In Conversation With – Maya MK talks Cartier, Zambian Emeralds & Virtual Reality

30th October 2018

Ahead of the Jewellery auction taking place on 20th November as part of Chiswick Luxury Week, we were delighted to welcome Jewellery professional and Journalist, Maya MK, to preview the sale, talk about her career in the industry and to pick her top ten lots. Maya hosts Hidden Gems with Maya on Women’s Radio Station, showcasing extraordinary women in the jewellery world from mine to market. She is also the Founding Editor of The Carat Soup, a blog about gemstones, jewellery and arts.

‘Throughout my career to date, I’ve been fortunate to have exposure to different aspects of the (vertically integrated) jewellery supply chain. You name it, I’ve been there – from the mines to fine jewellery sales, jewellery design to gemstone marketing. This led to an unending appreciation of what goes into each and every ring, pendant and earrings. A gargantuan effort that represents hundreds of lives. I also gained invaluable insight during my time in the jewellery department of an international auction house. It has been quite the adventure! One thing remains the same, after millions of years waiting to be earthed, I still (and think I always will) get wonderfully excited about gemstones. When these come together in pieces of jewellery, it is terrific. I’m particularly interested in coloured gemstones, brooches (nature – leaves and animals), Art Deco jewellery and nothing beats seeing the result of many hours poured into designs with craftsmanship at the heart of it all. I’m also drawn to the buzz of the auction room on sales day, it’s electric. Though the biggest pull and allure has to be knowing that select pieces are hand-picked and superbly curated. It’s bizarre because sometimes I don’t even realise I want something until I see it or when it is ‘gavel down’ time.’

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned?

Sometimes success is a gift that is presented and wrapped up as failure, sans big, bright, beautiful bow.

What is the quote that you live by?

“What you seek, is seeking you.” Ultimately, we’re all ad-libbing this thing called life, yet it all figures itself out. Wait, let me sneak in one more quote… “life is 10% opportunity, 90% how we react to opportunities” – the two quotes superbly sum up my professional life.

Do you have a favourite jewellery designer?

Jewellery is so personal and heavily dependent on my mood. I also have to factor in the nature of an event I’m attending or what I’m doing that day. I’m more drawn to exceedingly simple, yet elegant designs. Year after year and for over a century, the French maisons provide this. Trite yet true Cartier is a firm favourite. You can never go wrong with a signature Panthère design.

For everyday-this-never-comes-off statement rings, Elizabeth Gage. For edgy elegance coupled with understated cool, nothing beats Stephen Webster’s fine jewellery. Opt for asymmetrical pieces such as pendants and earrings, festooned with diamonds and ethically sourced coloured gemstones. I have to beep my own horn and say that I underestimated what it takes to design jewellery, yet years later I’m still proud of my debut collection and one piece in particular is of sentimental value.

If you had to pick your top three gemstones, what would they be?

Gosh, this is easy and simply rolls off the tongue. Zambian emeralds, fancy pink diamonds from Western Australia and double blue aquamarine from Namibia. Oh wait no, that’s already three! I could keep going, so perhaps it is not as easy as I initially thought. I am an enormous fan of crystals, namely rose quartz and amethyst, though that is a whole new topic.

Is there a piece of jewellery that you could not live without?

Yes. Remember earlier I mentioned one of my own designs, with sentimental value? That’s it. A yellow gold ring with diamonds. I simply couldn’t live without it!

Who do you admire and why?

Standing on the shoulders of giants – the mighty women in my family, across several generations, because they all have encyclopaedic knowledge of the best approaches in life – both personally and professionally. I had the joy and honour of meeting my great-great-grandmother, wow, what a woman. My grandmothers, aunts and cousins. Not forgetting my niece, who is incredibly bright and teaches me lots each day.

What is next for you?

It’s easier to look back to see how I got here today than to say what’s next. I’ve enjoyed a full and fascinating decade which started with fashion blogging in 2008 and evolved into an e-commerce platform. Later and more recently, The Carat Soup sent me across the globe and I am privileged to meet phenomenal individuals from all walks of life. I currently give talks, host seminars and Gem 101 educational workshops. I’m now focussing the next decade on nurturing the teaching side; allowing those with access to the source [mining] yet who lack the resources or knowledge to have a better understanding of the highly valuable and highly prized minerals on their doorstep. On a separate note, I’m also incorporating virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) into my work. More shall be revealed in 2019.

 

Lot 19. A brooch / pendant, by Ilias Lalaounis

‘A functional and fabulous piece. The craftsmanship is elegant and understated. As an avid fan of brooches, I’m more likely to wear it as a pin than pendant. Although I rather enjoy the flexibility to choose. After over half a century of design, Lalaounis remains timeless and a firm favourite.’

Lot 50. An Art Deco diamond jabot pin, circa 1925

‘As an Art Deco fan, it’s easy to adore this. Specifically the millegrain detailing and old mine cut diamonds, what’s not to love!’

 

Lot 68. A diamond necklace

‘Diamonds are suitable for every occasion. In fact, I practically insist, if you own them wear them. Pair harmoniously with a crisp white shirt or contrast with a black blouse.’

 

Lot 89. An amethyst and diamond flower brooch / pendant

‘History has always embraced the secret meanings of flowers (floriology). The orchid represents rarity and luxury. Legend has it, a purple orchid is the symbol of respect and royalty. This carved amethyst with diamond accents would make the perfect gift for somebody you admire (including yourself, as an expression of selflove).’

Lot 112. A pair of gem-set insect brooches

‘The setting and rich colours are phenomenal. These are also fun pieces, especially if worn together.’

 

Lot 195. A longchain, by Chaumet

‘Deceptively simple and tremendously chic. You can’t go wrong with Chaumet. Paired with a scoopneck top and doubling up, or as one long necklace over a linen shirt.’

 

Lot 200. An amethyst ‘Pyramide’ ring, by Bulgari

‘Every jewellery box and every finger deserves a statement ring. This is it. Exceptionally made and I can’t take my eyes off the sugarloaf amethyst.’

Lot 222. A turquoise and seed pearl brooch, circa 1830

‘I’m besotted by jewellery that tells a story. More so when it’s a fairytale, like this enchanting piece. Having a closer look at the back, the wirework and turquoise immediately captured my attention.’

Lot 225. An amethyst and diamond pendant, circa 1825

‘After seeing this 19th century, unusual piece on Sarah’s Instagram, I couldn’t wait to see it in person. As soon as I arrived, I simply HAD to see it straight away. From the hue of purple to the fractal setting, seen from the back, it was most certainly worth the wait!’

Lot 274. A diamond single-stone ring

‘There’s beauty in simplicity. This 7.80 carat diamond ring is simple, beautiful and the epitome of magnificence. It’d go well with any other daily jewellery pieces, so I’d be indulgent and wear it everyday!’