard and Boucheron here. There’s even a valuation lab on site for random checks.
Another jewellery face idea!
How beautiful are these natural pearls – cream, white and even green. I love their irregular shapes! Gold is the perfect marriage for these natural wonders.
Mattar Jewellers were kind enough to let me experience their natural beauty and hold them in my hands, like a pot of gold.
I was then introduced to another family of pearl jewellers by the name of Al Mahmood Pearls, who kindly gave me a stunning par of natural pearl earrings. I’ll treasure them forever, thank you!
Check out how whimsical this creation is, with its unique shape and tone from a private collection of Al Mahmood Pearls.
I said earlier that Bahrain is the gold capital of the region, but it’s their natural pearls that put their name on the map. As the international centre for pearling, Bahrain is a pearl culture, true and true. As a mark of respect to the island’s natural wonder, cultured pearls are outlawed in this region. I had no idea! Bahrain is indeed the pearl oyster of the Middle East.
Look, how stunning! These would make beautiful bridal accoutrements! (hint! hint!) These natural beauties are from Al Mahmood Pearls, the king of excellence in Bahrain!
That’s a wrap for the exhibition. It’s 10 at night and I don’t know whether it’s the lateness of the hour or the jet lag, but I feel a little silly, punch drunk!
“I’m turning Japanese, yes I’m turning Japanese, I really think so!” ~ a touch of the Vapors (circa 1980).
After the show, we headed off to interview the lovely Bahraini Shooq AlShawi for GEM Talk, where we were treated to the full Japanese experience. The time just flew by. Before we knew it, it was four in the morning and we’d been up all night talking jewellery.
Sleepy, jet lagged and totally in love with this place. Got my walking Celine shoes on today because it’s a day of discovery, and a trip to the must-see Gold City of Bahrain, known as the Souq.
If you’re visiting Bahrain, you simply must spend a day at the Bahrain Gold Souq, the gold market of the world. So many styles to choose from, including traditional ones like this stunner. The colour of the gold (21 carat), not to mention the craftsmanship and design makes my head spin!
All this sparkle, the city of gold has woken me up and I’m fresh and ready for my interview on Bahrain Television.
“Good morning, Bahrain!” This is a proud moment, standing here in the Gold City talking about something so dear in my heart, and indeed the hearts of the Bahraini culture. It’s good to know that Bahrain continues to nurture the gold industry and that I can be a part of that.
As a cosmopolitan area, Bahrain has become home to many cultures, including India, Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, Malaysia and many others. It’s a tolerant country and respects other religions. You can find Catholic and Orthodox churches, Hindu temples, as well as Jewish synagogues here.
I feel so welcome here and the hospitality has just been outstanding. All that exploring has made me hungry and I’m not in the mood for sharing!
Our beautiful host, Azza Al-Hujairi, the founder and creative director of Azza Fine Jewellery. Thank you, Azza. It was an eye-opening experience, and we had a wonderful time.
One last stop at the wonderful La Fontaine of Contemporary Art for a Gemologue Street Style photo shoot. You can really appreciate the history of his place when you see it from this angle. It took seven years for artist Jean Marc Sinan to finish. A true gem!
It’s a family affair, this jewellery business! After our last visit to the AZZA Fine Jewellery boutique, we couldn’t resist taking a few shots of Azza with her wonderful daughter. She is an angel and brilliant at counting!
Love this place. It has so many aspects, a real fusion of traditional and modern, Arabian and European design, all 5000 square feet of it.
But what’s this? Our fearless jewellery blogger has run out of steam? Never! It’s spa time at La Fontaine. Run by Azza’s mother-in-law, it’s the only kind like it in the Gulf region. It’s so peaceful here. All my jet lag is fading away. Shapes, colours, seductive perfumes in perfect harmony. Can’t wait to come back and really indulge.
“Bahrain” means two seas in Arabic and is so called for its long relationship with the shallow waters that surround the island. For 4000 years, these sweet-water springs have helped Bahrain grow and flourish, bringing sweet fortune in the form of lustrous pearls
Time to fly off to another sunset photo shoot of Gemologue Street Style in Bahrain. We’re outside the Bahrain Fort, Qalát al-Bahrain or Bahrain Castle, another rich site of architectural importance and history and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
At last, some time for a little shopping.
After the photo shoot, we paid a visit to another of Azza’s boutiques. Housed in the Al Riwaq Art Space, in the trendy centre of Adliya, Dukkan 3 is a cute new gift shop, featuring local artists and fashion forward items.
This has to be my favourite Jalabeeyas, traditional yet modern and so reflective of this sunny island. It’s from a Bahraini designers collective called 78brn.
Now it’s time to check out the local jewellery scene and soak up some of the local arts scene. Then a taste of history and a visit to The Bahrain National Museum to learn more about this amazing island.
We’ve arrived at the end of our trip. It’s eight in the evening and we’re stopping by the new Four Seasons hotel for a farewell boat trip. Another sumptuous dinner party in the Gulf with the wonderful Azza and friends. The Ventus Lounge is definitely my favourite place to float in Bahrain!
An incredible 3 days in Bahrain. Such wonderful hosts, so many amazing memories. Good times! Until next time…
I would love to hear what you think by leaving me a comment below. Thank you!
SHOP MY FAVOURITE JEWELRY ONLINE:
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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