Deema Oman: Traditional jewels with a modern twist
Deema is an Oman-based jewelry brand that has been the talk of social media platforms. It’s a hit with fashionistas and those who want to look their best wearing local designs. The brand’s designs are very elegant and lavish, which are inspired by traditional Omani jewels blended with modern styles.
Before becoming a designer, Shadya Al-Ismailiya, founder and designer of Deema, was the first Omani dealer in the crude oil international markets for the purposes of hedging against price fluctuations, heading financial operations in the international financial markets, then, managing a pension fund of the largest oil company in the Sultanate of Oman. Finally, she decided to follow through her passion and dreams and started her jewelry line. “The first piece of jewelry that I designed was a long six strand pearl necklace called “Al-Shumookh” in which I used an old Omani traditional earring as a pendant. It was a handmade necklace that required intensive efforts and time,” she said. “Looking at it, I saw a very luxurious piece of jewelry. However, with the design and production facilities that are available to us now, I realized how much restrictions were controlling our design capacities. By then, beading was the technique used in producing our jewelry, stone setting was not an option for us, and detailed but delicate designs were impossible to even think of,” she added.
Arab News had a discussion with Al-Ismailiya to know more about her success story:
What first attracted you to jewelry designing?
My passion for arts and design goes back to my school days. As a schoolgirl, I was naturally attracted to anything related to arts and design, this passion never faded away. On the other hand, I appreciate the beauty of the gemstones; I like blending stones of different colors, shapes and sizes. Seeing somebody wearing my jewelry gives me a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. Thus, jewelry designing was a natural move for me.
Tell us the story of how you became a jewelry designer.
With Omani women entering labor market, it became highly impractical to wear Omani traditional jewelry during the day. Gradually, the use of Omani jewelry drifted from being day-to-day part of the Omani costume to becoming more restricted to important social events such as weddings, Eid celebrations, and other events. As time passed, many Omani women refrained from wearing Omani jewelry due its various impracticalities (i.e. size and weight). As a result, demand of this type of jewelry declined.
I recall visiting the “Souq” in 2008, looking for a specific traditional silver pendant. After a long search, I found an Asian silver shop owner leaving his shop with a huge sack of traditional silver jewelry. I inquired about the item I needed. He showed one pendant from the sack. Surprisingly, it was the piece that I was looking for! To fulfill my own curiosity, I asked him where he was taking the jewelry. I had the shock of my life when he said that he was going to melt them due to low demand. I asked him if he realized that he was killing our heritage. His answer was even more shocking, he replied ‘For me it is frozen capital.’
Thus, to assist in preserving our heritage from vanishing, I felt it was my patriotic duty to primarily encourage the modern Omani women to revert to our culture. Also, to promote our culture to women of different cultures within and outside the Sultanate of Oman.
Where have you studied, taken classes, or generally, how have you built your knowledge base?
It was my dream to join a school of arts right after graduating from the secondary school. Instead, I studied Accounting at the University of Ain Shams in Cairo, and then gained my MSc in Finance from Strathclyde University in Glasgow in 1996. As a designer, I thought it was necessary to gain a sound academic knowledge about jewelry designing and making. Thus, i enrolled for jewelry classes at the Jewelry School of the Birmingham City University.
What are the materials, gems you prefer working with?
We use an array of materials, precious metals such as platinum, white gold, yellow gold, and silver, along with different types of high quality gemstones and diamonds.
What are the methods you use to put your style, name and brand out there?
We follow an aggressive marketing plan for marketing and promoting Deema Oman nationally, regionally, and internationally. During the first five years since inception, we ensured that Deema Oman participates in major jewelry shows, often appears on key magazines (including in-flight ones) and newspapers, TV and radio interviews, makes benefit of the power of social media, and sponsors important events.
Who do you target in your designs?
We believe in delivering excellent products and services; one needs to carefully determine the appropriate clientele for the brand. Deema Oman is focusing on a special niche in the market that looks for exclusiveness and products that are unique in their designs and quality. This allows them to stand out in various formal and/ or social events.
What kind of trends do you see coming up in the jewelry making design world?
From the jewelry shows around the world, we saw some of 2013 specific themes such as heavy big metal links chokers, curb chain necklaces, and spikes continuing to 2014 with some additions, such as nuts and bolts.
On colors, while the focus remains on combining gemstones in traditional colors such as rubies, emeralds and sapphires, use of monochrome with shades of a single color theme will be widely used in 2014, as is already seen in the Donna Karan collection. The Oscar de la Renta collection comprises vibrant colors like deep-sea blues, ruby red, and pink amethyst.
From highly detailed and historically influenced designs to minimal style jewelry with high shine finishes, all of these are key to this trend.
What is the biggest goal you hope to accomplish someday, either related or not related to jewelry?
