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Jewelry with an antique look and a modern touch.

Byline: Lisa Kaaki

Ever since, Rafah Malas started her jewelry business five years ago in Cairo, she has succeeded in combining distinctive design with fine quality and competitive prices.

The talented Syrian who is originally from Damascus, brought up three sons before she turned her dreams into reality.

She first created a stir in Jordan and Egypt with her regal hand embroidered shawls and then opened her own jewelry business. Rafah Malas has established a much needed niche market, between famous brands and cheaper mass produced jewelry.

Living in Cairo and Amman, Rafah designs every single piece and each is one of a kind. She always keeps a pencil and a sheet of paper at her bedside in case she suddenly has an idea.

A growing number of highly individual women are buying jewels that are well-made, not advertised everywhere and reasonably priced. This new tendency was sparked by customers who were tired of street fashion which looks the same everywhere and they were weary of the big brands whose high prices are essentially linked to celebrities and the concept of image.

Women, who are knowledgeable, read magazines, surf the net and are aware of prices. They are searching for exclusive brands which do not follow fashion too closely and most of all, which suit their nature and lifestyle. It is precisely this kind of customer who is behind the rise in popularity of the pendant. Jewelry is increasingly worn as a personal expression of style and values and the pendant, swinging lower than ever, symbolizes this sense of freedom and makes a bold fashion statement.

Rafah, however, admits that she prefers earrings and never leaves her house without a pair on! She also enjoys designing brooches. Her creative approach is untouched by fashion diktats.

She has loved jewelry all her life, especially vintage and antique jewelry: "My jewelry has an antique look with a modern touch," she explains.

She is also attracted to unusual pieces and she nurtures a real passion for natural stones. She uses mainly pearls, emeralds and diamonds but also works with semi-precious stones such as citrine, peridot and aquamarine.

Her current inspirations are both Victorian and Mughal art. Consequently, she has set up a workshop in India where she spends up to three months a year buying stones and creating new pieces: "All my pieces are one of a kind. This is a major reason for my success. When a woman buys a piece of jewelry, she wants to be the only one wearing it and that is a normal feeling," says Rafah.

Her exquisite jewelry is the best kept secret in town. Rafah sells exclusively by appointment, she also participates in more than 10 jewelry shows a year: In Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Syria, New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris and Munich. Moreover, she has shops in Egypt: Two in Cairo, one in Sharm El Sheikh and one in Alexandria. Her jewelry line is also available in Jordan.

She acknowledges that it is difficult for a woman to establish a jewelry business single handedly. "You have to have talent, be patient, be a perfectionist and be well-connected," she concludes.

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Geographic Code:7EGYP
Date:Jun 26, 2008
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