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Unique Designs: A tribute in jewelry to Egyptian poet Salah Jahin

Funky jewelry mingled with Egyptian folklore on Friday at Unique Designs' sixteenth exhibition, a tribute to colloquial poet Salah Jahin hosted by the Decorée Craft Center in Zamalek

Designers Jillan Zaher and Yasmine Mostafa exhibited a vibrant and dynamic collection of jewelry. Copper, semi-precious stones and silver-plated materials were craftily twisted and curled, occasionally decorated with quotes from Jahin's Ruba'iyat.

The small center was overflowing with crafts, mosaics, bags, and other items. Among the chaos, a few tables were allocated to the bold and bright Unique Designs jewelry. Bracelets composed of two large golden coins with Jahin’s words and a few colored stones blended the traditional with a fun, lively look.

Paying tribute to a man with a significant role in developing national colloquial poetry, Unique Designs showcased handcrafted jewelry bearing the essence of Egyptian folklore. “We all love Salah Jahin, everybody does,” says Jillan Zaher, founder of Unique Designs.

At the age of 18, as an engineering student seeking to add more beauty to her life, Zaher signed up for silversmith courses at the Fine Arts Gallery Studio where silversmith Maged Jack taught her the basics of jewelry making.

“I really love designing,” Zaher said excitedly. A rewarding hobby, Zaher enjoyed using her hands to create fashionable pieces of jewelry which she often used to accessorize her daily outfits.

“To my surprise, many of my friends started to compliment my jewelry,” says Zaher. “People would stop me on the street and admire my necklace or pair of earrings.”

Captured by the glimmer of a stone or the twist of metal, two of Zaher’s friends seized the opportunity. Encouraging Zaher to cultivate her talent, Yasmine Mostafa and Dalia Atef were positive she could eventually make money by selling her work. Marching through al-Moski and Khan al-Khalili, the girls bought materials, inspired by the variety of colors and shapes and sizes available at the markets.

Mostafa went on to help Zaher found the now successful Unique Designs. Originally studying subjects such as urban planning, interior design, and landscape art, Zaher and Mostafa adapted the concepts of design on a much smaller scale.

Perhaps it is the small size of the business which allows for true flexibility. The Unique Designs girls confess that they benefit a lot from the public input, and that they often involve customers in the design process.

Unique Designs targets women of all ages, as long as they have a playful soul. For this particular show, the Unique Designs duo explored their shared love for the well-celebrated Egyptian poet, lyricist, playwright and cartoonist, incorporating his poignant words into their playful pieces. The result is a collection more folkloric than their previous more collections, which are slightly funkier.

Scattered upon the jet black table-cloth is a thick necklace made of two threads of large green stones with a round golden pendant displaying Arabic calligraphy. Red stones, pink stones, and orange stones radiate against the dark background. A long chain with a circular pendant and a gauze of metal across its surface is made of copper and Indian gold and is the only piece in the collection without colorful stones. A large butterfly pendant dangling from a thread of emerald green beads is reminiscent of Western jewelry styles.

Yet Zaher holds dear the concept of uniqueness. “I am really keen on creating a piece that’s truly one of a kind,” she says. “If I make something that looks bland and insignificant, I have no problem with untangling it, and starting all over again.”


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