"Contemporary jewels are small works of art that communicate a story about what they carry. They feed the conversation.”

An interview with Chequita Nahar — Jewellery designer

25 April 2022
Chequita Nahar
Chequita Nahar© Michiel Heffels

Chequita Nahar, born in Surinam lives and works in Maastricht the Netherlands. She studied jewellery design at the Maastricht Institute of Arts and completed her study with a Master at the Sandberg Institute Amsterdam (Rietveld Academy). She worked as one of the designers for L’Arcano, a silver brand based in Rome on collections for fashion brands such as Alberta Ferretti and BORN. Her work is part of museum collections such as the Rijksmuseum, Museum Arnhem, Textile Museum, CODA, Gallery Marzee, Alice and Louis Koch ring collection and other private collections. Currently she is the Head of programme of the departments Fine Art and Design (body, object, material).

MAD had a tal with Chequita Nahar.

How did you started with jewelry design?

“That was a bit of a coincidence, because I had actually been accepted into the academy in Den Haag. But at that time, I didn't feel like studying and I wanted to travel. But my parents wanted me to study. So I went to the most southern point of the Netherlands to study languages and translation. Because I also have a big love of language. So I started studying to become a Spanish-French medical translator. I only practiced that for a very short time. I very quickly returned to Maastricht. There they had a study of plastics and metals, which included jewelry. After my studies there I followed a master's course at the Zandbergen Institute in Amsterdam of the Rietveld Academy.”

 

What attracts you to jewelry design?

“A jewel tells something not only about yourself, but also about your culture, your background, your habits or rituals. And that's what I really liked about it. Also because the symbolism in it has a value that you can't express in money. It has an emotional value. What appealed to me is that field of tension. There are pieces of jewelry that in certain cultures primarily express a value. And I find that value aspect, in addition to the symbolism, very interesting.”

 

What are you doing on at the moment?

“I'm currently combining teaching and designing. The teaching has actually shifted a bit to the background, I only teach for certain periods. But when I'm in front of the class, I notice why I find it so fantastic. But in addition to teaching, I am also the program manager. So that involves the management behind the courses but also the development of education. Mainly to support young talent.” 

“This combination is something I have always aspired to, to never do just one thing. But the creation must always be there. The balance between creating and teaching is something I really enjoy doing. And then especially in general promoting the piece of jewelry.”

"It is important to me that the wearer sees something in the jewel that is more than the money value."

Chequita Nahar

You work a lot around inclusivity, how do you think the jewel can contribute to a more inclusive society?

“People do say that what I make is inclusive jewelry, but actually for me it's just jewelry that came from my own background. And that is now seen as inclusive. I then ask myself the question what inclusive jewelry means.” 

“When someone makes a creation from their own background, from a certain philosophy and if the jewelry speaks about a certain theme or reflects a background, that’s already something inclusive, if you have to call it that. From the moment people recognize themselves in a piece of jewelry, when it becomes a kind of role model, the value aspect comes up again. The various values of a culture then become visible. 

Next to the value of the jewel, it is also about a kind of limitation for me. A student of mine once designed jewelry for deaf people. If you delve into a theme that may belong to a certain target group, that is a very valuable addition to your design.”

 

You talk about recognition. Is that a message that you want to convey to the wearer of the jewel?

“The message is that recognition, but it's also a little bit that value aspect. It is important to me that the wearer sees something in the jewel that is more than the money value. The jewel then becomes a story, a storytelling, a wearer of meaning. It becomes more than just the gold and silver. When someone asks me what contemporary jewelry means to me, then I say jewels are stories. They are small works of art that communicate a story about what they carry. It feeds the conversation.” 

 

Do you notice changes in how people use and wear their jewelry?

“For me, there is a difference between changes for the maker and the wearer. For the wearer, we see mainly a shift between different generations. For older generations, a piece of jewelry has a certain appeal. They have the desire to collect. While for younger people, jewelry is primarily an extension of one's identity, and how they want to share it. They look at jewelry in a different way and are searching for an approach to present themselves.”

“For today's makers, jewelry has become a kind of interdisciplinary medium. I see a shift there to the object-based jewelry. Young makers look at other disciplines to make their story even stronger. They are looking for a link with fashion, technology or other visual arts. That results in very beautiful new applications of the way of wearing. The jewel then actually becomes an investigation into what is wearing.”

“The young makers of today must break out of the harness of what is usual. That is why fusions with other disciplines or organizations such as the Brussels Jewellery Week give a lot of opportunities for young makers. I think it's important for them to start orienting themselves more broadly. And that does happen with the young generations.”