Valérie Messika On Middle Eastern Inspirations And Jewels For The Next Generation

Interview by Mojeh Izadpanah

8 min read

Valérie Messika tells her story in a candid chat with editor-in-chief Mojeh Izadpanah

On the precipice of completing two decades as founder and artistic director of her world-renowned eponymous brand, Valérie Messika is basking in the limelight. What started as a small business with the support of her father, the famous diamond merchant Andre Messika, is a crowd favourite for everyone from Beyoncé to Kendall Jenner, with a fanbase across the globe.

Messika has always sought to distinguish itself with an innovative approach to traditional diamond jewellery and continues to dazzle the world with its creativity and unique design language. Valerie’s goal is to make diamond jewellery more accessible and wearable in everyday life — something that resonates with the modern-day high jewellery wearer, at her most confident donning diamonds from day to night.

The Middle East, with its rich jewellery tradition and a love for luxury, has always been on the radar for the designer. Add to that her penchant for Arabic music, and Valérie has been humming her way into people’s hearts.

Solar Diva Earrings And Necklace In Yellow Gold And Diamond, Messika Paris. Coat, Alaïa

How do you recharge your creativity?

My family is my secret garden that I take care of, even though I’m a workaholic. Spending time with them immediately recharges and rejuvenates me. I also often escape to my country home when I work from Paris — a great way to renew my creative energy. Moreover, I’m closely connected with nature and love taking time to go running, which refreshes my mind.

Travelling, discovering things, new cultures, art and architecture is another way to recharge creativity. Isn’t it incredible how as women, we are rejuvenated by spending time with our families, but also need a little time for ourselves?

What is the most rewarding aspect of being a jewellery designer?

I love how ideas begin in my imagination, transform on the sketch board and then turn into a three-dimensional object! The process in itself is rewarding. I also love to see women wearing my designs. Even stars like Beyoncé and Rihanna have loved my jewellery and I feel blessed.

What inspires your designs and how do you translate your inspirations into tangible pieces of jewellery?

I’m inspired by things in my daily life — it’s very spontaneous. I used to say the more you create, the more you see things in detail and the other way around. When I went to the Louvre in Abu Dhabi, I took so many pictures from the museum and brought back so many ideas, completely inspired by its art.

Groove Earrings And Necklace In Yellow Gold And Diamond, Messika Paris. Vest, Skirt And Belt, Stylist’s Own

How do you approach the creative process when designing a new piece of jewellery?

I’m always very intuitive. I remember waking up one day and feeling the urge to create something inspired by Ancient Egypt, as I’d dreamt of Cleopatra, a movie I’d seen years before. I love that there was no gender for jewellery in the Ancient Egyptian culture, it was just an expression and an extension of people, regardless of age and gender. So, I’m not structured at all. I always try to find things that disrupt the norm. For Midnight Sun, for example, the mood board was late night parties at Studio 54. I love the idea that there is a life after midnight.

Are there any specific themes, motifs or inspirations that you always or often incorporate into your designs?

In terms of craftsmanship, I’m always loyal to the fact that I want diamonds to be the key feature in any piece. Diamonds are a core childhood memory for me because my father was a diamond dealer. They have emotional value for me and I want to convey that to my customers through my jewellery. My father told me ‘I’ll give you the diamonds, but if you don’t sell — I will take them back’. So, there’s always been pressure, but I also had a lot of freedom to experiment with the kind of jewellery I wanted to make.

How do you balance incorporating trends in your designs while maintaining a timeless appeal?

This is what I have in my mind when I’m creating a piece. My heritage is the diamond legacy from my father, but it’s also the fact that when I was much younger, I couldn’t find fine jewellery that appealed to girls my age. That’s when I decided to create something of my own — contemporary pieces with fine craftsmanship at the heart. Today, I’ve had success amongst the younger generation, even in the Middle East. This makes me proud because youthful appeal is part of the DNA of the brand. At the same time, we are also popular for weddings where the choices may be more traditional, but not dated. They love Messika due to this blend of traditional and modern aesthetic, which makes it timeless.

Fiery Earrings In White Gold And Diamond, Messika Paris. Dress, Del Core

Can you tell us about your favourite piece or collection that you have designed? And what makes it special for you?

It’s always difficult to say — I’ve designed two bangles for my daughters, Romane and Noa, which are extremely special to me. They know they have a working mother, so it’s nice when they feel like they’re part of the game — my work and what I love to do.

How do you find balance between staying true to your artistic vision and meeting the demands of the market?

I’m actually closely connected to sales and I like to read into trends. I’m not the kind of creative person who is disconnected with that side of the business. I have my ear to the ground and I appreciate feedback from all branches of the brand — that’s important to me.

Well, it’s incredible that you are open to feedback and that is perhaps why people connect with the brand.

Oh yes, there’s always an intimate connection with the client. Wanting to hear what they have to say is something so authentic and natural to me — it’s really straight from the heart and I think my clients and customers can perceive that.

In what ways has Middle Eastern culture influenced your designs?

I’m obsessed with Arabic songs! My father was born and raised in Tunisia before moving to France, so I’ve been listening to Arabic songs since childhood and it’s always been part of my life. I love how Middle Eastern culture celebrates jewellery — it’s bold and expressive. I even love the nose and lip jewellery seen in this region and in India. How these cultures have no boundaries in terms of creativity really inspires me.

Disco Pulsation Choker In White Gold, Pearl And Diamond, Messika Paris. Jacket, Stylist’s Own; Top And Skirt, Magda Butrym

I think the bigger jewellery houses are realising that they need to connect to the younger generation, like you.

Jewellery is not just something you wear to a wedding to put it on display — jewellery is part of your style DNA. It’s about being loud about our style choices. Yes, my pieces are expensive for the youth but it’s because of its quality. You have to respect that price too.

Can you share your thoughts on the growing importance of the Middle Eastern market in the global jewellery industry?

Personally, I have a special connection to this region but, globally speaking too, it’s a very important market. Probably not as big in size as Asia or the USA but important nevertheless.

I find it interesting when Westerners are so shocked that Middle Easterners gift jewellery upon the birth of a child. Even in weddings, Middle Eastern culture is big on jewellery — actually, it’s a big part of every milestone in life. Jewellery is part of the tradition here and also something that’s passed down from generation to generation as an heirloom. This kind of consumption is very special to this region — and even India. So naturally then, the region is important to focus on.

Have there been any memorable experiences or lessons learned from your interactions with clients or industry professionals in the Middle East?

Over the years we have launched two special necklaces, which were exclusive to the UAE, in collaboration with Mahra Seddiqui. She had been getting feedback on the ground from the clients and saw certain pieces that were a huge success, so she gave us some ideas and we collaborated and created these necklaces. One was a choker launched in 2020 exclusively for the UAE, and it was such a huge success that we later launched it globally. The second one was released just last year, in 2023.

What role do you feel traditional craftsmanship has to play in modern jewellery making?

When I launched the brand, I started out with more traditional designs but not all of it worked. Initially, it was closer to my culture and more authentic and traditional but that has evolved over the years. Clients expect more modern, contemporary designs so while traditional craftsmanship has its place and value, it’s important to change with the times. But of course, even modern jewellery shows great craftsmanship. Explore the collections

Read Next: This Book Documents Palestinian Stories Through Vintage Photographs

Photographed by Amer Mohamed | Styling by Jade Chilton | Makeup artist: Julia Rada | Hair stylist: Ivan Kuz