This past weekend, I roamed through the excellent new Beyond King Tut exhibit at the National Geographic Museum in Washington D.C. There were so many fascinating things to see and read, but my joy-o-meter really started buzzing when, in one room of the exhibit, oversized projections of jewelry unearthed from various Ancient Egyptian tombs danced across the walls.
The Ancient Egyptians prized adornment, and gold above all, and were innovators in jewelry craft; they mined, cut, and carved stones including lapis lazuli, turquoise, beryl, and malachite to set in their jewelry. And they took the concept of “meaningful jewelry” to new heights; most jewels in Ancient Egypt were imbued with meaning or purpose—to please the gods, sustain health, wisdom, healthy crops, or provide protection in the next life (the boy king Tutankhamun was entombed with symbolic jewels meant to guard him during his journey through the Underworld).
Ever since Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered by British archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922—and the hundreds of extraordinary handmade items buried with him were splashed across the front pages of newspapers globally—jewelry designers have been deeply inspired by the artistry, colors, and motifs used by the Ancient Egyptians.
The latest jewelry designer to divine inspiration from the legendary Valley of the Kings is Valérie Messika, founder of French diamond-centric jewelry maison, Messika. The Parisian atelier characterizes it latest high jewelry collection, Beyond the Light, as “a retro-futuristic symphony subtly tinged with Egypt and its hypnotic mythology.”
The most referential piece in the series is also the collection’s masterpiece: the Akh-Ba-Ka necklace, which features a classic Egyptian winged scarab with a 33 ct. diamond body surrounded by 15 good-sized diamonds. The other notably voluminous piece, the multi-row necklace, encircles the neck up high with seven rings of yellow gold or diamond-pave white gold. The seven rings were intentional—the number is considered powerful and protective in Egyptian culture.
“Ancient Egypt emanates a mystery, an almost magical aura that evokes eternity,” said Valérie Messika in a statement. We couldn’t agree more. Cast your eyes on these forever jewels from the house of Messika. —Emili Vesilind