We recently spoke with jewelry designer Noor Shamma, who was calling from her family home in Abu Dhabi, about her jewelry vibes, what it was like to grow up with four sisters and why sustainability is such a vital part of her brand.
Noor Shamma has always been the creative type. And while she was talented in most of the artistic endeavors she attempted, she never felt fully satisfied. Sure, the paintings were beautiful and the ceramics were delicately crafted, but Noor eventually moved on. “I used to be a jack-of-all-trades, so I’ve tried everything to do with art: drawing, painting, pottery, ceramics, drawing on glass, tailoring, embroidery — I’ve always loved to try things.” And then, like the third act of a romantic comedy, jewelry design came into the picture and suddenly she had found the one.
Growing up in a household with four sisters, which Noor describes as “full of hormones and drama,” she sought respite in needlepointing, which she began learning at the age of six from her grandmother, who was an established seamstress. The sense of order and organization that the stitching required gave her Aries self a sense of calm and purpose. And so, when she began designing jewelry, she found herself translating the familiar motifs and stitch designs into gold: a tribute to the beauty of needlecraft and her grandmother’s skill. “I think that was my primary inspiration when I converted these patterns into jewelry; that’s how the Répertoire collection started.”
All of Noor’s collections are inspired by important moments, people, and designs. “I’m more connected to the sentimental aspect that comes with jewelry,” she explains. “To me it was always related to an occasion. Like: this is the first piece of jewelry I had when I was a kid, or when I was in love…” She began to marry the idea of jewelry’s sentimentality with her specific design influences to create pieces that were not just aesthetically beautiful, but would also carry meaning for the wearer — memories and markers taking physical shape. Architecture is a significant inspiration: She’s drawn to the intricate designs of gothic buildings and Middle Eastern decoration, elements of which show up in her pieces. “Interesting flow, shape, form. Pattern is something I’m super obsessed with.”
I’m more connected to the sentimental aspect that comes with jewelry. To me it was always related to an occasion. Like: this is the first piece of jewelry I had when I was a kid, or when I was in love…”
During the day, Noor jots thoughts and ideas in a small Moleskine notebook she carries around; in the evening, she parses through the scribbled pages to find inspiration for her next piece. “I always always always write in my journal.” Since music is too distracting (“I can’t even work out with headphones!”), she opts for the lulling chatter of a television show in the background as she begins to sketch (currently: How to Get Away With Murder). Once she settles on a design, she works with skilled technicians, based in New York City, to determine the best way to execute it. Her pieces are meant to be worn all the time — “from day to night, office to party” — so she is particularly focused on making sure they are beautiful and comfortable. Sometimes, an unexpected path reveals itself: For example, her Répertoire U-hoops began life as a cufflink, but after some trials it became clear the piece was destined for the ear instead of the cuff. And as she was learning the trade, Noor crossed paths with industry experts who espoused the importance of sustainability, something she took to heart. Her brand focuses on using recycled materials and engages in responsible mining practices. This attention to detail is evident in every inch of Noor’s work, from the designs accounting for different earlobe sizes to her thoughtful use of gemstones that flatter different skin tones.
Though it took some time to get here, and while she used the patented Goldilocks method to figure it out, Noor ended up exactly where she belongs: making beautiful, meaningful things for the world. For you.
While all designers have different paths, they share one thing: courage. Courage to try new things, courage to fail, courage to take a chance. As the old folk saying goes: Try everything, and repeat what you love.