For The Love Of Silver

By Sonya Rehman

It was during her tenure as a journalist for an English daily newspaper in the mid-90s in Lahore, that Amna Shariff felt the urge to switch gears. She had been working full-time at the publication for six years and was ready to pursue a new career which would give her greater creative freedom and the challenge of new skills.

Therefore in 1994, Shariff launched her very own arts and crafts gallery in the city which was not only frequented by artists, but also by art connoisseurs. It was during this time that Shariff felt an epiphany when she began creating her own art pieces – mainly home accessories in metal – which resonated with her artistic expression.

Amna Shariff at her studio in Lahore. Photo: Zain Peerzada.

A few years later, in 2000, Shariff set off to London to dive into short summer courses at the Chelsea & Kensington College in jewelry-making and metal work.

“I wasn’t initially interested in silver jewelry, I was more inclined towards creative design works such as handcrafting skills and techniques,” she says, “But towards the end of my jewelry-making course, I requested my teacher to take me on as a private student at her studio in Brick Lane where she, along with two other designers, made their own jewelry. They ended up devising a special syllabus for me for six days and took me through several jewelry techniques. That was the beginning of my journey.”

Filigree kite with lapislazuli and turquoise earrings in pure silver by Amna Shariff. Photo: Fizzah Haroon.

Returning to Lahore, armed with new knowledge on the craft of jewelry and also, a new lease on life, Shariff invested in tools and began practicing “obsessively.”

For almost eight months, the budding designer worked on techniques that she had been taught, understanding and refining her craft as she went along. It was exhilarating, and for the first time in years, Shariff felt connected to work which was hands-on and allowed her imagination to run free and unbridled. She was finally in her element.

“Crafting is my muse,” the designer states, “It’s meditative. It guides me through my creative process. The skill of jewelry-making speaks to me…silver inspires me to explore its vocabulary and possibilities.”

In 2001, Shariff formally launched her very own silver jewelry brand (under her own name) with a small studio and one craftsman.

A model wears pieces designed by Amna Shariff. Photo: Sapna Khan.

“Silver is a beautiful metal to work with due to its malleability, it provides opportunities for experimentation and it isn’t super expensive either,” she says, “For me personally, silver represents purity, the moon, femininity and a radiant enchantment.”

Starting out as one of the few silver jewelry designers in Lahore, Shariff’s pieces were initially approached with a mix of trepidation and fascinated curiosity.

Amna Shariff’s gold-plated lotus earrings. Photo: Zain Peerzada.

This is because there wasn’t much of a demand for silver jewelry in Lahore at the time. Gold jewelry was far more sought-after – and still is. But just as with any new brand that brings something new and original to the table, a taste for silver had to be developed in the local market.

And develop it did.

“I think Pakistanis have an appreciation for silver jewelry now,” the designer states, “Times have changed, but I still think there’s a lack of awareness with regards to handmade silver jewelry as compared to costume jewelry, for instance. I think there is still more room for it to grow and be valued locally.”

The ‘Lahore Lapis Ring’ by Amna Shariff. Photo: Fizzah Haroon.

Since the launch of her brand, Shariff has stocked at multiple stores of a local fashion brand (for a contract which lasted ten years), has exhibited her work extensively in Pakistan and internationally (in the United States, the United Kingdom, India and Kenya), and currently sells her work at a gallery in London, a high-end store in Istanbul, Turkey, including an online shop based out of the United States.

With plans to focus on the international market once the pandemic peters out, Shariff attributes her success to her team of three craftsmen, namely; Mubashir, Attiq and Zohaib.

Amna Shariff exhibiting her work in Dallas, Texas, in 2018.

“They’ve been with me for more than fifteen years and I owe the brand’s success to their dedication, their craft and their skills. All of us have really evolved together.”

Currently working on several collections, Shariff states that her work is a reflection of her personality.

“I regard authenticity with utmost importance. I believe in the saying that one must run from tradition and modernity and only then one can find their own space. The vernacular that I’ve developed over time still finds its roots in tradition, however it also relates to the contemporary without being soul-less,” she says, “I’m free-spirited without being frivolous and mature without being stuck in the past. And that’s what I try to bring to my jewelry brand. It values traditional crafts and adapts to the contemporary lifestyle. Each of my pieces are an endeavor to be true to this very philosophy.”

Forbes


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