Last updated on January 9, 2021
We speak to London based jewellery designer Shirin Uma, a creative whose energy, attitude and outlook on life our founder, Lily Nadtochi, found particularly inspiring. Here we discuss her career, source of inspiration and things that differentiate her from other jewellers.
How Did You Come to Be a Jeweller?
Diamonds and jewellery have always been my passion and I really wanted to learn everything from the ground up; that’s how I have always been.
On my quest to be a part of the diamond industry, I went to Hatton Garden which is London’s diamond district and I was offered a sales position with one of the boutiques there. I double-checked this opportunity with a dealer I knew and he advised me to accept the offer as I would learn a lot about the trade.
I worked six days a week, no breaks and sold classic fine jewellery. This was balanced by creating custom rings for clients who would explain how they had asked numerous sales assistants in various boutiques to help them design their dream ring but would frequently be told it was too complicated, would take too long or would be too expensive etc. I didn’t find the requests to be particularly complicated and I believe that the aim is to only get engaged once, so if I could make their dream ring, why not!
Six months passed quickly, during which time I achieved record sales figures and also completed and received the first of my GIA qualifications. Shortly after, I started working for a diamond dealer. That gave me the ability to learn more about the industry from a very different aspect of the business. The diamond trade is largely based on trust, often why many companies usually choose to work with family members which is why I am still honoured that I was accepted into the trade.
At the time when I received my GIA graduate certificate, it became apparent that I had a lot of private clients; friends, family and friends of friends who would commission me and make their engagement rings, wedding bands and everyday gift type of jewellery pieces, and also redesign sentimental pieces. As these requests became more frequent, I decided I would like to move forward and make things more official, so Shirin Uma was created as a fine jewellery brand.
How Do You Think You Differentiate From Other Jewellers?
I would say my versatility regarding my own collections, and in relation to bespoke, my ability to interpret what my client has in mind. I will make anything; I have my own style, but even that is always changing and very adaptable. If you look at the collections, you will notice that some pieces are feminine, ornate and detailed, while others are stronger, bold and simple. There are female, male and unisex pieces and they all are created by me.
I have never said “no” to a client. For example, if someone wants to spend £1000 on an engagement ring, I’ll find them the best stone and ring within their budget because I believe there is something for everyone and, I want them to grow with me. I am motivated by creating long term relationships. I design and make the engagement ring, the wedding bands, the wedding gift, the push present, the anniversary gifts; I am the family jeweller.
What Inspires You to Create Your Designs?
I love my city, London. I was born here and grew up here and I have lived in many different areas, so I find a lot of inspiration from the way I see the city and how diverse it is. I am quite a visual person. My inspiration is derived from a combination of my love of wildlife mixed in with city life.
Colours mainly come from wildlife images and some of the designs I am working on are heavily inspired by my love of tropical creatures and predators – big cats, snakes, even sharks.
I get a lot of inspiration from patterns I see… and lights, I am fascinated by lighting. Travel, experiences, mood, people’s characters, food, architecture, music, dance, fashion – it’s just London life.
Let’s Talk About Limité High Jewellery Collection and How That Came About
The high jewellery collection came about from a collection of precious stones I wanted to work with. I wanted to be as creative as possible and I wanted the focus to be on the gemstones themselves. Some of the pieces are symmetrical and some of them are more organic in their appearance, but they are all full of life and unique.
The emeralds that I have used, for example, are not deep and rich in colour, the way that one would normally visualise an emerald when mentioned. My emeralds are more between aquamarine and Paraiba tourmaline colour. I don’t think if I have made the same designs with darker emeralds it would have the same effect. I think it would be a much more mature, traditional look. The emeralds I have used are youthful, fun and playful and they remind me of the stunning green that you get in the ocean.
I chose the name Limité for the Collection because the designs are very unique, and some of them will be the only piece I will ever make, and some may be recreated upon request, but there will never be more than eight made in total. I think it is wonderful to possess a creative piece of art or jewellery or fashion that nobody else has, and for me, there is nothing worse than seeing two people wearing the same piece at the same event. As my mother always said, “Why would you want to be like everybody else?”.
What Has Been the Greatest Recognition of Your Career?
It’s such a big deal when anybody asks you to make an engagement ring. For me, it’s always a privilege to be able to make their dream come true because that’s the first step towards ‘forever’. I love LOVE and there is nothing I value more.
I also feel greatly privileged when I am asked to rework client’s sentimental pieces. That is a great sign of trust. They are trusting me to look after the piece, to take it apart and recreate something new and marvellous. They trust me to understand their vision. I think that is a big honour and a huge responsibility, some pieces are over 100 years old.
Regarding high profile recognition, the most recent was working on an editorial piece about the very talented singer Bebe Rexa for Voir magazine. Bebe was styled with my jewellery from the Limité high jewellery collection and the SU Style collection. It was a great day working together as a team and it was a very exciting shoot as it was edgy and everything I want women to be: strong, powerful, sexy and feeling great about themselves.
What Can We Look Forward Next?
I am working on adding new designs/collections for my SU Style jewellery line; very simple, but with a lot of meaning. Designs that symbolise things that are important to people; representing feelings and emotions.
For the high jewellery line, I am working on a small fancy diamond collection that fits with my concrete jungles obsession!
I am always thinking of new creations but things really start to take shape when I have the stones in front of me, so there is definitely a lot more to come.