WOW | Designs On You

THE PERFECT MIX OF LOVE & SILVER

Kathmandu’s burgeoning appetite for jewellery is unquestionable and now there’s also a sizeable, growing segment of people experimenting with statement jewellery pieces in silver. Maya Handicrafts Jewelry is offering just that. Owned by Yasmin and Sameer Shakya, the store provides some of the most traditional gold jewellery designs in silver. “Tilari was one of our first designs and it is also the most sold jewellery piece,” says Yasmin, a native of Netherlands.

Married to Sameer Shakya, Yasmin was a Dental Hygienist in Netherlands and moved to Nepal four years back. When asked if she can speak Nepali, she replies, ali ali. In fact the first word she picked up was maya. When she understood the meaning, she wanted her store to be named Maya. “I told her several times that every street of Kathmandu must have a store named Maya but she was in love with the word and hence Maya Handicrafts Jewelry was born,” recalls Sameer.

In a conversation with WOW’s Ankita Jain, the couple talks about their contemporary designs, the popularity of silver and more. Excerpts:

When did you establish Maya Handicrafts Jewelry?

Sameer: We started almost two years ago. Yasmin moved from Netherlands to Kathmandu almost four years ago. She was looking for something to do in Nepal, and initially was helping at our family jewellery store. Today, most of the designs are hand sketched by her and I am the one assigned to find the right craftsman.

Yasmin: I got interested in the designing aspect. The Nepali design of Tilari really inspired me and I have been fascinated by Nepali traditional jewellery designs since and the stories behind each one. One of our friend has a store named Timro Concept Store. She said that there are a lot of customers interested in silver jewellery but she lacked contemporary silver jewellery supply.

Since people here prefer gold over silver, we weren’t sure if our designs would find a market. Giving it a try, we started supplying to Timro Concept Store in the first phase. We were targeting foreigners as they are keener about silver but we found that locals are interested too. We increased our presence on Instagram and with the growing demand opened our own store at Chhaya Center, Thamel.

What is the main draw of your collection?

Yasmin: All my designs are really affordable, everyday wear with a dash of history. My designs range from Rs 500 to Rs 100,000. We have designs which have existed for ages but were never available in silver. We also have pieces in silver which are a design mix of retro and trendy. While some come in sterling silver, others are made in pure silver.

Sameer: Our jewellery can be worn with both western and traditional outfits.

Each piece in your collections come with a story. Could you tell us more?

Yasmin: When I was helping Sameer at his family store, I learnt about various design stories through the craftsmen, and it really moved me. I want people to wear statement pieces which have a story and meaning. For example: the chulthey bala which literally means twisted bracelet and if you look closely both ends of this bracelet hold two elephant heads which stand for strength and good luck. The other design being one of our most ethnic looking earrings known as Marwari. Within this design there are symbolic animal heads visible that are supposed to protect the wearer. There are only few silversmiths left who are able to make this Marwari earring. Besides, we also have Tharu jewellery designs in our collection.

Is there a growing interest in contemporary jewellery?

Yasmin: Most people are under the impression that silver does not come in innovative designs; we wanted to change that misconception. And the younger generation isn’t bound by gold only, they like experimenting. Most of our customers are in the age group of 18-35. They look for minimalistic jewellery.

Often jewellery designers double up as stylists helping customers match jewellery with their outfits. Any such experiences…

Sameer: We do provide with styling tips. We had an online customer from China and she wanted to celebrate her birthday in Bollywood style. She shared pictures of her dress and we customised the right jewellery for her.

Yasmin: It’s not often that we are asked to style but whenever such opportunities hit, we give it our 100%.

Are the artisans paid well in this industry?

Sameer: No, they aren’t. This is the reason that there are a handful of artisans left who can design traditional jewellery with utmost perfection. With Maya, we want to make sure that our artisans are paid deservingly. This way both we and the artisans will survive.

The future…

Yasmin: We are working on a men’s collection. We will be soon coming up with cufflinks. We also want to have an extensive range of ankle bracelets.

Sameer: We will soon have our own website.