We meet Karen Adler, the woman at the helm of the family-owned Swiss-Turkish jewellery house Adler Joailliers, and discover a brand that is not quite what it seems
Adler creates high jewellery with a sense of whimsy
The Adler Joailliers Instagram page is utterly unexpected. Given that the Swiss-Turkish jewellery house specialises in beautiful, one-off and often bespoke pieces of high jewellery, its social media message is disarmingly quirky. The artworks, interspersed with dazzling gems and jewels, draw their inspiration from such varied themes as shinsei – the Japanese philosophy of eternal Renaissance, or the French palaces of Trianon, and the German folklore prankster Espiègle. Elsewhere, singular pearls double as the base of hot-air balloons, a cluster of gems is rearranged to resemble a bunch of grapes, and a trapeze artist swings within a diamond-encrusted ring surrounded by circus props.
“We are a small, family-owned company, so we pour all of our energy into creating something unique, whether that’s our jewellery, our window displays or our social media platforms,” Karen Adler tells me when we meet at the Four Seasons in Dubai.
The fourth-generation co-owner of Adler Joailliers was in the UAE to attend a special three-day exhibition of the company’s jewels, displayed by Istana, the multibrand jewellery store that exclusively carries Adler here, as well as to launch two collections.
Although we’re scheduled to meet at 10am, Adler is busy with a client, whom I’m told is a sheikha from the royal family and has been there from about 8.30 that morning. A 90-minute window per buyer is quite normal when it comes to selecting jewellery, Adler tells me later. “When we are with the clients, we are like shrinks. It’s a way of opening a dialogue and then spending the rest of the time listening to them, understanding what they want and for what purpose. It’s very common for some people to be there for hours when making a high-jewellery purchase. It’s not like they are buying potatoes in a supermarket,” the Swiss-born entrepreneur says with a laugh.
“Above all, it’s emotional. You have to bond with the piece you’re about to buy. When I used to ask him how does a piece look, my grandfather used to say: ‘How do you feel with it? It’s important for it to speak to you.’ This is why many may come with the intention of buying, say, a ring, but go back with a pair of earrings.”
It was her great-grandfather, Jacques Adler, who founded the company in his home city of Istanbul in 1886, after training as a jeweller in Vienna, while her father and uncle shifted base to Geneva in the 1970s. All the jewellery is handmade in three workshops, by nine craftspeople that the company works with exclusively, spread between Geneva and Rome.
The company has two main lines: the Essentials range includes everyday pieces, such as Caméléon, a duo of interchangeable rings with different coloured stones for variety; Joy, a modern-day charm bracelet with gemstone-encrusted hearts, circles and eye-shaped motifs worked into a slim chain; and the playful Les Espiègles, part of the new collection, which uses a ring body that slides between two fingers with a white pearl, onyx or pink quartz orb surfacing from the gap.
“We work a lot with transformable pieces,” says Adler. “We have one necklace that you can wear five different ways, and a pendant that transforms into a ring, and you won’t know it’s the same.”
The Exclusives range includes limited-edition high-jewellery pieces, such as the Shinsei ring that’s inspired by a Japanese garden, with layers of inlaid flower petals in carbon and white gold, each edged with a rim of diamonds, with an emerald mounted in the centre. The Sail earrings (pictured on top), meanwhile, are at once inspired by the fluttering of a boat’s sail, and a dress floating in a gentle breeze, rendered in sapphires, diamonds and tinted titanium, a non-traditional material when it was first used in jewellery by Karen’s grandfather.
The Nahua necklace, also part of the latest collection launched at Istana last month, is an Aztec-inspired piece featuring a 13.10-carat pear-shaped yellow diamond set against rose gold on a chain of copper gold pearls from the Philippines and Keshi Pearls from Australia.
The company also creates unique pieces that are never replicated, both independently and upon client request. For these, the company does everything from sourcing the stones to sketching design options, and crafting and selling the final piece. Adler says one of her favourite stones to work with is jet. “I like to work with wood,” she says. “Jet is a material I appreciate because it has been fossilised over centuries within wood, blackened and become a stone. It has such an energy. I like that stones have been on the planet before us and will be here after us; as jewellers we’re just transforming around them.”
This astute but rather weighty observation brings me back to the brand’s Instagram output. Can there be a balance between age-old gems and one-off jewellery, and the company’s whimsical representation of them on social media, I ask. “We believe, yes. It’s a way of letting both first-time and loyal customers come into our world of inspiration, what we stand for, the way we want to communicate, through our pieces, our vision of art,” she says. “We are travellers; we’ve been to many places, from the UAE and India to Moscow and Europe. We use social media to make all those worlds come together in an artistic manner.
“You won’t see any red carpets or lifestyle shots on our platforms, because nobody is going to wear a piece in exactly the same way as an actress or an ad campaign model,” she adds. “You have to own the way you wear your own jewellery.”