Encounter: Selim Mouzannar
MEET SELIM MOUZANNAR, JEWELLER AT THE SERVICE OF BEAUTY
Le Bon Marché met French-Lebanese jeweller Selim Mouzannar at the new Salons Particuliers on a summer’s day, the temperature reminiscent of the sunshine in Beirut. Bright and colourful jewellery collections showcase his cultural heritage, passion for Ottoman architecture and his love of the turquoise Mediterranean Sea. Each wonderfully radiant piece also reflects the deeply held convictions of Selim Mouzannar, who advocates for a fairer world and promotes non-violence every day.
Can you tell us about why you became a jeweller?
I was born into a family of jewellers that has been supplying the Ottoman Empire since the 19th century. As a child, I spent my time in my father's workshop and in his shop in the heart of the historical jewellery souks in Beirut. It taught me the basics of the profession, without necessarily awakening a vocation in me, as I wanted to be a journalist.
And yet...! In 1980, I moved to Paris to study mineralogy and gemmology. As a student, I had the opportunity to meet men and women who broadened my perspective on tolerance and learning. I was hired by a leading jeweller to manage their workshops in Saudi Arabia. I went to live in Thailand to work in a ruby mine on the border with Burma. After these experiences and the end of the war in Lebanon, I decided to come back to settle and start my own brand.
Lebanon is a country that draws on both western and eastern culture. How does this make itself felt in your creations?
The Ottoman architecture and Art Deco in old Beirut, the combination of eastern culture and traces of the French and Italian presence all really left an impression on me. I have also put a lot of energy into restoring the family home where I now live in the old district of Achrafieh.
It’s this melting-pot that gives me ideas for jewellery. Arcades on houses, ancient symbols, the Mediterranean colour palette... everything around me since childhood has greatly influenced my creations.
My only goal in creating jewellery is to make the person who wears it happy
How would you describe the style of your jewellery? How does it combine heritage and modernity?
I like working with the old and the new. I am passionate about antique jewellery and have a shop in Beirut, where I sell the antique pieces that I've collected in recent years.
Above all, I want my jewellery to show that heritage is constantly evolving.
My workshop is my laboratory; I’m always working on motifs inherited from the past, which I adapt to modern jewellery making techniques.
How do you select the stones to use in your jewellery?
I generally follow my heart when I select the stones for my jewellery. I fall in love with a stone and I buy it. It’s only later that I think about what kind of jewellery I could make with it. I can spend hours looking at them, it's always an incredible journey.
How do you go about designing a ring?
I try to find the perfect balance between the colour, the shape, the cut of the stone and my own inclination and spontaneous inspiration. If it’s bespoke jewellery, I’ll discuss it at length with the person in order to really capture their personality. My only goal in creating jewellery is to make the person who wears it happy.
Beauty is the promise of happiness and I always think that creating beautiful things in a world inhabited by violence helps spread a message of love and peace
You use a unique enamelling technique in creating your jewellery, can you tell us what it involves?
It’s an ancient technique that involves decorating metal with the application of a melting material made of minerals, mainly silica and pigments. I use this method developed for modern jewellery, incorporating new colours and "transparent" effects. It serves to enhance the radiance of the stones or jewellery.
Can you tell us about the "Amal" piece you made, which won the Couture Design Award for high jewellery and what it means to you, especially in terms of your commitment to non-violence?
I live in an area where the tension is palpable and conflicts are numerous. I have been confronted by war and by atrocities against people since childhood, which led me to reject any form of violence. I’m sure humans can coexist outside of power relations and violence.
When I designed this necklace in 2017 with sublime Trapiche emeralds from the Muzo mine in Colombia, I wanted to call it Amal, which means hope in Arabic. Beauty is the promise of happiness and I always think that creating beautiful things in a world inhabited by violence helps spread a message of love and peace. Either way, that’s what I hope to convey with my jewellery.