Siran Manoukian is a fashion designer and jewellery expert. She discusses with City A.M. how she found inspiration in Stoned, a book on the history of precious rocks.
"From a very young age I was interested in jewellery. I remember how my mum had the most beautiful collection, and before school each day I’d ask her to model her jewellery for me. It would drive her nuts, but it made me so happy so she’d always do it. She thought she could get away with buying me pieces that looked similar to hers, but even at the age of five I’d know if it was a fake and ask to wear hers instead.
"I studied jewellery design and diamonds at the Gemology Institute of America in London, which taught me about the business side of the industry. After that I started making custom-made jewellery through word of mouth, rather than selling into stores. Things went really well, and so I took that creative energy and imagination into the world of fashion. I would see clothing and wonder how it could be improved or made more feminine. I wanted to design things I saw but couldn’t have, and that’s basically how I started out.
"When I read Stoned by Aja Raden, I learned about the social history of jewellery, how cities and countries were established and run using these precious stones, about their historical and geological origins. I remember turning to my dad and saying, “did you realise that Manhattan was bought with glass beads?” And even he, with all his business experience, hadn’t realised the immense importance of stones as a rare commodity, distinct from jewellery, throughout history. It was enlightening.
"I felt so naive after reading this book, and learning about the wars that were fought over them. By this point I had moved out of jewellery design, so I began to think of ways to incorporate elements of jewellery into my clothing. Unless you’re doing haute-couture design and using actual diamonds, the only real way to bridge the gap between jewellery and clothing is through careful choice of colours and fabrics. Emerald green is a great example of a jewel-inspired fabric. It’s the rarest – and often most expensive – kind of stone in the world.
"You can see how jewellery inspired my collection, which uses metallic and sparkly elements, while remaining soft and comfortable to wear. For me, whether it’s a jewel or a dress, it’s the beauty of the object that really matters."