Seeing Deema Oman, as a brand, competing with international reputed names is my key goal. To accomplish this, we have a business plan that we religiously follow and assess our performance against. Deema Oman pieces have been gifted to foreign dignitaries by the Omani government, this is an important seal of approval and recognition for the brand’s designs. The brand had already made its name internationally gaining recognition among highly reputed international organizations. Deem Oman was chosen to represent the designers of the Middle East region in the 150th anniversary of life and legacy of Sir Henry Royce in December 2012. Moreover, it was short-listed among 12 designers worldwide to attend the 110th anniversary of Rolls Royce motorcars in November 2013.
How would you describe your style and designs?
Deema’s philosophy in designing its jewelry has been largely influenced by three key elements:
a) The Omani heritage: Oman is rich in heritage, beautiful patterns and other legacies that cannot be ignored. Hence, it was logical that Deema Oman be affected by this beautiful legacy. The viewer of Deema Oman’s collection would instantly realize that we do not just make ordinary jewelry pieces.
b) The Islamic art and designs: The Islamic architecture and its designs also have a special imprint on Deema Oman’s work. This line was included to promote the beauty of Islamic art and creativity. It attracted the attention of many who are interested in architectural design during our participation in the International Jewelry London (IJL) exhibition. An interesting example would be an Italian architect who spent four hours at our stand admiring the way Deema Oman employed Islamic architectural designs in its jewelry.
c) The environment and nature in Oman: We have a special line that is dedicated to nature. The “Palm” collection is inspired by the date palms and was the first collection under the “Nature” line. Every element of the tree was carefully employed in a piece of jewelry. The “Palm” was launched at the International Jewelry London (IJL) at the Earls Court Exhibition Center in September 2011. The collection caught the eye of many visitors and attracted high traffic into the stand.
Clients do look for uniqueness in their selection of any goods; thus, Deema Oman provides high quality and luxury products in limited editions. All our products, whether jewelry or chinaware, are limited editions.
What inspires you when designing a new collection?
My inspiration comes from everything around me. I have used traditional Omani links with culture, maritime history, the environment and flora and fauna. One of Deema Oman’s pendants, for example, is in the shape of a compass, taking us back to Oman’s maritime history. In September 2011, we launched the ‘Nature’ line where we employed the date palm’s design in various pieces of jewelry, such as in necklaces, bangles, brooches and rings. So, it really depends on what catches my eye at the time I was looking for inspiration.
How do you want your client to feel when wearing the Deema collection?
For us, satisfaction of our clients comes on the top of our priority list. Thus, we work to ensure that when our clients wear Deema Oman’s jewelry or acquire any of our products they would feel special, unique and confident.
Who is Deema and why did you name your collection Deema?
Since our intention was to keep this line of work active and live, it was important to brand our jewelry and other products, which came after that. We searched for a name that is modern, short, easy to remember, easy to pronounce, has a good meaning, and of an Arabian origin. My youngest daughter came up with “Deema.” By November 2008, Deema Oman was founded and registered as a designing house for luxury jewelry, and it is the first luxury jewelry brand of the country.
Who do you look up to from the international jewelry brands and why?
I greatly respect the contribution that the key names in the jewelry world have already made in this area. For this reason, I would see myself closely following new works of specific high end international jewelry designers like Bulgari, Dior, Chanel, Buccellati, Graff, Piaget, Van Cleef, Chopard, etc. I love the sense of luxury in their jewelry, the details that go into their designs, the colors, the stone cutting, workmanship, etc. The list could go on and on, in a nutshell, one should learn from these accumulated experiences without copying their work.
What are you working on right now? Tell us about your new collection.
The momentum and a good appetite for Deema Oman’s products in the Sultanate continues. There is a lot happening, however, the most important of all are our recent assignments. Deema Oman has been assigned to design corporate gifts for Very Important Personalities for two large organizations in the Sultanate. With these two projects, our two new production lines will commence which will be focusing on creating luxury watches and pens.
Where do you sell your collection and where do you wish to sell?
To promote brand awareness and reinforce Deema Oman as a high-end brand, we have been focusing on exhibiting and selling our jewelry in key international jewelry shows in the region and Europe. We also sell directly through regular meetings with buyers at government and privately owned organizations. Our marquee customers have played a tremendous role in linking us with their connections and high net worth individuals.
On chinaware, we have just finalized designing of seven sets of bespoke tableware for one of the UK’s most renowned luxury retailers. This is Deema’s first venture on British shores, and it will soon be sold in their high-end store at Mayfair, London.
I wish to live and see Deema Oman’s products sold in major high-end retailers across the globe.
What is Deema’s next step?
Very interesting question! Well, currently, we are working on setting up a classy and chic boutique in the Sultanate and in one of the GGC countries.