The Lebanese architect turned jeweler Dina Kamal took the traditional signet ring and transformed it through refined design and carefully considered proportions. She talks with us about achieving beauty in design.
“There’s a lot of jewelry out there now,” says the Lebanese architect and designer Dina Kamal. “And one of the problems that I find is that you get tired of it.” Yet the urge to introduce her vision for clean lines jewels was too strong for Kamal to ignore. “The objective was to find a balance so that the pieces stay classic.”
After years of making jewelry for herself and for friends, Kamal launched her first collection in 2010. “I call it the revival of the pinky ring,” she says of the series that is anchored by a refined version of the traditional signet ring. Praise from the design and jewelry cognoscenti was immediate and the collection, which has expanded to pendants, money clips and loupe magnifiers, is now stocked at a handpicked selection of the world’s most influential stores, including Dover Street Market in London and Gallery Fumi in Porto Cervo.
With meticulously considered proportions and four different sizes (she hopes wearers will take the time to select pieces that appear most balanced), Kamal’s background as an architect is evident throughout the series of miniature constructions. “The reference to practical art is something I always loved when I studied architecture,” she explains. “That’s why I want to wear the pieces and feel comfortable and not just to look good. It’s one of the aspects that’s rarely considered in jewelry.”
Dina Kamal’s definition of luxury:
The detail in everything.
Morning coffee at the beach.
How and why did you move from architecture into jewelry?
I used to do jewelry only for myself - I would give myself birthday presents that I designed. I always loved chevaliere and the idea of the pinky ring. I made several for myself and my mum, then friends…
What did you want to achieve with your first collection?
What I wanted to do was take the signet ring rather than just a cocktail ring and redefine it. Transform and rework the design. I was fascinated by this ugly ring. When you look at the proportions, it’s really weird looking and it fits weird on the fingers. I wanted to refine the design.
Did the history of the signet ring also inspire you?
It’s interesting because the signet ring started with the pharaohs, when it stated the symbol of their status and beliefs. That lasted until the Romans, who actually used it to stamp official documents. The pinky ring or the chevaliere was one of the most fashionable items for women in the 1920s and 1930s. That was the period of the Bauhaus movement where everything was stripped to a minimum and when jewelry became very geometrical. Coco Chanel always wore a pinky ring. It was a sign of glamour, personality and attitude. In the 70s it picked up again. Recently it was picked up by rappers and hip-hop artists. They show status but also style and attitude. I love all these layers in such a small piece of jewelry.
How does your work as an architect inform your jewelry?
As an architect you work on proportions. What was important to me was for the jewelry to be comfortable and at the same time elegant. And to work on different proportions for both men and women. Everything is 1.3mm thick, so it’s so light that you almost forget about it. There are also four different sizes. It’s about finding the right proportion in terms of it looking good and at the same time feeling comfortable.
What is the guiding principle behind your creations?
I love the idea of precious objects. One being the chevaliere. In the 1920s the filter of cigarettes were gold, the lighter was gold, the inside of a book was gold. I love these things. They didn’t go out of style. One of the objects that I’ve recently designed is a loupe magnifier. If I’m out having dinner or just want to see the price when I’m shopping, I can just pick it up from around my neck. When you achieve real beauty in design is when you don’t get bored with a piece, when you continue to fall in love with it again. I find that is something very unique to the Bauhaus period when things were made in very precious materials with exquisite detail but essentially very simple. It’s not about being minimalist.
Do you intend for the collection to be worn in very particular way?
Some people have them inscribed but I don’t recommend it personally. I like the purity of the pieces. Some of my rings are designed to be sold together as a pair. As a pair they make a statement. They look more significant yet are low key.
What other objects are you working on?
I was commissioned to do a cross and ended up doing a series. I did money clips for men and women, with different proportions as always. Right now I’m working on a tray with wood and gold. A tray is again a precious object because of the idea of offering.