VMar – a combination of the designer’s name and that of her first jewelry design collaborator, the late Lebanese interior designer Vicken Vanlian – was launched by Maral Melhem last month in Beirut with a private dinner and exclusive fete. “The project was a dream we had together,” says Melhem. “I’m adamant to keep the spirit in the brand and in the name.” The gemologist recalls how 20 years of working in the luxury sector ignited the idea to start her own label. “I wanted to create jewelry that defies notions of gender and convention,” she shares.
Originally printed in the November 2018 issue of Vogue Arabia
Conceived as a collective, the brand’s DNA oscillates with each select artist who embarks on a collaboration, while striving to maintain the original aesthetic essence – futuristic, detail-oriented, and ostentatious. The color purple presents strongly throughout. “It expresses royalty and mysticism,” says the designer of the hue. “It is the perfect equilibrium between the coolness of blue and the fire of red, creating a balance that is warm and inviting, yet cool and strongly confident.” Of the various gold, titanium, gemstone, and semi-precious stone jewelry pieces all made in Italy, the titanium panther – from the first capsule and originally designed by Vanlian – has a special place in Melhem’s collection. “It is a symbol of courage,” she says. “I like to wear it as a reminder to be fearless.”
“The goddess Wadjet was said to be the protector and patron of Lower Egypt, as well as the guardian of women in childbirth. I created my own interpretation of the snake – Wadjet – wrapped around the disc of the sun,” says Amany Shaker about one of her favorite pieces. “It’s guarding a gateway that represents an entry into a new beginning. Though draped with tassels, there’s openness and movement which represents freedom. It’s a metaphor of change and transformation.”
The designer left Egypt 28 years ago after finishing a psychology degree to work with an international NGO. Los Angeles became her second home, where she studied conflict resolution and peace education – tools she would rely on to work with women in troubled areas. In 2015, she did an about-face and launched Ammanii, a jewelry line that represents her journey of rediscovery. “Because of my background in working with women from different parts of the world, I wanted the jewelry to recount this in a shared context,” explains Shaker. “Each design is an ambassador of peace to tell an empowering story of connection and hope.” Her clientele consists of confident, educated women with global views: “They dare to be different, to have their voices heard, to push boundaries, and care enough to be involved in making a difference.”
Made in Hong Kong, the jewels are primarily crafted with silver and semi-precious stones. “In Ancient Egypt, silver was considered to be more precious than gold, which represented the skin of the ancient gods – their bones were thought to be of silver. It epitomizes a grounded strength and beauty that goes beyond what is seen,” she explains, adding that she considers women to possess such qualities. “This is the year of the woman. Many brave women have broken fear barriers and spoken out for truth.”