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New Book Offers a Jeweler’s Vision of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar

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If getting introduced to a jewelry brand by way of a 224-page monograph is wrong, I don’t want to be right. Because Stones of the Grand Bazaar: Meváris Jewellery From Istanbul, a new release from Rizzoli New York, has been a delightful way to familiarize myself with the work of Fatma Altınbaş, founder and designer of the jewelry line Meváris.

Equal parts travelogue, memoir, and fancy jewelry coffee-table book, it’s a celebration of the colors and cultural riches of Istanbul, with a particular focus on the Grand Bazaar, where generations of jewelry artisans have been honing their crafts for centuries.

Altınbaş was born in Cyprus and raised in Istanbul, where her family, descended from gold merchants, worked as jewelers in the Grand Bazaar, eventually growing their business into an international jewelry brand. She graduated from Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey, with a degree in international relations, and later completed her MBA in Milan. She also holds a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology; her research focused on the master artisan jewelers of the Grand Bazaar.

As such, in Stones of the Grand Bazaar, well-crafted essays interweave the history of Istanbul, the rich, multilayered evolution of the 560-year-old marketplace itself, and the world-famous jewelry-making methods that emerged there (and continue to thrive).

 

Fatma Altinbas portrait
Designer Fatma Altınbaş grew up among the master jewelry artisans of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, then went on to study this cultural landmark and its jewelry-making traditions as part of an academic thesis. Later she would apply what she learned as an adult—and remembered fondly from her youth—to the creation her own jewelry line, Meváris.
Stones of the Grand Bazaar architecture
Clockwise, from left: The Grand Bazaar was founded in the mid-15th century, only a few short years after the Ottoman conquest of the city formerly known as Constantinople. Meváris jewelry takes inspiration from the colors and architecture of Istanbul, much of it pairing teal and turquoise with shades of crimson and gold. A jewelry artisan sets stones in his workshop in the Grand Bazaar.
Mevaris jewelry
From left: The divine energies of the moon have been a great influence and source of inspiration for Altınbaş, as seen in the Black Moon medallion and Crescent ring, both by Meváris. The Harem ring, also by Meváris, is among the many contemporary pieces highlighted in the book.
Stones of the Grand Bazaar jewelry
Jewels from the designer’s personal collection include these ruby and diamond earrings (left) and an heirloom necklace belonging to her grandmother, made circa 1972.

Meváris, which means “heritage” in Ottoman, is the culmination of Altınbaş’ academic journey coupled with her innate flair for the jewelry arts. The book, with its different sections on the enduring influence of floral motifs (“Turks are said to be the first cultivators of tulips”), resplendent textiles and carpets (“the [favorite color] of the Ottomans, in fabrics and [jewelry], was crimson”), and Istanbul’s architectural marvels (“Whether historic or modern, the jewels of this city are projected before her, one by one: the opulent necklace of the Bosphorus Bridge, the heirloom brooch of the Topkapi Palace, or the ancient tiara of the Theodosian Walls”), showcases the heartbeat that sustains the designer’s vision for her brand.

And will very likely move Istanbul to the top of your post-pandemic travel bucket list.

Top: Cover of Stones of the Grand Bazaar: Meváris Jewellery From Istanbul © Rizzoli New York, 2021. (All images courtesy of Rizzoli New York)

 

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By: Amy Elliott

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