The Paris-born, Chicago-based designer behind Almasika and its “grown-up talisman” jewelry
Talismanic jewelry has arguably never been more popular. But Almasika isn’t simply jumping on the proverbial bandwagon. Its signature collection, Le Cauri Endiamanté, is built on a beloved centuries-old symbol: the cowrie shell. “They represent spirituality, prosperity, and even fertility in many cultures around the world. I wanted to pay homage to this ancestral symbol,” says designer Catherine Sarr. “I used to wear a natural cowrie shell pendant when I was a teenager.” Now those pieces are crafted from diamonds (almasi in Swahili) and gold (sika in various West African languages).
Number of years in the biz: 16
Number of employees you oversee: Me with agencies and consultants.
Family and pets: Twin girls, two boys, and my lovely husband.
Describe your personal style: Minimalist with interesting details and sometimes bold colors.
First piece you ever designed: Diamond cowrie shell that became central to my Le Cauri Endiamanté collection.
Piece of jewelry you’re most proud of: My Berceau bracelet. It is a simple band of gold, which undulates around the wrist. We went through multiple iterations to get to a seamless look and feel.
Best piece of advice you ever received: “Taking a step backward can be the way forward.”
Worst piece of advice: “Play safe.”
First job ever: Working at my local pharmacy in Château-Thierry, France. Even in the smallest French villages you will see the reassuring green cross. Pharmacies play a significant role in our lives, so I felt very important!
How did you get started designing jewelry? I spent several years at the heart of the fine jewelry industry in London promoting gold and diamond jewelry.
If you weren’t designing jewelry, what would you be doing? I would probably be a naturopathic practitioner. I have a passion for natural medicine, and I am this annoying friend who would recommend essential oils, homeopathy, plants, etc., for anything.
Jewelry you’re wearing right now: Le Cauri Endiamanté necklace (every day), Sagesse medallion, four Berceau bracelets, my wedding band, a gold ring my mother gave me, and a vintage Cartier watch.
Five items on your desk right now: A sculpture, my jewelry box, prototype sample of a ring, a notebook, and Frozen 2 sing-along book.
Five songs on your playlist: “Elyne Road,” Toumani Diabaté; “Jolie Nana,” Aya Nakamura; “Wonderful,” Burna Boy; “Micaela,” La Sonora Carruseles; anything by Mary J. Blige.
Exercise regimen: Jumping rope every day.
What did you have for breakfast? Tartine with butter and Bonne Maman strawberry confiture with tea. I miss my French croissants.
Guilty pleasure: Warm tarte aux pommes with vanilla ice cream.
Drink (daytime/evening): Honey lemon tea.
First website you check every day (not your own!): LeMonde.fr
How do you unwind? Watch a movie or (sigh) binge-watch reality TV.
How have you been spending the past few months? Making the most of family time with my children and husband.
Book you’re reading: A Column of Fire by Ken Follett.
A must-visit spot in Chicago: The Museum of Contemporary Art.
Favorite movie: Rue Cases-Nègres by Euzhan Palcy.
Who would play you in your life story? Regina King.
Personal motto: “PHD: Passion, Humility, Dedication.”
Top: Le Cauri Endiamanté necklace in 18k gold with black diamonds, Le Cauri Endiamanté necklace in 18k gold with white diamonds; almasika.com
(Jump-rope: Malerapaso/iStock/iStock/Getty; Burna Boy: Joseph Okpako/Wireimage/Getty; dessert: Mark Waugh/Alamy; Museum of Contemporary Art: Kendall McCaugherty © Hall+Merrick; King: Toni Anne Barson/Wireimage/Getty)