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Amina Ghali, head of design at Azza Fahmy

HighLifeChannel October 30, 2018

Amina Ghali is head of design at Azza Fahmy, the Egyptian jewellery house founded by her mother in 1981. She grew up immersed in the business – from watching her mother design to spending summers in the company’s Cairo workshop – and studied at the Alchimia contemporary jewellery school in Florence before university, which cemented her love for the family trade.

Ghali joined the business in 2005, working at first alongside her mother before becoming head designer. She brings a contemporary twist to Azza Fahmy jewels, which are all handmade in Cairo and are renowned for their intricate engraving, filigree work and mix of hand-pierced gold and silver. Many of the pieces feature Arabic script with messages of peace, love and friendship. Last year the brand openede its first UK store in Mayfair’s Burlington Arcade.

Ghali’s latest collection, Gypsy, takes inspiration from the women of nomadic tribes, and features bold openwork cuffs alongside chunky coloured-gemstone necklaces and bohemian gold earrings. Here Ghali shares the most precious pieces from her own jewellery collection.

Azza Fahmy gold Chevalier ring

This is one of two rings I wear every single day. My husband bought it for me for Christmas six years ago, before we were married. The calligraphy on the top says “you’re my eternity” in Arabic, a verse from a famous song by the Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum. I grew up listening to her and that song in particular, so it had a strong emotional pull.

It was perfect for Christmas but we only had it in silver and gold and my husband wanted to give me an all-gold version. We had one made specially and as soon as the retail team saw it they fell in love with it and put it into production. So my husband is actually the reason the gold Chevalier ring exists!

No matter what other jewellery I have on, I’m always wearing this ring – it matches everything. It’s like my version of an eternity ring. The message of the song is ‘you are my entire life’.

Seventy percent of the lyrics sung by Umm Kulthum were written by one man who was madly in love with her. Even though she never reciprocated his love, you can feel it through everything he wrote. It’s very powerful.

Three-diamond ring

I have a very strong connection with India. I’ve been going there since I was five, and for the last 15 or 20 years I’ve been two or three times a year. Our business partners in India who we buy stones from have become like family to me, they opened up their home to me when I was a little girl and we have a very special relationship.

Every time I go there I like to play around with the jewellery they have in their collection. About six months after I got my Chevalier ring, I went to see them and they said “this ring will look really nice with the Chevalier, try it on”.

It felt a bit weird wearing it on the same finger at the beginning, but by the end of the trip they said “it suits you, take it as a gift from us”. They are so kind and generous like that. It hasn’t left my finger since – I only take it off to sleep.

Indian tiger rings

These rings actually belong to my godfather in India, the head of the family, and his son. They are very old men’s tribal rings – they must be 80 or 100 years old. Tiger rings are very popular in Indian culture, a lot of men wear them on their middle or index finger.

Usually I don’t wear other people’s jewellery because I’m wary of the energy that they put into a piece, by I love my Indian family’s energy, so on one of the trips I borrowed the bigger ring. At the end I said “actually, I’m not going to give this back.” He was fine with that!

The thinner tiger ring belonged to my godfather’s son. The thick ones are quite common, but in all the years of looking at these antique rings we’d never seen a slimmer one. So I took that one as well to make a mould of it and create different versions for all the family, in silver, gold and rose gold.

After I’d made all the copies he told me to keep the original and wear it along with his father’s ring. So these are another two rings that I wear all the time, along with my two pinkie rings and three rings on my wedding finger – altogether I wear seven rings on one hand! I added some gold to the larger ring to give it some harmony with my other pieces.

Vicki Sarge Ooh La La earrings

I’m a huge fan of Vicki Sarge, I have so much respect for her as a designer, from her time at Erickson Beamon and with her own brand. Every time I come to London, after eating my Chinese chow mein, I’ll go to her shop in Belgravia and look through her new pieces – and inevitably end up buying something.

I love the intricacy and craftsmanship of her work, as well as how experimental it is. In fine jewellery, because of how expensive all the materials have become, there is less and less experimentation. It’s all about the stones and the value of the piece. But with costume jewellery there is always a lot of creativity, and I look at it a lot for inspiration.

In Egypt we say “ooh la la” a lot, it’s something my mum often says, and that’s literally the reaction I get when I walk out wearing these earrings: people saying “ooh la la” with a big smile on their face. Calligraphy is a big part of Azza Fahmy jewellery and I love the way that Vicki also plays around with letters in these earrings. They are very cool.

Rose-cut diamond earrings

These [main image] were my 35th birthday gift from my family in India this summer. I wanted something that would match a lot of the pieces I already had. I rarely wear big statement jewellery – most of the time I’ll layer lots of smaller pieces together.

Most Indian jewellery has sapphires, rubies, emeralds and enamel, which is beautiful but that much colour can make it quite restrictive. These go with everything.

I have a fascination with rose-cut diamonds. They are absolutely beautiful and have a story of their own. Even though these are quite big diamonds – 1.1 carats – they aren’t overly flashy. I can get away with wearing them during the day, but equally I can dress them up at night.

Most people don’t even think they are diamonds because they’re more familiar with brilliant-cut stones. They are set to be a long-term favourite.


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