Arica is often seen as the home of precious gemstones and metals, with the world’s leading jewelry houses sourcing a steady stream of diamonds, gold and other minerals from the continent.
But Africa isn’t merely a source for raw materials: A new wave of homegrown jewelry houses is offering distinctly African luxury to customers near and far.
Sierra Leone-born Briton Satta Matturi, creative director of her namesake fine jewelry house, says that African jewelry designers often have to contend with preconceived notions of what African design is, including colonial stereotypes that see it as primitive.
But there is a rich history of distinct and intricate jewelry craft across the continent. “Each region has its own style. Ghana, with its gold heritage; Kenya’s striking Masai neckpieces; South Africa’s Ndebele beading; Malian Tuareg adornment, Nigerian coral beads and ancient Egyptian influences,” she said in an email sent from Botswana, where she takes regular sourcing trips. The house, founded in 2015, already counts Rihanna as a client.
Some of her designs reimagine historical beliefs and traditional craft for present times to create modern desirable pieces. For Matturi, who previously worked as a rough diamond expert for De Beers, this approach anchors her collections and her company.
“My vision from the very beginning has always been to create designs that are wearable art forms and that celebrate a message of Africa,” she said. “For example, our collection “Artful Indulgence” focuses on creating bejeweled African masks and masquerades using 18-karat gold, diamonds and other precious stones, including rubellite and black onyx.”