Designers / Gold / Industry

How I Got Here: Azra Mehdi on Jewelry as an Expression of Self-Care


Azra Mehdi was the first lawyer in her family, but a lifelong fascination with jewelry and desire for learning led her to shift into building a jewelry brand after decades as an attorney.

“Jewelry beckoned me. I’ve been obsessed with jewelry for as long as I can remember,” Mehdi says. “I mean, who wouldn’t be, growing up in India surrounded by the mind-blowing explosion of metalsmithing artistry?”

As CEO and designer for Beverly Hills–based Azra Mehdi Jewelry, Mehdi says she is telling the story of her family and her culture, sharing her views on why jewelry is an emotional purchase, and offering women the ultimate expression of self-care.

She introduced Azra Mehdi Jewelry in January, transitioning from AuXchange Gold Jewelry, the company she’d founded just before the pandemic began. This latest project feels more personal, she says.

Azra Mehdi Mom Necklaces
Mom necklaces come in a variety of languages, including Hindi (top, $990) and Japanese ($2,400).

Mehdi grew up mostly in Mumbai and partly in Dubai, the youngest of five children of a stay-at-home mother who firmly believed her daughters and sons should have equal opportunities for education. Mehdi’s first jewelry memory is of intricate 24k yellow gold bangles her father bought her when she was 11 for successfully fasting for the full month of Ramadan.

“I always knew my father adored me, but the bangles were a tangible expression,” she says. “My father lived and worked in a different country—phone calls were expensive, snail mail too slow, and there was no WhatsApp or internet, so we weren’t able to communicate as often as we would have liked. The gold bangles were a beautiful, constant reminder of his love for me. It made me realize that for me, gold jewelry’s intrinsic value was more emotional than economic.”

After graduating from high school in Mumbai, Mehdi immigrated to the United States at 17, settling in Chicago, where one of her brothers lived. She studied English and German literature at the University of Illinois in Chicago, and had her first real job at a dry cleaner, handling the cash register and folding laundry.

“I very quickly learned not to mix whites and colors—something you can do remarkably well in jewelry design,” Mehdi says. “More importantly, I learned that I definitely wanted to be in an environment where I was intellectually or creatively challenged.”

Azra Mehdi Cuff Bracelets
Azra Mehdi’s cuff bracelets (from $1,400) are designed so women can put them on or take them off without needing help from someone else to fasten or undo a clasp.

She graduated from Chicago’s DePaul law school in 1996 and got a job at a plaintiffs’ class action law firm in New York. She transferred to its San Francisco office in 2001.

“My practice was concentrated in antitrust and consumer protection, but I also did some securities litigation after moving,” Mehdi says. “That firm litigated the Enron and WorldCom securities cases, which recovered billions for investors. I had the privilege of working on the WorldCom case for many years.”

In that San Francisco office, Mehdi met her husband (also an attorney), and they now have two teenage children. He is her biggest cheerleader, she says, and he encouraged her to pursue her longtime interest in jewelry design.

“I had watched my mother save money from her household and grocery budget to buy gold jewelry, one piece at a time,” Mehdi recalls. “While I was too young to appreciate it at the time, gold jewelry in the hands of my mother and many other women without education like her was a powerful tool for female empowerment. The jewelry my mother purchased with her savings belonged to her, and she alone could do with it as she saw fit.

Mehdi pink Sapphire Necklace
The pink sapphire heart necklace ($5,250), in Azra Mehdi’s Sweetheart collection, is a celebration of timeless love, the designer says.

“I did the same thing when I could afford to buy my own jewelry,” she says. “I first purchased gold and gemstones for myself, probably in the late 1990s, and then began to design my own gold jewelry. I started helping friends and family design or procure jewelry.”

Azra Mehdi Jewelry follows its founder’s personal philosophy that jewelry should move and work with busy lifestyles—Mehdi is a wife, mother, and a professional, and she wants pieces that are comfortable and lightweight. Her Fancy Flat earrings, for example, may weigh almost eight grams, with solid gold and gemstones on all sides of the hoops, but they don’t weigh earlobes down.

Mehdi draws inspiration from her culture and from architecture, and traditions worldwide. Her brand’s Mom collection features pendants with the word or character for “mom” in diverse languages, including Chinese, Arabic, and Urdu. The Sahara collection is an homage to Middle Eastern and North African artifacts, fairy tales, and dreams.

“Most importantly, I design jewelry that empowers woman to live their fullest, most beautiful life every day without compromising on other aspects of their lives or style, quality, or price,” Mehdi says.

Top: Azra Mehdi was a successful attorney before fully embracing her passion for jewelry and starting her eponymous brand. (Photos courtesy of Azra Mehdi Jewelry)

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Karen Dybis

By: Karen Dybis

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