BEIRUT: Jewelery sculptor best describes Kevork Khatcherian, whose intricate metal work weaves tangled webs of sparkling bracelets, necklaces and novelty items.
After working for more than 20 years in Beirut and expanding to markets in Europe and the United States, Khatcherian has opened a new gallery for his Arvesti brand in Corniche al-Nahr, just a block away from the humble workshop where he began.
“I was born on this street,” said Khatcherian with the soft-spoken humility of a self-made man. “The old workshop was getting too small.”
Khatcherian opened the doors of his new shop less than a month ago: a bright, open gallery furnished from reused materials. Old Ottoman tiles make up the floor and the decorative wooden ceiling is crafted from wooden doors and shutters.
“Just like I started my business during the [Lebanese Civil] War, I believe when one door closes another one opens. It’s a circle – and this is how I remember,” he said looking up at the chestnut colored doors above him.
The designer will hold a grand opening for the new gallery before the end of the year, he said.
Colorful and highly detailed, much of the Arvesti jewelerycollection turns floral patterns or subtle animal motifs into elaborate statement pieces.
Twisting vines in the muted, metallic hues of copper and brass allow gems and semiprecious stones in twinkling sky blues, amethyst and lapis yellow to pop.
Khatcherian’s grandfather also worked with copper and brass, making bowls and other practical metal objects. A relic of his grandfather’s work sits encased at the shop.
One of his necklaces – all of which combine various shapes and natural motifs – epitomized the complexity of Khatcherian’s designs.
Delicate vines start at the back of the neck, turning to fern-like leaves that break off into a perfect square of 49 rubies on one side and abstract gem and metal designs on the other. The necklace comes together at a double centerpiece: a large teardrop beside a long row of multi-colored gems.
His work invokes a combination of artistic eras, but none more clearly than pure Romanticism. The nods to nature, the impressive colored gems set against dark metals and swirling details unite as if the jeweleryon display were stained glass windows twisted and reshaped.
The designer cites nature and beautiful women as his primary inspirations.
“I love nature, but I see that nature has gone from Lebanon,” Khatcherian lamented. “They construct many new buildings but without green spaces.”
Khatcherian’s work, however, is not for the minimalist.
He describes his typical customer as strong and unique. His ostentatious designs likewise attract women with confidence and big personalities.
Much of Arvesti is set in gold-plated metal. These bright pieces – such as bracelets of golden wiry detail that trail 15 centimeters up the arm – are not for a wallflower personality.
But a number of his designs also have a very bohemian feel. For instance, dark-plated copper circles intersect to make up an armband set with subtle green gems. Its lightness gives it versatility for day or night.
A ring of a similar palette comprises a copper leaf for its band that twists around the finger and set with a green bejeweled orb.
He also creates a variety of copper or brass wrist cuffs set with gems in every shade.
Khatcherian’s novelty items range from light, wiry flower holders perfect for a bridal bouquet to dramatic silver collars meant to be paired with an evening or bridal gown.
Even the chandelier in the gallery comes from his workshop.
Before opening the gallery off Armenia Street, Khatcherian had designed jeweleryfrom a modest workshop just around the corner. Taking a tour of his humble beginnings shows just how far Khatcherian had come.
Khatcherian started his craft as an employee at a gold shop in the 1980s. After two years of work, the Civil War forced the shop to close. Unemployment led the young designer to set up his own workshop.
In 1995, Khatcherian held an exhibit at the French Cultural Center in Beirut. He marks this as the turning point in his design career, as it attracted local and international clients and media attention.
Since then, his designs have bejeweled regional celebrities such as Fayrouz and the casts at Mansour Rahbani’s theaters.
And for now, Khatcherian said he’s looking forward to pushing further into Western markets and to settling into his new space.