Blingin’ It: Tabayer Creates Jewellery Inspired By Ancient Symbols Of Protection


Designer Nigora Tokhtabayeva of the brand Tabayer sees jewellery not as decorative, but objects of guardianship which channel both strength and vulnerability at once.

The dawn of the pandemic gave the Uzbekistan-born, US-based talent time to reassess the vales of her business in order to prioritise the planet and its people. With the release of a new collection, dubbed Oera, Tabayer envisions pieces inspired by an ancient Mesopotamian symbol of protection called Inanna’s knot: a coiled bundle of reeds placed on houses for safeguarding.

The symbol became a new embodiment for what Tabayer stands for. The brand aims the channel the links between the interior and exterior world through ancient symbology of protective objects, which have been revitalised into new, contemporary forms. This is jewellery that not only watches over its wearer, but is part of them, too.

On the brand’s approach to sustainability 

Tokhtabayeva: “I believe it’s essential to establish and adhere to ethically and environmentally sound practices. That’s why all the Tabayer pieces are made using Fairmined Gold. This is different from Fairtrade Gold, as not only does this ensure that a fair working wage is paid, but it goes beyond that to ensure that acceptable working standards are met—including workers’ rights, gender equality, and protection of ecosystems. Fairmined is an assurance label initiative by the ARM (Alliance for Responsible Mining), which aims to transform artisanal and small-scale mining into a socially and environmentally responsible activity. It has a traceable chain of custody, which means as a brand we can be confident about our gold.

“We also ensured that our diamonds are sourced in an ethical way—through one of the most experienced dealers in the industry who maintains a trusted network of partners along the supply chain and is audited and certified by the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC). Our dealer ensures that not only do they comply with the Kimberley Process, but the diamonds are cut by long-standing partners close to their offices to oversee the quality of the process and uphold the standards of working conditions.

“Our pieces are then produced in small family-run factories in Italy that are also an RJC members.”

On finding inspiration for the Oera collection

Tokhtabayeva: “I’m from Uzbekistan, where the spiritual power of amulets is an intrinsic part of our culture. This inspired my research into the symbolism of jewellery throughout history, through which I realised that protection symbols were often linked to religions. Having moved to the US, I now have friends from all over the world who come from different cultures and diverse backgrounds, so I wanted to create a new amulet, a new symbol of protection that could be worn by anyone.

“With my design team, through extensive research, we found an ancient Mesopotamian symbol of protection – Inanna’s knot, a coiled bundle of reeds placed on houses for safeguarding – that came to be the inspiration for the new Tabayer amulet. In order to create a new symbol of protection, we wanted to find the new embodiment of this inspiration.

“We went through a process of searching for the shape and eventually looked to the work of American sculptors Isamu Noguchi’s tubular shapes and volume, and Alexander Archipenko’s ground-setting innovations in modern sculpture, in particular his reassessment of the relationship between mass and void. Aesthetically, my friends are all very different and I was imagining something visually ‘universal’, stripped back of detailing and rendered in its platonic form, that would be an all-embracing fit for the lives of these very diverse women.”

On the key pieces from the Oera collection

Tokhtabayeva: “The Oera collection is tightly edited so that every piece has its place and reason. The Oera hoop earrings are my wear-everyday-piece. I usually wear them with the Oera pave ring and the Oera ring in the large version stacked. The Oera large gold hoops are my go-to when I want a day-to-night accessory. They go with everything and were designed to serve as a versatile solution subtle enough for the day and substantial enough for evening. Each piece has this sensuality which is very grounding, and volume – we feel that volume in fine jewellery is very modern.”

On establishing the Tabayer woman 

Tokhtabayeva: “The Tabayer woman isn’t just one woman; she is all my friends who have inspired me to create the collection. She is all our collaborators – the incredibly talented photographers we’ve worked with on our campaigns – Lina Scheynius, Bibi Borthwick, Josephine Lochen. She is all of us navigating the complex and thrilling moments of our lives.

“She is a world traveler, someone who appreciates integrity, craft, and things created with thought and consideration. She isn’t someone who is led by trends but is attracted to things that speak to her and have a positive impact on the planet. I am also delighted that we’ve had an amazing response from men – we’ve now seen all our ring and bracelet styles on men which was fantastic to see.”

On creating timeless jewellery

Tokhtabayeva: “I wanted to create a new universal symbol of protection not linked to any particular culture. Once we found the reference point of Inanna’s knot, we wanted to create a shape that could be as ‘readable’ or recognisable as existing protection symbols without depicting the knot literally. We were looking for a modern interpretation that would provide the balance between figurative and abstract and as such would speak to people from diverse backgrounds.

“It is this balance and the rendering of inspiration in its platonic form that allowed us to achieve a common ground aesthetically—a design language that can be understood by many. This I believe affords enduring relevance and timelessness.”

Photography courtesy of Tabayer. Shop the Oera collection here.


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