A lover of art, design, poetry, and calligraphy, Sima Vaziry has rare talent. She is able to pool and then translate the experiences she’s had with Afghan, Persian, and Middle Eastern cultures into contemporary pieces of jewellery.
She released her first collection in 2010, and not long after was approached by the British Museum to supply a range of pieces to support their major Afghanistan exhibition. Her collection became one of their most popular lines ever and she was subsequently commissioned to design and produce three further collections for them.
She’s never looked back. Her jewellery reflects her heritage, her personal experiences and the design discipline she’s learnt during her life. We chat with Sima about her fascinating journey.
When did you first fall in love with jewellery?
“My journey into jewellery began as a child, when I used to dress up and play with my mother’s jewellery. As I grew older, my father would buy me small pieces of jewellery, some of which have remained treasured possessions, with lapis, turquoise and carnelian becoming firm favourites.”
Where did you grow up and how has it influenced you as a designer?
“I grew up in Iran, by the Persian Gulf, and my father instilled a deep appreciation of calligraphy, poetry and colours in me. I remember falling asleep to the sound of Hafez and Rumi poems when the whole family would sleep on the roof terrace to escape the heat. It was there that I first heard of lapis lazuli, the word used to describe the deep blue colour of the sky when the day turned into night. When I was forced out of this environment as a teenager, I found myself alone in new surroundings in Britain and learned to adapt and embrace a new culture and was enriched by another view of the world.”
"I remember falling asleep to the sound of Hafez and Rumi poems when the whole family would sleep on the roof terrace to escape the heat."
How did you get into the jewellery industry?
“I was always artistically inclined; painting and crafting from a very young age. I became attracted to graphic arts as a way to overcome language and cultural barriers in my new life. After completing a diploma in graphic design, I went on to obtain a BA in Visual Communications and a Master’s at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, which led to a successful career as a graphic artist and designer. When I married my Afghan husband, I found that the shared language, culture and heritage opened another door for creative expression. Jewellery was a hobby for me and I took several short courses over the course of two years, as well as master classes with established jewellers. When I couldn’t carry on with graphic design due to medical reasons, I turned to making more jewellery which proved popular with friends and family.”
When did you turn jewellery from a hobby into a career?
“I eventually felt the need to express my history, art and ideas through the medium of jewellery and when I was invited to take part in the Afghan Fashion Show, a charity event in 2010, I was approached by the head buyer of the British Museum and they bought my first collection to support their major exhibition, Afghanistan: Crossroads of the ancient world. My first collection proved to be extremely popular and became one of the best and fastest selling ranges ever at the British Museum. This gave me the confidence to start developing jewellery designs from a hobby into a serious career. A selection of the range then became part of their permanent core collection and I have since been commissioned to produce three further collections for them.”
"My bi-cultural background influences all aspects of my work and I hope to encourage positive feelings towards that part of the world."
What are your core brand values?
“My bi-cultural background influences all aspects of my work and I hope to encourage positive feelings towards that part of the world and to promote its ancient hidden beauty, culture and heart and try to create a bridge between both cultures.”
Where do you source inspiration for your designs?
“I get inspiration from nature and objects, as well as art and architecture. For commissions, I try to do a lot of research into the topic, taking into account the history, culture and other aspects of the topic. I hand-make all the jewellery myself in my studio in London.”
"It is real honour for me to be taken on by the British Museum. But at the other end of the scale, I am very proud of the clients who have entrusted me with making their bespoke wedding bands and engagement rings."
Who are your clients that you are most proud of?
“I must say it is real honour for me to be taken on by the British Museum. But at the other end of the scale, I am very proud of the clients who have entrusted me with making their bespoke wedding bands and engagement rings. To know that they will be wearing something every day for a very long time is very gratifying.”
How do you want someone to feel when wearing your designs?
“I would like them to feel comfortable and that they are wearing something meaningful. I hope they will be touched by and feel positive about the provenance and the stories behind my pieces.”
What are your future hopes for the brand?
“I’m driven to communicate the positive aspects of my bi-cultural heritage and share it with people through my designs. I would like to be able to reach more people who would appreciate my work as I often hear people who see my work for the first time say ‘how come we have not heard about you’.”
Sima Vaziry's collection is available to shop on Jewelstreet here.