How We Met
It was about two years ago that I attended our first annual Multicultural Bazar at our Premier Fitness and Recreation Center, which fell around Ramadan. This meant that Muslims from the region would surely be there to sell and purchase Ramadan and Eid decorations, gifts, and to support local craftspeople and vendors. I love attending such events because I’m always eager to see what local talents we have, what goods and services are available in my vicinity, and who I might be able to support. I attend local craft shows, regular markets, and mosque-held bazars as much as I can, but this was the first one specifically emphasizing multicultural talents and businesses. Being around Ramadan, I was sure to find a high concentration of Muslim owned goods and services for sale, and it would surely be a focal meeting spot for many Muslim friends and neighbors to see each other and wish each other well. So attendance was a no brainer. This particular year I found the usual clothing and hijab sellers, a few paint and graphic artists, a few seamstresses specializing in different types of garments (women or kids), and some home crafters making everything from soap, to knit and crocheted items, to keychains and charms. There’s usually one vendor that captures my attention out of the dozens of tables, sometimes it’s a soap maker (like the one I featured years ago, and has now moved on to making crochet dolls), another time it might be a baker, and so on. But sometimes I leave not having found anything that really inspires me. This particular year, I thought, might be one of those years when I don’t find anything inspiring. But, alas, as I was on my way out, I came across ARJewelry!
As I was heading out of the bazar, having almost completed my rounds, and purchased the token items to stuff my kids’ Eid bags with, I had almost resigned myself. I had not found anything that truly captured my imagination, but I was determined to finish my tour of the tables. I turned the corner and was forcing myself to complete my round diligently, as the true treasure seeker that I am. Just as I was about to leave the venue… there it was: Amal Ragab’s table, shimmering in pure silver and brass magnificence! I cautiously approached, expecting exorbitant prices, and as I scanned the various original pieces, the friendly face at the other end of the table started telling me about the maker (her mom: Amal Ragab), and how she sourced all her materials locally as much as possible, how she made everything herself, and how she was more concerned with making beautiful things accessible to the average consumer, than making huge profits. I was listening, and scanning, becoming more and more intrigued.
I picked up a pair of earrings, a necklace, a few rings, and finally decided I’d start asking for prices. These were really nice! They reminded me of the jewelry I used to admire in my hometown of gorgeous Locarno (in southern Switzerland) in the windows of Good’s Jewelers (the craft now passed down to the youngest son Beni). It has that rustic feeling of massive Giacometti sculptures, but in more delicate, bite-sized, wearable patterns. It had the same vibe, but Amal’s pieces are not as chunky, they’re a lot more delicate, and have a definite feminine touch that both Good’s jewelry and Giacometti lack. I had already spent most of my cash on little gifts for my kids, as this was my last table before exiting the bazar, and so I had to choose only one item, but I left feeling like I had just discovered the most delightful hidden treasure! I picked up a business card, and went on my way.
I’ve gone back to ARjewler’s over and over, and I’ve now purchased complete sets for myself and others as gifts. Her work is beautiful, well made, her service is impeccable, and her prices extraordinary. If you are thinking of buying something original, beautiful, inspiring, well made, ethically sourced, and that will last you for years to come, but you don’t want to break the bank doing so, then take a look at ARjewelry’s gorgeous pieces. She is now also casting pieces out of gold, on top of her silver, brass, and gold-plated brass pieces. She can customize your piece with the semi-precious stones of your choice as well. I tend to go for pearls, which she caters to, but she also has a wide array of other stunning stones that you might enjoy.
I asked Amal if she’d agree to answer a few questions for this piece, and she graciously agreed. Below you’ll find out more about Amal, what inspires her work, and what her business is about. I hope you enjoy it, and that you’ll take a few minutes to browse her Instagram , or her Facebook accounts, as you think about what to buy for yourself or a loved one this Eid!
Who is behind ARJewelry ?
ARJewelry is an avant-garde jewelry designer named Amal Ragab, who makes silver, brass, gold, and gold-plated hammered jewelry with semi-precious stones and pearls, mixing a variety of methods and styles. Amal Ragab is the owner, and craftsperson behind ARJewelry, and she crafts each piece individually. She draws inspiration from ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian cultures and artifacts, and aims at catering to women who appreciate beautiful jewelry, without having to pay exorbitant prices for it.
Salam Amal. Can you tell me what’s the story behind ARJewelry?
I always had a passion for unique shapes of jewelry and accessories. I rarely found what I could picture in my mind, except perhaps in Italy, so I would ask jewellers to custom make my designs for me for my personal use. I got motivated to learn jewelry making while my daughter was studying at Art College. I started off by making the jewelry for her fashion show, during her fashion design studies. She really encouraged me to continue making jewelry after the success of her runway show, and it took off from there. I felt that the market here in North America was ripe for different jewelry designs. I think there still is much room for more designers to provide unique designs at relatively affordable prices.
Your jewelry has a very particular style at the intersection of ultra modern and ancient tradition. It avails itself of elegance and nature, while simultaneously exuding an air of daring sophistication. What is your inspiration?
I get inspired by organic and irregular shapes, along with jewelry from ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome.
What do you think Muslim women look for in a piece of jewelry?
I think they are mostly attracted to semi precious stones as they believe in their energy. Organic shapes that look like flowers are also popular among Muslim women.
How do you decide what you’ll make next?
I work by piece and I start my next piece when I get inspired by something.
I know you also do custom orders, as I’ve commissioned a few pieces from you myself. Is there a limit to what you’ll take on?
I think that the jewelry that I make is limited to hammered, folded, and beading jewelry. That’s what I stick to.
How would you describe your technique?
First I design the concept that I have in mind, then I choose the metal that I want to work with, then I cut it and file it, and use the technique I require to get the effect I’m looking for. Sometimes it’s fire, sometimes I hammer, or fold, and any combination of these. There are many different ways to handle the metal to get a variety of textures. At this point I also choose the kind of stone that I will be using. I always use stones that have some significance, such as agate, amazonite, or pearls. This year I’m starting a new technique of metalsmithing that allows me to texturize metal with fire.
Where do you see your business in 5 years?
I hope to build a unique brand that caters to customers who absolutely love unique designs! I hope that this originality will gain me reknown in North America and internationally.
I think that’s a real possibility! What’s your favorite aspect of your business? How do you balance between what customers want and what you’re inspired to create?
I love that I’m doing what I love. So I’d say my favorite aspect would really be the creative side of the business. As for the balance between my own creativity and my customers’ needs, I always try to meet my customers’ wishes. I try to accomodate the metals they prefer, say if they want gold-plated, gold, or silver, or if they want a particular shape. I’ll change the stones to they type they prefer. I am always accommodating to these types of request. But I try to stick to hammered and folded geometric shapes. I’ve had people ask me if I’d do calligraphy, for example, because it’s trendy, but I always say no, because that’s not my style, it’s not my specialty. I prefer to stick to the esthetic that I have developed.
Thank you very much for taking the time for this interview. I really love your designs, and I wish you all the best.