Jewellery that tells a story

From her French-Beninese upbringing to the recurring cowrie shell motif that is widely seen in her jewellery and her latest ‘HARMONY’ collection, Catherine Sarr of Almasika talks about her journey as a jewellery designer
Jewellery that tells a story

Chicago-based Almasika has become a known-name in the upper echelon of Tinseltown – the likes of Zoë Kravitz, Reese Witherspoon, Alicia Keys, and Lizzo were all seen wearing jewellery from the brand, whose aesthetic is steeped in ‘stories that  transcend cultures and generations.’ The curious name, ‘Almasika’ is by itself special. The word ‘Almasi ’means ‘diamond ’in Swahili, and in fact, the root word means ‘diamond ’in many languages and ‘Sika ’means‘ gold ’in several West African languages. Catherine Sarr, the designer behind Almasika, wanted to bring together the power of two natural treasures and find commonality in the words as well.

Where does your passion for jewellery stem from?

I had been fortunate to work in the heart of the luxury and diamond industry and it was there that I was exposed to some of the world's most inspiring designers. These designers were able to tell extraordinary stories through jewellery; it was a real art. I have always been fascinated by the cultural aspect of jewellery; I wanted to explore this notion of storytelling through jewellery with ALMASIKA.

How much does your French-Beninese upbringing/culture influence your thought process and design sensibilities?

Traditional wise adages have shaped my approach to life, so for a collection such as ‘Sagesse’ my intention was to reinterpret these timeless concepts with the hallmarks of ALMASIKA jewellery, including sculpturally rounded shapes and the symbolic significance that is essential to the brand.

Where do you seek inspiration for your designs?

I am inspired by universal forms, symbols and stories that transcend cultures and generations. It can start with a book I read, a story I’ve heard or even a walk in a park.

How would you define your label’s spirit?

At its core, I have rooted Almasika in art, design and culture. A sculptural simplicity of design offset by symbolism. The brand is centered around an understated silhouette; it’s very much inspired by the Parisian style I grew up with. I am attracted by sculptural shapes, curves and soft lines that echo the line of the body –that’s the signature in all my designs.

Can you walk us through your latest collection?

Our HARMONY Collection is inspired by sound waves, the shapes in which those waves ebb and flow, and the thought that every being is made up of vibrating particles that resonate with sound. These designs manifest sound as both a stimulus and a sensation. Since ancient times and across cultures, humans have used sound to restore their vibration to a state of harmony. Created in 18-karat gold and marquise diamonds, the collection visually reflects the continuous nature of sound waves that envelop and heal.

What is the significance of cowrie shell in your LE CAURI ENDIAMANTÉ collection?

They’ve always been part of my life. I used to wear a natural cowrie shell pendant when I was younger. When I debuted in Colette in 2014, with Le Cauri Endiamanté collection, I wanted to pay homage to this ancestral symbol of spirituality and abundance that I reinterpreted in gold and diamonds. Since ancient times, cowrie shells have been used as ornaments, they were even used as currency through to the late 19th Century and they are still used today in the Art of Divination. They have become synonymous with wealth and fortune, and continue to be worn as a talisman to bring good fortune.

From a spark (idea) to how it becomes a finished piece of jewellery, can you walk us through your creative process?

It is an iterative process embracing inspirations from a plethora of sources. From reading a book by the fireplace to letting my mind flow in captivating art pieces to conducting in-depth research on forms, symbols and stories that transcends cultures—all those elements can trigger the design of a new piece for me. Before there is any sketch there is often a story or stories that I am picturing in my head. Then I let the first sketches capture the story.

The balance between diamonds and yellow/black/white gold in all of your pieces is evident – is this a conscious choice?

Playing with different gold colors allows me to bring different depth while keeping an original design. Yellow gold is warm, black brings mystery and white gives a classic look.

Where do you think high/fine jewellery stands in the market today, amidst consumers and what does the future for this market look like?

Thoughtful acquisitions are the driving desire of our clientele. The fusion of design and culture has been at the forefront of our creations, since inception. For the past 18 months we have all been aware of what is truly important to us, redefining our future. I believe people will bring more thought and purpose into their purchases and interests. It’s about conscious consumption, and in a way buying luxury allows for the fewer but better ethos.

Define the style sensibility of the wearer (audience) of your jewellery?

ALMASIKA is sought after by discerning art collectors, creatives and intellectuals. I design for individuals who are inherently curious, passionate about the world and have a great sense of style. They dress for themselves first and foremost, exuding an innate sense of elegance and confidence.

How have you managed to stay relevant and connected to your audience during this time of pandemic?

It’s been an interesting time - I became much more flexible to stay connected with our audiences. Being active online, heavily present in press and being introduced to selected retailers helped us remain connected to our audience.

Your love for diamonds is evident in every single creation – there’s been a lot of talk about diamonds losing its priority amongst discerning consumers, because of issues like sustainability – what are your thoughts?

It’s inspiring to see consumers putting more thought and purpose into their purchases and interests. It can only be positive for all industries, including the diamond industry, to see this shift in the pace and quality of consumption.

In your experience of travelling, which country has been the most inspiring and why?

I can’t choose one! I am always inspired by the extraordinary shapes, lines and textures of gold African adornments, and the simplicity of French style. I have spent a lot of time in Mumbai, and Indian craftsmanship has also been an inspiration.




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