An Istanbul jewelry designer on her inspirations
Cobblestone creations inspired by flora, fauna and flights of imagination are a specialty of Begum Kiroglu, founder and creative director of luxury company Begum Khan Mucevher AS
A recent example would be Begum Khan’s Bee Bottle, a 13-piece limited-edition bottle for Guerlain Le Songe de la Reine perfume. The special bottle, launched at $10,000 each in May 2021, featured Ms. Kiroglu’s bee and flowers in gold-plated bronze and 6,500 pavé zirconia stones.
“She was the ideal designer for this wonderful project for Guerlain, so feminine, with her Ottoman cultural heritage, with a very Parisian ‘je ne sais quoi’ style,” said Ann Caroline Prazan, head of art, culture and heritage at the French beauty house. “This piece represents a strong symbol between the meeting of the Ottoman heritage of Begum and the French heritage of Guerlain. ”
Ms. Kiroglu, 36, also designs men’s and women’s jewelry and evening bags which are then handcrafted in small workshops in Istanbul, where she grew up and lives (when not in Paris). In a recent interview, she talked about what influences her work, the years she spent studying in China, and how she balances design with affordability (her prices range from $200 to $12,000). The conversation has been edited and condensed.
Your educational background is atypical. Where did you study?
I went to Italian schools in Istanbul because my parents wanted me to have a multicultural education. Then I studied Business Administration at Istanbul Koc University and Fashion and Design Business Management at Bocconi University in Milan. I had a passion for Orientalism so I moved to Shanghai and completed my Masters in Chinese Culture.
How, why and where did you start designing jewelry?
About 10 years ago I wanted a present for my brother who was getting married. I was looking for a timeless and fun pair of cufflinks as they would suit a man in his thirties. The cufflinks I liked were either too expensive or too playful to be a wedding gift. I decided to make them myself and that’s how the journey began.
I met the craftsmen and I started going to the workshops. I absolutely loved the whole process. I started making jewelry for myself and a lot of people wanted to buy some. I had a pop-up store with my first creations, the brand’s DNA pieces: the turtle with ball earrings, the beetle ear cuff, the iconic evil eye evening bag. They are still in the collection as all of our designs are evergreen.
Did your family influence your choice to become a jewelry designer?
My family taught me aesthetics. Thanks to them, I was raised in an embellished world. Even the cups while we had a simple Turkish tea, they were beautiful and artistic. As a child, they dragged me to auction houses, to flea markets. We started traveling in Asia when I was very young.
Your jewelry is very recognizable. How do you define your style?
I want to make people happy and have fun with my jewelry, and at the same time feel sophisticated and elegant. I find my jewelry similar to makeup or high heels. When you walk into a room, you feel confident.
It should be instantly recognizable, like when you see a Prada bag you know it’s a Prada bag or when you see Dolce & Gabbana flowers then you know it’s a Dolce & Gabbana pattern. It is very important for a brand to have a personality. When someone sees a coin, he must say, “It must be Begum Khan.”
What inspires you?
The Ottoman Empire, Ottoman and Turkish art and culture – where I was born and raised – and Chinese art and culture – where I lived for six years – and many different regions, like the Far East and India, influence my creations.
You say you try to keep your prices affordable. How do you do this?
Design comes first, and choosing the best materials and craftsmanship comes second. When I’m really happy with the final design, I choose the material. So if it’s a very small pink ring, I use diamonds. If it’s a huge magnolia crown with 8,000 gems on it, then I use zirconia. If it’s a much smaller bracelet, I use vermeil, gemstones and crystals.
Who is your main customer?
They are all ages, but what they have in common is internationalism. They like to travel, they like to discover new things. They are strong, independent women who are not afraid of who they are and are proud to show it rather than trying to be the same with everyone. Queen Máxima of Holland, Katy Perry and Marie-Chantal, Crown Princess of Greece, are clients.