Representing the fourth generation of jewellers in his family, Nagib Tabbah talks about a life surrounded by gems and gold. I am attracted to jewellery because I grew up in a family of jewellers - from a very young age I grew up in an environment that allowed me to see beautiful designs and designers making them. I was always closer to the artwork more than the jewellery - I was brought up in an artistic world. My grandfather and my father are both artists in their own way. So that was the ambience, and apart from the design, I was also surrounded by the stones, whether diamonds, emeralds or rubies.
That upbringing marks you at a very young age. It touches you. Later on you understand how beauty touched you and you try to reinterpret what you have seen in your own way. That brought me to designing my own jewellery line for Tabbah. The workshop was in Beirut. Because of the Lebanese civil war, we had to move during the civil strife, so we changed location once. The practicality of this workshop is that we have put together all the work of the jeweller, from designing to workmanship, goldsmithing to setting, polishing and recutting diamonds. All the businesses are under one roof and that is quite unique in the jewellery world. Now our workshop in Beirut holds around 115 people, who are spread around the different operations. So that makes it very flexible and very creative at the same time. You are able to express your ideas directly with the goldsmiths; with the setters, if you have a new idea for setting; with the cutters, if you have a new idea for recutting diamonds. It's all part of a family. You have to consider Tabbah as a big jewellery family in which everyone plays a part.
My family traditionally made classical jewellery but it was always with a modern twist. Our character, our personality, is that we are in Lebanon, and Lebanon is at the door of the Orient. We have one eye looking at Europe and the other eye looking at the East. The type of jewellery we produce is a mix of both. It's a really unique statement and a unique position to be in. I have travelled throughout the world, which of course influenced me in some way. I studied in the US and lived in New York, where the architecture and art world really marked me. I've lived in Switzerland and travelled extensively in Africa and the Far East through my work with diamonds.
My influences come from everywhere, especially from nature. A lot of my jewellery expresses my emotions about this. Nature is everything. It can be a promenade in a beautiful city, it can be a hike in the mountains, it can be an amazing road in South Africa. Basically for me the subject is the relationship between your soul and nature and how to interpret that into jewellery. Some people write, some people create poems. I design jewellery. I always wanted to be a jeweller. I don't think I ever wanted to be anything else. I think it's not something you think about: what do I want to become when I grow up? I was born in this family of jewellers and, even though I was not forced to continue, it was a natural route. The idea was more about what can I bring to Tabbah today? How can I add value to the company?
Obviously each generation from my great grandfather to my grandfather to my father to myself, each one has put his own touch on Tabbah. My touch is the ability to tell stories through jewellery. To express a certain lightness and a certain ease. Of course it's always traditional jewellery but it's very easy to wear, tells a story and touches your heart. That's what I was able to bring to Tabbah.