Hand-crafted jewellery from London designer Nazan Alhas is inspired by spirit of the mystic Mevlana aka Rumi, By James Brewer
“What is gold, pearl or coral, if not devoted for love or for a lover?” asks the great Sufi mystic Mevlana aka Rumi in one of his memorable, passionate short verses.
Eight centuries after Rumi sought by means of his poems and aphorisms to enlighten members of society and liberate their inner potential, he has avid followers and admirers across the globe. One such is the independent jewellery and fashion designer, Istanbul-born Nazan Alhas, who is working primarily in London. The wordsmith has thus inspired the goldsmith – Nazan sets out to epitomise the splendour of the philosophy of Rumi in her bijouterie, notably in her latest hand-made collection entitled For Love.
Her luxury brand, Nazan Alhas Jewellery, offers limited edition conceptual and contemporary, fine and statement pieces.
Rumi, whose name refers to the land of Rum (Anatolia) was fluent in Turkish, Arabic, Persian, contemporary Greek and classical Greek, but wrote mainly in the Persian literary language. His message is permeated by generosity of spirit, and by appeals to mankind to embrace the power of love.
Nazan said: “My collection called For Love is based on the teachings of Rumi, who greatly contributed to the realms of the transcendental and the aesthetic through his poetry and philosophy.
“Ever since I was studying fashion (at the University of the Arts London College of Fashion), my collections have owed inspiration to the whirling dervishes – the devotees encouraged by Mevlana Celaleddin who saw their practice as a means of reaching out to God – and to the poems of this sage.
“When I embarked on jewellery training at East London College, I began to sketch figures of semazens (participants in the dervish ceremony), and ideas poured into my sketchbook. This sowed the seeds for my present collection.”
The For Love collection is designed to inspire divine connection and express devotion to loved ones. The pieces will appeal to men and women seeking to express their true love through bestowing a precious gift, and at the same time they are said to be ideal for the jewellery lover seeking emblems alluding to the deep, mystical essence of the teaching of Hz (esteemed) Mevlana, as they can include a motto from a saint in the tradition.
A unisex range, it presents variations of hand and heart symbols: 24 carat gold plated silver hands, and hearts embellished with rubies, corals and vintage pearls, and engraved texts. Ear-rings, rings, bracelets, cufflinks, brooches, pendants and necklaces all come in a choice of ruthenium, rose or 24 carat yellow gold plated versions, set with ruby, pearl and coral.
There are stud ear-rings for daytime and drop ear-rings on a chain to wear in the evenings. Statement pieces such as the 24 ct gold-plated, hand-crafted and sculpted hand symbol pendant offer pearl and coral.
Three hand pendants and brooch are illustrated here. The pendant on the left is silver hand 24 ct gold-plated, with engraved quote, embellished with coral and white vintage pearl. The second pendant is a silver hand with black vintage pearl and engraved quote. The third pendant can be worn as a brooch, and is a 24 ct gold plated bronze hand with silver pin and engraved quote, embellished with small coral and vintage pearl. The hand symbols represent whirling dervishes.
Price range of the entire collection (including pieces not illustrated in this article) is from £140 to £2, 500.
Nazan said: “The collection aims to express the spiritual message of giving and receiving love, each piece specially designed to reflect the poetry of Mevlana, who also said that ‘it is love that holds everything together, and it is the everything also.’”
The great philosopher had a good deal to say about love, including: “I am in love with Love/ and Love is in love with me. / My body is in love with the soul/ and the soul is in love with my body. / I opened my arms to Love/ and Love embraced me like a lover.”
Strands of her passion for ancient history, art, architecture, the study of mystical beliefs, and for gemstones, coalesce in Nazan’s hand-made output from her workshop in London and studio in Turkey.
Nazan graduated in 2003 with what was described as a stunning degree collection of women’s wear, menswear, jewellery and accessories. She worked as an interpreter and an advocate during her fashion studies, including interpretation for Turkish and Kurdish asylum seekers.
Her work supported by the King’s Fund, was recognised when she was presented with a certificate by the former charities minister Phil Hope. She won a King’s Fund Millennium Award, and delivered a community project funded by the Scarman Trust to become a Community Champion .
She then spent five years directing and nurturing women from disadvantaged backgrounds, in arts and crafts workshops. It is this outgoing spirit that permeates her jewellery, evident from her first professional collection, Divine Love, which launched at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum in early 2009.
She had studied intensively the craft of silversmithing at East London College, and in Istanbul learned ancient skills from artisans. Back in London she participated in exhibitions at the former Lambs Conduit Gallery during Coutts Jewellery Week in 2009, and in London Jewellery Week’s Treasure Exhibition in 2010.
So far Nazan has created 13 collections of jewellery and objets d’art, each with its own concept.
The For Love series was launched at her first solo exhibition, in August 2013 at the Window Gallery, Canary Wharf. She notes that “Canary Wharf as a financial centre represents the materialistic world, where money, the stock exchange index, economic statistics, interest rates and so on dominate daily life. By contrast I aim to reflect in my For Love concept the spiritual needs and values of humanity.”
She adds: “The concept of my collection is based on receiving and giving; I make use of hand symbols to draw attention to Sufi philosophy: receiving from the higher source with the hand, and giving through the connection with the heart.”
The hand symbol represents the semazen dancers. The right hand is raised with the palm facing the sky to receive from “the source, ” and the left hand is lowered, palm down to offer to loved ones.
The heart symbols with the ruby setting are designed to reflect delving into the depths of our hearts to connect to the voice of inner guidance.
Nazan chose a phrase from one of Rumi’s poems as the title for her collection, and engraved it on selected pieces. She used pearls, corals and gold “to remind us to question wealth, and to express the value of giving to loved ones from the heart.”
Nazan designs for men and women, and is ready to tailor the pieces to individual taste. One of her hand pendants was customised for a man who asked for it to be engraved with the name of his father as a bond of faith during reading of the Torah. Another client requested that the words ‘For my Love’ be engraved on cufflinks to be given to her boyfriend.
The works of Rumi (1207-1273) have been translated into many languages and are cited widely, in Turkey and the US particularly. In 2005, Unesco proclaimed the Mevlevi Sema Ceremony as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Some scholars say that the movements of the dance are an imitation of the hammering of the goldsmiths of the bazaar and of the watermills of a village garden. Rumi is buried at Konya, Turkey, in a poetry-inscribed sarcophagus, in a richly decorated, treasure-filled former tekke (lodge) of the dervishes. Rumi reminds us that while precious stones are particularly enticing, “every object, every being, is a jar full of delight.”
Nazan’s jewellery is made to order within two to three weeks in accordance with the client’s choice of design, gems and metals, and is available for purchase via her website, www.nazan.co.uk