A relative of another family dynasty of ewelers, Randa Tabbah launched her line in 1993 as a hybrid between ne ewelry — like her family’s House of Tabbah — and the fashion ewelry she saw so much of in Paris during her studies and early work. “I wasn’t interested in the classical way of making ewelry. I wanted to make ewelry that is special,” she says of her limited edition and one-o pieces. Similarly to Marcha, Tabbah uses unusual stones, interesting pieces of wood, exquisite pearls and other materials, o en letting the stone inspire the design. She also employs distinctive ewelry making techniques that she learned abroad, which is what she says sets her apart from other designers.
Tabbah works on the ewelry herself in her atelier in Ashra eh unlike many ewelers who know and follow the process but don’t actually use their hands , only outsourcing certain steps to other Lebanese cra smen. Her mostly repeat customers come to her boutique in Sai illage when they are looking for something unique, she explains. In addition to ne ewelry in gold, she has a line of silver ewelry for those with a smaller budget.
Recently Tabbah collaborated with her daughter, who is an architect and now works with her, on a fascinating collection of map-based designs, where clients can choose a speci c area of Beirut and customize gold or silver bracelets, rings, pendants, earrings or cu links, with diamonds marking the spot where special memories were made.
Like any industry with a lot of creativity, intellectual property is an issue for Lebanese ewelry designers. Marcha sites the famous saying that imitation is the highest form of attery, but emotions run a little higher with the Mukhis. Maya remarks, “You realize [people copying you] are not very educated or ethical and don’t see things the same way we do,” explaining that Lebanon lacks education when it comes to respecting other people’s work. On the other hand Mouzannar shruges that it’s actually sad for the copycats “ hy would you copy? Make something you believe in.”
But overall he is hopeful about the future of ewelry in Lebanon, listing several up-and-coming designers (many of whose work is available at his Macle store in Ashra eh who are building strong brands. The growing number of ewelers, many of whom copy or don’t put a lot of thought into their designs, means competition is tough.
ith designers that stand out, their strength is also their weakness. The masses tend to look around and buy similar things and while anecdotal evidence suggests the Lebanese are a nation of trendsetters, some designers disagree, citing the tendency to buy brand names and get identical plastic surgery. Ra oul’s experience is that people might come to the shop and express interest but ultimately buy what their friends are buying, not venture to try her relatively new brand. “A trendsetter is someone who dares to be di erent. They do what they really like and they are who they really are. A lot of people in Lebanon are not living how they would like to,” she explains.
This notwithstanding, these designers and others are taking creative risks with their work, each in their own way, striving toward what they believe in and hoping more Lebanese will indeed become real trendsetters. If clients start to look outside the designer brand box at the real luxury of these o erings, they might discover a new aesthetic, and with it the kind of happiness that only being true to yourself can bring — a real luxury indeed.