Designer Spotlight: Sapna Mehra
How did you get into jewelry design?
Iʼve always been interested and intrigued with how we, as individuals, make connections and build communities. I was able to delve deep into these concepts as a student of Comparative Literature at Rutgers University and focused my studies on South Asian and African literature, culture and politics.
I wore many different hats in my search for finding a niche that challenged me intellectually, connected me to a community where I felt I belonged and offered an opportunity to use my skills to do something positive in the world. My pursuit led me to stints researching magnificent South Asian antiquities and art, organizing successful events for a womenʼs organization, helping to launch a high-end retail boutique in NYC and selling vintage, antique and estate jewelry. I didnʼt realize it at the time, but with every experience I was creating a foundation for the business I would eventually build.
At some point, I found myself in Jaipur, India immersed in learning about traditional jewelry making techniques and business practices from master artisans, traditional jewelers and gem traders. I would spend months at a time over a period of years in Jaipur, learning, absorbing and understanding.
Iʼve always loved kundan jewelry and as a child I would secretly adorn myself with my motherʼs most precious heirloom jewels. My mother passed away when I was 12 and so her jewelry has always been a special reminder of her grace and effortless style for me.
Though my motherʼs jewels were stunning, I found it too ornate for everyday wear. On one of my extended stays in Jaipur, I designed my very first necklace. I wanted something that was versatile and contemporary but still reflected the rustic luxury of the age-old tradition I cherished. I designed the necklace to reflect a style and an ease that spoke to a global, cosmopolitan perspective. It was a piece that I could take with me anywhere and that I could wear with my favorite little black dress or just as easily with jeans and a t-shirt for a dash of luxury.
Since designing my first necklace, my work has evolved and now I enjoy imbuing every piece with rich, layered, meaning and telling the story that inspires the design. I love using natural, hand-cut gems, ribbons of pure 24k kundan and hand-wrought, original enamel motifs as a medium to create art. I design jewelry to be connected to my heritage and to explore and express ideas and themes that transcend boundaries of difference.
What makes your collection unique?
I work together with artisans skilled in a tradition of jewelry-making that goes back to 17th century Rajasthan, India. My collections are slow-crafted. Every piece is rendered individually, one at a time. No casts, dies or molds are used.
Every collection is inspired by philosophy, myths, legends and iconography. I explore ancient symbols and ideas as expressions of universal experiences of humanity that appeal to people across cultures.
My designs allow me to depart from tradition and offer a contemporary perspective to a long-standing art form. Every collection tells a story that motivates, uplifts, inspires and ignites the most awesome version of ourselves. I believe that both content and form are what create good and thoughtful design.
What are your inspirations?
My work is inspired by a folk proverb from Rajasthan, India: “Gold becomes kundan only after passing through fire.”
Kundan, a unique form of purified 24k gold used in all my jewelry, is created by repeatedly firing gold at extreme temperatures till all impurities are burned away.
Like kundan, we all pass through our own fires, face struggles and obstacles and find a way to endure and overcome. These experiences become pivotal events in our lives and our innate strength, resilience and grace is revealed. We are transformed into pure gold and understand that challenge is an opportunity to triumph.
Iʼve faced many challenges in my own life and passed through many fires before I launched my first collection. I know that there is no single event or circumstance that defines me. I decide who I want to be in every moment, with every thought and every action.
I design jewelry for anyone whoʼs passed through fire to wear as an emblem of triumph.
How are you making a difference in your life?
This past year has been transformative for me and Iʼve gained so much clarity around my work, the life I want to live and what I want to put out into the world.
My role as a designer is really about creating connections and creating positive change for myself, the artisans I work with and my customers and supporters. Creating alignment around my personal goals and professional ambitions has super-charged my focus so I can act with a clear understanding of what I need to do and why.
What's something unusual about you that makes you “you”?
What makes me, “me” is my story. I am the first-born of my adventurous parents who left their home in Rajasthan, India to make a new one in America.
I grew up rooted firmly in two worlds, two cultures, two perspectives. I learned how to bridge gaps, create connections across cultures and craft stories that reflected a multitude of experiences. I found ways to connect the old and new, fine and folk and the everyday and the divine.
My journey has taught me that transcending boundaries of nationality, race, color and ethnicity, creates the freedom to forge complex identities that speak equally to where we come from and who we strive to become.
My work is a reflection of those experiences.
What is the biggest struggle in running your jewelry business like a business? OR What is your biggest success in running your business like a business?
My biggest struggle in running a business like a business was that I thought in order to be successful I had to follow a formula and run a business in a particular way. In my growth as an entrepreneur and on a personal level, Iʼve come to understand that there is no single “right” way. I have to do what works for me, my clients and the artisans I work with. That may not be the right way for someone else. Embracing this perspective has been freeing and allowed me to redefine success on my own terms.
Iʼm in the process of a new site launch that will incorporate a richer experience for my subscribers, a deeper sense of community and connection to the process of how my jewelry is made and communicating the impact that we, as a community, make in each otherʼs lives.
Iʼm really excited and grateful to be working with Robin and Tracy in helping me manifest my version of success!
Iʼm Sapna Mehra and I design meaningful jewelry thatʼs handcrafted by master artisans using 17th century jewelry making techniques from Rajasthan, India. I design jewelry to be connected to my roots, to celebrate and inspire stories of triumph and to create a positive impact in the lives of everyone who is connected to my jewelry.
As a designer, I favor painstaking craftsmanship over short-lived trends, distinctive excellence over instant gratification and offer a contemporary perspective to an age-old art.
My mission is to empower, uplift and foster connections through jewelry thatʼs designed with meaning, crafted with grace and worn with pride.