Lebanese jeweller Yeprem adds futuristic touches to latest collection

Lebanese jeweller Yeprem's new collection blends classical beauty with modern innovation, writes Divia Harilela

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 January, 2014, 7:11pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 January, 2014, 7:11pm

The world of fine jewellery has undergone a major transformation in recent years, thanks to a group of innovative designers that are charting new territory with their bold creations. Virna Chakardemian of Beirut-based label Yeprem is one of these risk takers, and this is evident as soon as you meet her.

She is hard to miss in a sculpted bustier dress by Armani, her fiery red hair adding a rock'n'roll touch. But what really catches your eye are the clusters of diamonds that wrap around her ears like a vine of flowers in full bloom.

"What we are doing is innovative, revolutionary, unique and different. We want the woman who wears Yeprem to know that she is wearing Yeprem. Our designs are definitely conversational pieces," she says.

A glance at her recent collection, which is designed exclusively for fine jewellery e-tailer Plukka, is testament to her trailblazing look. Featuring gold, diamond and pearl ear cuffs, hand jewels and rings, Yeprem's designs are more than just fancy adornments: they are wearable art.

Futuristic yet elegant, the diamond Cyborg ring is made up of three pairs of plain and diamond-set gold bands attached by chains, while the Guinevere Chainmail ring is designed for the pinky finger and comprises an alternating series of five joined gold bands accented by a flexible panel of diamond-studded chain mail covering the fingernail.

The Apostrophe earrings feature two separate designs worn as a pair. For one ear, there's a diamond cuff with a large diamond drop cluster dangling off the lobe, while the other passes through the earlobe with diamonds exploding from the back and front.

Then you have her signature hand jewels. The Cyborg palm bracelet covers the hand like modern armour with alternating ribs of gold and diamonds. On the other end of the spectrum is the Chandra I hand bracelet, which features clusters of marquis-cut diamonds that appear to float across the hand and fingers, with no visible bands or wires.

"What makes us different is that we emphasise the movement of the jewellery. You can't understand the piece on its own - you need to see it on hands or ears. It's about jewellery that moves you. It has always been part of our story from the beginning," says Chakardemian.

Yeprem's story goes back over 50 years. Founded in Beirut by Chakardemian's father in 1964, it started as a diamond wholesale business, but quickly earned a reputation among the style set for its unique jewels. The business took on a new dimension when Chakardemian joined in 2002, along with her two brothers, who oversee the financial side of the business.

"I initially studied interior design just to have a larger point of view in art, because it helped me create jewellery that was different. When I went into the business I knew it was important to have a style that the market had never seen. If we stayed within the classic realm, we could not compete with the rest of the world. Our style had to have an emotion, a story, a concept, a twist," she says.

Chakardemian began working on many of the designs several years ago, long before hand jewellery and ear cuffs were even in fashion. Her inspiration came from all sorts of places, including a trip to India for a wedding where the bride's henna tattoos inspired many of her designs.

What makes us different is that we emphasise the movement of the jewellery
VIRNA CHAKARDEMIAN, YEPREM

"My first creation was back at that time when I went to an Indian wedding. Of course, the look was very fashion forward for our customers but I wanted to reinterpret the concept into a classical piece as well. So while Yeprem jewellery is complex and edgy, it's still delicate and feminine. Our jewellery reflects a self-confident lady with a certain style who wants to feel unique," she says.

Naturally, bringing these designs to life was the biggest challenge for Chakardemian and her team of craftsmen, who are based in Beirut (the city is a major centre of jewellery production in the Middle East). Despite their vast years of experience, they had to ensure the designs were beautiful yet functional.

"Everything is done in-house, from the creation of the piece, to the production, to the final stage. We try several moulds to get to the final piece if it doesn't work out from the first time," she says.

Integral to Yeprem's designs is wearability and comfort. Many of the styles are made to order to ensure the best fit and feature complicated movements and hinges so they sit well on the body. And even though many of the pieces are decked out in diamonds, they are still light and flexible.

"It's hard to execute. We start with an initial idea, and then we have a design department that draws the pieces. In order to manufacture them, we have different people working on certain elements. Each line is developed by people specialised in different techniques.

"People ask if we will move production to China but it's not on the cards. We want to keep the high quality and we supervise everything. My father chooses every diamond we use on each piece," says Chakardemian.

Because of the time and attention that go into making each piece, Yeprem's production is limited in quantity. For now Yeprem is exclusive to Plukka in Asia, although Chakardemian develops new lines for particular markets.

"For each line we don't overproduce. We take the collection to one area, sell it and that's it. It's important we always challenge ourselves with the design and create something new. That's why the customer comes to us in the first place," she says.

divia.harilela@scmp.com