How did your journey into jewellery design begin?
Being creative was, and has continued to be, an integral form of self-expression. As a child, I used to create hair accessories and ornaments, and give them to loved ones as gifts. It grew more elaborate over time until I discovered the sweet zeal of working with diamines, and then it became devotion.
What did you study?
I have an Executive MBA, and I studied at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). For someone who obsesses over diamonds, some form of diamond education is a must. My education at the GIA never felt like studies; instead, it always felt like a constant fulfilment of thirst. I always wanted to learn more and know more. Diamonds are so unique… Looking at the inside of diamond through my loupe is like getting introduced to a new person every single time. I love it.
Why is jewellery important to you?
I see jewellery as less of a fashion and more as an art. The inspiration, the stories, the design process and finally the creation – these steps are driven by emotions, just like with art. Jewellery pieces often have memories attached to them, and I love that aspect – the sentiments we re-experience every time we wear or touch a piece of jewellery that we were given by someone we love, or one that we gifted ourselves.
Which jewellery designers do you admire?
I completely obsess over the work of JAR and David Webb. I also love the work of David Michael and Hemmerle. When I see the works of these designers, I appreciate the art behind it and, I often buy it whenever given the chance.
From where do you draw your inspiration?
I’m a curious person. I like to explore everything. I love to meet people, hear their stories, understand what gives their soul fire. I love to travel, listen to foreign music, eat new food and go to places I’ve never been. I also love to read. In books, I step into a different realm and live the events and the lives of the characters in the books. I find inspiration everywhere. I carry it within me.
Model wearing the Mouawad X Salama Khalfan headpiece with ‘saaf’ adorned in 3,500 diamonds
You have created a unique piece in association with Mouawad – how did this come about?
Mouawad reached out to me at the beginning of the summer to join forces for Abu Dhabi Art 2021. I was on the creative side, and Mouawad on the manufacturing side. It was a match made in heaven. It took five months of commitment.
The piece is exquisite – what inspired it?
The design is inspired by something that is inherent to us, and is very important to our tradition and heritage – it was inspired by the palm tree. The palm tree is a tree that is so integral to the way that we connect to the earth in this part of the world. We often weave the ‘saaf’ which is the spiky green leaves of the palm tree, and the headpiece itself is made of one long piece of ‘saaf’, which is extremely flexible.
Can you tell us about the materials used?
The ‘saaf’ itself is adorned by a little over 3,500 diamonds. It also has a stone that is very close to my heart, an emerald. I feel that it is the passage of colour from the palm tree into high jewellery. It also has a connection to our Arabic traditional jewellery through the tassels, but these tassels have been modernised in a way to suit the modern woman.
The piece was displayed at Abu Dhabi Art – where can we see it now?
It is going on a road trip around the GCC, first to be viewed at Mouawad’s stores in the GCC and then around the world with our retail partnerss and art galleries.
Can you tell us about your latest collection, Starflake?
The Starflake collection is easy to wear, easy to layer and is lots of fun. With many of the earrings sold in singles, you can add stars, play with asymmetrical designs, connect chains and more. It’s all about adding your own individual taste and style.
Your designs are incredibly intricate and often colourful. How do you recommend to wear them?
My pieces are created in a way that does not impose a specific style on the wearer. I like to leave that to the person wearing it. It’s important to me that my pieces are perceived as a tool of expression, rather than of direction.
Do you have a favourite stone to work with?
I love diamonds to start with, but I also believe in the energy of natural stones. And right now, I am doing a lot of work with natural citrines imported from Brazil.
Who is the woman you design for?
My jewellery is designed for the formidable woman who has a strong sense of self, one that possesses a deep-rooted connection with the horse and all it embodies: personal drive, ambition, passion, grace, beauty and, most of all, liberty.
Do you prefer to design bespoke pieces?
Creating a personalised piece is always interesting. It’s truly about meeting person and getting to know them to create an object of art to complement their personality. It is always very exciting to create the first few sketches and see them materialise into the final piece.
What has been a ‘pinch me’ moment?
The day I received an email (or a call, I can’t remember) from LA telling me that Kendall Jenner wants to buy four rings and if I would be able to run her card for them.
How can we purchase a Salama Khalfan piece?
We have a flagship store at the Dubai Marine Beach Resort & Spa in Jumeirah 1. We also have an extensive website that did really well during last year’s lockdown, but, more importantly, we have a styled concierge who can come to your home with our bejewelled trunk so you can explore and try the jewellery at your convenience.
What do you hope for your brand?
I hope for it to make a woman feel more confident. I hope for it to give its wearer that special feeling because we don’t buy jewellery for the way it looks – we buy it for the way it makes us feel. And I hope it makes them feel beautiful, determined, happy and formidable.
Cover image: Designer Salama Khalfan (right) with a model wearing the spectacular palm tree-inspired headpiece she designed with Mouawad, unveiled at Abu Dhabi Art 2021.
Follow @Salamakhalfanjewellery on Instagram.