Ancient and magical, jewellery is a universal, symbolic force. Coveted across generations and all cultures, these relics are as timeless and nourishing as a family recipe – filled with memories, always with a story to tell. This is how Shoreditch member Rosh Mahtani perceives Alighieri, her collection of bronze and gold-plated medallions, rings, earrings and anklets; visual sculptures that take their name and inspiration from an unlikely source – the 14th-century Florentine poet Dante Alighieri.
From lion medallions on delicate chains to thick gold hoops with a dangling freshwater pearl, each piece that self-taught jeweller and founder Mahtani creates in her Hatton Garden studio embodies the mythical creatures, passionate mistakes and scraggy landscapes of Dante’s world, a journey through the realms of hell, purgatory, and paradise. Here Mahtani shares how she found solace, success and direction through imperfection, and reveals how she went from The Divine Comedy to a literature-inspired line.
The big idea
‘I studied French and Italian at university. In my final year, I focused on Dante’s The Divine Comedy and immediately fell in love with it. I was really struck by how visual his poetry is and how much our concept of the afterworld is influenced by his writing, but what really spoke to me was that it was about a man who was lost.
‘A few years later, having travelled the world, I came home heartbroken. I was completely at a loss, and Dante became my safety blanket, something I knew and could relate to. I ended up doing a one-day course in wax carving and loved everything about it. I went home, sat at my dining table all night with a bottle of red wine, carving and making. The shapes that emerged reminded me so much of The Divine Comedy and of the way I was feeling. For the first time, I felt I had a language that made sense to me.’
Forming a plan
‘Right from the beginning, I had a clear idea of what I wanted. I was my own customer and I relished the fact that I didn’t have to rely on anyone else for the answers. I knew which stores I wanted to be in, what I wanted my products to look like and how I wanted it all to feel. What I did find frustrating in the beginning was when people, mainly men, would approach me and offer to help with a business plan. They would say, ‘‘I can help you with that because you might find it a bit complicated.’’ The fact is, I love numbers as much as I love being creative – and I want to prove that you can be both. Just because you’re creative or you’re a woman, it doesn’t mean you can’t also run a business, and it definitely doesn’t mean you have to have a man next to you, managing the finances.’