Turkey's leadership in jewellery design and production is further gaining momentum, thanks to its diverse and wide talent pool, strong manufacturing sector, and innovative sales and marketing strategies.
“We are a recognised global leader in gold jewellery design and manufacturing,” said Sirzat Akbulak, a manager at the Jewellery Exporters’ Association (JTR) of Turkey. “However, our strengths have gone beyond plain gold jewellery production. Today, our designers and manufacturers have expanded their repertoire to include diamond, coloured gemstone and pearl jewellery – all anchored in our rich jewellery culture.”
Akbulak noted that Turkey’s heritage of craftsmanship gives it an edge in the jewellery sector.
“And of course, we are very competitive in terms of price positioning. We give buyers value for their money,” he added. “We are extremely flexible since we are willing to adjust our designs to suit our customers’ preferences. If it means altering our collections or creating an exclusive line for our clients, we can do that easily.”
JTR has also taken on a vital role in nurturing Turkey’s design talents. At the 44th edition of the Istanbul Jewelry Show (IJS) in March, the association presented the exceptional designs of the country’s up-and-coming jewellery artists. One of these promising designers is Alan Alpay, winner of JTR’s 2017 Jewelry Design Contest.
Alpay won the judging panel’s nod with his “Interstellar” ring, a voluminous gold ring inspired by cosmic wormholes using the “warp” technique.
“I am fascinated by the idea of interstellar travel and gateways connecting far-flung corners of the universe,” the designer said. “From there, I visualised a ring consisting of gold ‘tunnels’ linking star systems.”
To create the ring, Alpay used a CAD program to produce a design prototype. The ring, which is in plain gold, may be produced in versions studded with diamonds and coloured gemstones. “The possibilities are endless,” he said. “You may give the metal a matte finish or have the rings in two-tone or three-tone gold.”
Another promising designer is Elif Kilic, a US-trained gemmologist who produces capsule collections of necklaces, pendants and rings inspired by Turkish teachings and philosophy. Each piece consists of hand-carved gemstones or precious wood such as ebony and rosewood, and embellished with 18-karat or 24-karat gold studs and wires.
“My family has been in the jewellery business for nearly 25 years,” Kilic said. “After receiving my training in the US, I came back to Turkey to set up our company’s production department and launched our customised jewellery business.”
Nilgun Kadioglu, another independent jeweller, launched her career 13 years ago. The designer is famous for her bold, dramatic necklaces, brooches, bangles and rings made of blackened silver, abalone shells, diamonds and coloured gemstones such as alexandrites and rubies. Kadioglu often draws inspiration from Turkey’s traditional design motifs and nature for her capsule collections.
“My creations are one-of-a-kind,” she said. “Once I sell them, that’s it. I don’t replicate my designs.”
Kadioglu is also recognised for her social advocacy. Ten years ago, the designer opened an atelier, which was specifically established to provide free design and jewellery-making courses to orphans between the ages of nine and 14. “I have trained hundreds of children, and I love the thought of providing them with skills that they’d hopefully find useful later in life. They represent our country’s future, and I am more than happy to contribute my time, energy and skills for them to discover their potential and awaken their interest in the arts.”
Meltem Sahan is also steadily making a name for herself in Turkey. The designer recently won accolades for her “Mitakuye Oyasin” ring, a thumb ring resembling an infinity symbol and set with diamonds and coloured gemstones. An interesting element to her design are purple and black feathers that touch the back of one’s hands. The piece, which drew inspiration from the Native American Lakota Sioux universe, represents the profound connection among all living things. “We are all connected like the rays of the sun, like the waves of the ocean and like the fruits of the same tree,” Sahan said.
Another exceptional piece is Sahan’s collar necklace with detachable pendants. The design, which won the jury prize at a local competition, brings to mind colourful peacock feathers decorated with sapphires, tanzanites and emeralds.
“Right now, I am focusing on building my own brand and hopefully, breaking into the international market,” Sahan said. “That’s the dream.”
Akbulak of JTR underscored the importance of designers in Turkey’s jewellery sector.
“We’ve introduced the Designers Market at IJS because we want to provide independent jewellers and young talents the platform that they need to reach buyers and manufacturers. We need to promote and support them,” he said. The Designers Market consists of two sections – one for established designer brands and another for students or fresh graduates eyeing a career in the jewellery sector.
Rusen Simon Kostanoglu of Baget-Is made waves at IJS with his Ottoman-inspired gold dagger and scabbard set with ruby cabochons and rose-cut diamonds. The set is valued at $200,000.
“This is handmade,” Kostanoglu said. “It took us several months to finish this set.”
In addition to producing precious novelties and objets d’art, Baget-Is also manufactures diamond jewellery in traditional and contemporary designs.
“The jewellery landscape has changed,” the company owner said. “To grow and remain competitive, you have to expand your product offering and keep your price points attractive without compromising on quality.”
Mehmet Emin Alkan, owner of gold bangle manufacturer Bayramoglu, said he has successfully carved a niche in the lightweight gold bangle product category. The manufacturer has thousands of bangle designs in its portfolio, including pieces, which he said are unique only to Bayramoglu.
“I have developed tools to create elegant diamond-like detailings on my bangles,” Alkan said. “We also have bangles with contrasting textures and beautiful finishes. The pieces look voluminous but are actually very light and comfortable to wear. The edges are polished expertly, so they will not leave any marks and scratches on whoever is wearing the bangle.”
The bangle maker also takes pride in his ability to meet customers’ specific requirements.
“If they want the bangles to be narrower or broader or if they want bangles that cost $1,000 or $5,000 at wholesale, we can produce those for them,” Alkan said. “We may not be the biggest manufacturer but I have to say we are one of the best in the world, and I’ve made that possible by investing in the best people and the latest technology, and by consistently producing quality products.”