Nigora Tokhtabayeva, founder and CEO of fine jewelry brand Tabayer, was born in Uzbekistan and grew up understanding that jewelry could be much more than mere adornment. Protective amulets and jewelry imbued with spiritual symbolism were a part of her family heritage. And they inform her latest collection, Oera.
Defined by curving, looping tubes of buttery 18k yellow gold—sometimes peppered in diamonds—the Oera collection was inspired by “the idea of re-imagining for today an ancient symbol of protection,” says Tokhtabayeva, who with her team researched symbols for her latest line, eventually zeroing in on an ancient Mesopotamian symbol of protection called Inanna’s Knot. The symbol portrays a bundle of coiled reeds that represent the doorpost of a storehouse—a symbol of fertility (Inanna was an ancient Mesopotamian goddess).
“We went through a process of searching for the shape and eventually looked to the work of artist Isamu Noguchi’s tubular shapes and Alexander Archipenko’s ground-breaking innovations in modern sculpture.”
The resulting designs, which include pendant necklaces, clever two-part earrings, and rings, are simultaneously linear and sculptural. The gorgeous $18,000 Oera ring (the Loop version with diamonds, shown below) is the ne plus ultra of these offerings. We caught up with Tokhtabayeva to talk about how she and her team brought it to life.
The Zing Report: Hi, Nigora! How did you come up with this creative loop for the Oera ring?
Nigora Tokhtabayeva: We were looking to create a symbol where a link to the Inanna’s Knot was visible but not immediately obvious. In searching for this form, we tried imagining what Inanna’s Knot looked like—the records are scarce—and so looked to shapes that evoked the texture of the reeds bound together and the movement of the coil. Initially our process took us to Barbara Hepsworth, Jackie Windsor’s 30 to 1 Bound Trees, and Eva Hesse, and later to Isamu Noguchi’s tubular minimalism (see below) and Alexander Archipenko’s work.
The scattering of diamonds—how did you map that out?
The influences of the Modernist American sculpture injected this almost mathematically precise consideration of every element in the design, including the position of each diamond. We felt [the diamonds] needed to be treated like a separate story rather than merely an embellishment. Each diamond was carefully considered and placed by the designer on the 3D model that was created in CAD.
What was the most challenging aspect of fabricating this piece?
Setting the diamonds on the inside of the loop and making sure the ring was the ideal weight for optimum comfort to wear.
The interior of the ring looks smooth and beautiful—what did you have to do to make this comfy for the wearer?
It was challenging! The tubular design of the Oera knot features a knife’s edge running from the center to one side, resulting in a pear shape on one end, and the ‘tube’ shape running from the center to another side, resulting in a circular shape on the other end, which symbolizes the balance of vulnerability and strength. We made sure the inside of the ring transitioned from round to flat at the perfect place to make the ring as comfortable as possible to wear.
Top: Oera ring, $18,000, fabricated in 18k Fairmined yellow gold and set with a 0.70 ct. brilliant-cut diamond (on the end of the loop) and paved with an additional 0.96 cts. t.w. diamonds.
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