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Fancy Cuts, Jacket Rings and Hidden Symbols – Exploring the Modern Shabka

How to approach the modern-day shabka

shabka

Perching on the fourth finger of the left hand resides not one, not two, but a parure of three rings traditionally gifted in the Middle East to the bride-to-be by the groom – the “Shabka.”  If to “tie the knot” denotes the ceremonial union of two lovers, then a Shabka is both the figurative “tie” and literal emblem of said “knot.” The bridal ring triad encompasses a gold band, a diamond eternity ring as well as a solitaire ring. We conversed with three of Egypt’s most inspirational women, to explore the contemporary perspective on curating one’s, arguably, three most cherished rings.

THE TRILLION ROSE CUT SHABKA FILLED WITH CHARACTER OF FATMA GHALY, CEO OF AZZA FAHMY

Uniquely immersed in the world of jewels at infancy, a proud daughter of a jewellery pioneer with an eponymous brand, the iconic Azza Fahmy, combined with being at the helm of the legacy jeweller for over two decades – one might ponder, how did Fatma Ghaly navigate the process of choosing her Shabka?

“For me it is a symbol of a special connection,” explains Fatma when elaborating on her interpretation of the ring parure. Surpassing all expectation when describing her solitaire ring’s central stone, Ghaly recounted, “I knew for sure that I didn’t want a round brilliant cut. I wanted a rose cut, I find them to be very special…[a rose cut] almost has flaws and these flaws give it character,” and who better to assume the creative undertaking than Fatma’s sister, Amina Ghali, the immensely talented Head Designer at Azza Fahmy.

Fatma Ghaly

“For us [at Azza Fahmy] the bespoke process is very personal. Amina travels to India and sources the stone, and that being me, the process was even more personal.” A sense of ease and sentimentality permeated the creative process behind Ghaly’s engagement set. “[Amina and I] understand each other very well…I said very few things, beyond that I trusted that she would do whatever is best. I was interested in a rose cut [for my solitaire ring]…I did not want it to be [an elaborate ring] that is sitting in the safe…[and] I requested a pharaonic design element [through iconography portraying love, prosperity and abundance for my gold wedding band].” Of course, it would not be a true Azza Fahmy design without symbolism imbued within the piece – at the shank to be specific, “[Amina] put two lotus flowers on the sides as a sign of rebirth and new beginnings,” Ghaly recalled.

But, perhaps most intriguing of all is the story behind Fatma’s eternity band, to which she unexpectedly clutched her ears and replied, “I just took off my earrings!” seemingly about to demonstrate the ring that was enquired about. Both curious and excited by her response, she conveyed to us, “I explained to Amina that, I would never wear the [traditional ring with] five stones, it’s not me…[instead] we ended up buying two bigger stones and three smaller ones… Amina made [the two bigger stones] for me as studs…with a tiny gold rectangle that has my name on it on one side, and my husband’s name on the other.” The remaining diamonds are nestled together to form Fatmas’s eternity ring. With the aforementioned riddle solved, in essence, the traditional diamond band sits partially on Ghaly’s lobes and partially on her finger.

To conclude, Fatma shared her golden rule for the prospective Shabka buyer, “[she should] get something she loves, because what happens a lot of the time is that people get caught up in the material value of it. High quality and colour [of a diamond] matter of course, but I think what matters more is that you really fall in love with the [aesthetic of the] stone…I think at the end of the day this is a very personal and very emotional decision, so it cannot be purely based on logic,” perfectly encapsulating the whimsical endeavour of procuring one’s Shabka.

THE EMERALD CUT SHABKA CELEBRATING SENTIMENTALITY OF SHAM AL ZAHABI, CHEMIST, SCIENTIST & FOUNDER OF DAO DERMA SKIN CLINIC

In the midst of her long list of academic and professional accolades, is an innate eye for jewellery – one of Sham’s lesser-known fortes. An unequivocal, “yes,” prefaced the scientist’s answer when enquired about her preferred diamond cut. “I have always been obsessed with the emerald cut and the cushion cut. Not so much the round.” Contrary, to the conventional favouring of a diamond’s blinding light, Al Zahabi is captivated by the “subtle shine” and “low profile” nature of the emerald cut, “I think it is a reflection of myself” she adds.

