The Malta Independent 25 June 2024, Tuesday
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FIRST: A new wave of jewellery makers

First Magazine Monday, 18 February 2019, 12:00 Last update: about 6 years ago

First speaks to Enrique Tabone and Yana Azzopardi: two Maltese women who have turned their love of making jewellery into a growing, sustainable business. Words by Laura Schembri. Photography by Joanna Demarco.

The art of making jewellery dates back thousands of years, when ancient civilisations crafted jewellery to enhance their personal appearance, express their faith and signify their social status.

Today, jewellery is no longer reserved just for royalty but has become accessible to the masses and Malta is proving to be a rich source of inspiration for a new generation of jewellery designers such as Enrique Tabone from QUE and Yana Azzopardi from Yana's Jewellery.


Enrique recalls her love of jewellery beginning in her childhood, well before her teenage years. "I remember selling bracelets to my friends when I was around 12 years old, but I must have started earlier than that if I was doing it before I became a teenager," she told First. As she got older, her passion for art and design grew, fuelling her interest in carving out a career for herself as a jewellery designer. Enrique launched her namesake brand QUE almost 10 years ago, playing on the last three letters of her name and the uniQUEness of her work.

Since its launch, Enrique believes that QUE has evolved into having "its own style, and language," in which she "presents jewellery as wearable art rather than a decorative item to wear." And indeed, uniqueness is an apt word to describe the brand. Using the thermoplastic material, Plexiglas, which is heated up to create designs and shapes, Enrique creates large statement earrings that are still comfortable and lightweight. "I feel that it helps me to explore and express new methods of relating my awareness of the body and emotions while keeping the work at featherweight," she said.

She credits Mokumgane, a Japanese metalworking process used to create Japanese swords in the 17th century as the single most important skill she has learnt during her career, which she then reinterpreted for one of her wearable art collections.

Enrique thrives on creating niche bespoke pieces, which may lack some elements of practicality but are true works of art. However, when working on her QUE collections, she keeps in mind scale, proportion, weight, balance and comfort. 

Daring and bold, QUE pieces are easily identifiable when seen in a picture or out and about. For Enrique, this is yet another extension of her creative process. "I become very self-conscious in a shy way," she replied, when asked how she feels when she sees someone wearing one of her creations. "It's similar to making eye-contact with someone you have a crush on. It makes me happy to experience this relationship between the wearer and the object. What I love best is to see the wearer smile: I'm thrilled to be part of that joy and happiness."

Yana Azzopardi's journey into the jewellery-making industry can be described as something of a family affair. Her grandfather was a goldsmith and jewellery-shop owner, while her grandmother gave her a box of beads and thread with which she began creating simple friendship bracelets. "I used to collect stacks of bangles and would never leave my house without wearing some form of jewellery," she recalled.

Yana began her career as a full-time jewellery designer seven years ago and went on to establish two retail outlets and a wire-wrapping technique that has become synonymous with the brand. Bold, colourful and versatile, her aesthetic is constantly inspired by her travels. Coming across new cultural patterns and designs, and being exposed to different types of material, has enabled her to continue to elevate her designs and create pieces to suit women of all ages. 

There is no denying that, through the power of social media, Yana's jewellery has grown in popularity in recent years, with images of her pieces constantly being shared online. For Yana, seeing a photograph or seeing someone wearing one of her creations continues to fill her with immense pride that her work is being recognised.

Her love of working with semi-precious stones, metal, fabric and ceramic beads also comes through. Her favourite creation to date, however, remains one of her statement chunky necklaces that combines her appreciation of different textures and, of course, the brand's staple wire technique.

According to Yana, creating jewellery is no walk in the park. "My advice is to be innovative," she said, when asked what her advice would be to anyone interested in becoming involved in the industry. "Jewellery design is no easy task: it involves a lot of research and imagination."

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