Sham Al Zahabi

Unbeknownst to a mere sixteen-year-old Sham, an impressionable encounter at Cartier’s bridal vitrine would foreshadow her fascination with fancy cut diamonds and three-stone ring settings, “I fell in love. That ring was the first time I fell in love with a cushion cut…[it was] connected to two trilliant cut diamonds.” Over a decade later, traces of the mesmeric memory would resurface at the crux of her solitaire ring’s design – an emerald cut diamond between the embrace of two tapered diamond baguettes. Amgad Ghaly’s passion for design propelled Al Zahabi to work with the jeweller to bring her piece to life, especially given her immense appreciation for “craftsmanship, fine details and delicate setting” in jewellery. “Near invisible claws” and an understated white gold setting blending in “the background,” were paramount to the savoir-faire enthusiast realising a cohesive aesthetic – with the center stone, at center stage.

Utterly enthralled by emerald cut diamonds, the elongated silhouette appeared in the design of her Shabka once more, this time in her eternity band. “I love how [emerald cuts] look like lined-up next to each other, I like how when you look at [emerald cuts] you feel there are steps in their interior – I love that. I love that I can see through [them],” denoting the hypnotic dimension appreciated by true step cut aficionados, including Sham. On the contrary, the chemist’s yellow gold band mirrors her more minimal inclinations with regards to everyday jewellery,“[I] work with my hands and like them to be light. I wanted something dainty.”

Among the most critical facets of an ideal Shabka, is its ability to immortalise a treasured moment, while simultaneously embodying the wearer’s personality according to Al Zahabi.  There are certain diamond cuts that “people find themselves in,” or are drawn to. “Each shape has a certain energy [about it], the roundness of a brilliant cut, is different from the sharp edges of a princess cut…each person resonates with a specific type of shape,” elaborates the founder. Such intuitively and personally informed ring choice ensures a tangible timelessness about the bridal ring set. “I believe that the design of [one’s] Shabka is something that should last a lifetime and should not be changed,” Sham emphasises, “even if I, one day, would like to have something else [as my Shabka], this preliminary design should remain as a memory of that very cherished moment.”

THE MARQUISE CUT SHABKA DEFYING CONVENTION OF YASMINE KENAWI, CELEBRITY STYLIST

“Celebrity styling is very fun because for me, it’s all about storytelling,” not-so ironically, Yasmine’s Shabka does just that. Each ring tells a story, laced with “out of the box” design. As a testament to her mastery of the craft, Kenawi innately introduced the design of her solitaire ring from a styling perspective, “the marquise fits me well because I have slim long fingers and long nails, so it just looks really clean on the finger. It kind of elongates my fingers…I [love] the pointiness and edginess that [the marquise] has which suits my character a lot.” As we witness the pinnacle of fancy cut diamonds’ popularity in bridal jewellery, Kenawi reveals the origins of her admiration for the double-pointed cut, “the first marquise ring I ever got was a birthday gift from my parents, it was an amethyst…I got it during a very difficult time in my life. It just showed up to me and it became such a big part of who I was.” The ring later fell off her finger and mysteriously vanished. “When I got my bridal set and was wearing it, [I realised] there was no space for the amethyst ring anymore…[it] felt like it was meant to be…it was a beautiful goodbye.”

Yasmine Kenawi

Still, Yasmine’s fate with the fancy cut was to experience a final plot twist as the protagonist of her solitaire ring, “I didn’t realise that the marquise cut as a stone is really thin – like aggressively thin.” She explained that, the addition of a, “subtle [diamond] halo, from underneath the stone…blend[ed] in with the [central] diamond,” allowing her desired silhouette to come to fruition by the brilliant Harry Vartan Jewelry.

“I wanted to do something that is not typical,” Yasmine affirms as she describes her reasons for deviating from the prominent five-diamond eternity band epitomising the traditional Shabka. She explains, “I wanted the ring to be braided…it reminds me of my fiancé and I’s journey, it [looks] like an infinity [sign],” and is peppered with pavé diamonds. With styling and versatility at the forefront of her ring selection, Yasmine detailed, “I wanted the wedding band to [fit in] a V-shape underneath the marquise because I really like the stacked look, I think it’s so cool and it’s so different.” The stylist’s “jacket” silhouette wedding band was crafted using rose gold and set with a central emerald cut diamond. The piece was intentionally designed to accommodate endless styling possibilities (and is perhaps an emblem of Kenawi’s expertise).

Her Shabka’s style in three words? “Classy, edgy and versatile,” responds Yasmine as she reveals a page from her bridal jewellery playbook, “I did not prioritise the carat [weight], I did my research properly, [and] I knew exactly what I wanted going into the process…this made it so smooth for me.” As our conversation comes to an end she concludes, “so that was my approach [for choosing my Shabka], I found a different way to do [things] rather than just the normal way – which is also not something that everyone would want to do!”

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