The traditional ink or henna tattoo is getting an unusual update from the Japanese jewellery designer Nobuhiko Akatsuka and his range of gold and platinum skin designs.
Golden henna, the latest in body art bling
Nobuhiko Akatsuka took the tattoo to a new level four years ago with the idea of doing body designs in gold and platinum.
Having studied in Milan, Mr Akatsuka often incorporated his Japanese-style creations with an Italian flavour.
He created Precious Skin, the world's first "body-direct" jewellery, which is made of 99.99 per cent pure gold and platinum foil that is set on bare skin.
The Dubai-based French jeweller Arnaud Flambeau came across Mr Akatsuka's work more than three years ago during a visit to Tokyo and was taken with the concept.
After years of research, Mr Flambeau opened a Precious Skin service in Dubai two months ago as the only place outside of Japan to offer the body decoration.
"When I moved here four years ago I saw so many women using henna tattoos and the first time I saw the gold and platinum tattoos I knew instantly that it would fit well with the culture of the Middle East," said Mr Flambeau, who has 19 years of industry experience.
Since opening, the shops at the Burj Al Arab and Westin hotels cater to at least six customers a day. Clients can choose from designs for special occasions or everyday wear that are harmless to the skin.
"It is elegant and feminine," Mr Flambeau said. "The ingot of gold is melted and laminated step by step from three centimetres to one-tenth of a millimetre thickness. Then, to create the tattoo, we stamp the design on to the foil and manually remove any extra scraps to obtain the final design."
The process has proved a hit with style connoisseurs including Saeeda Jaffar, a Dubai resident who is about to launch an online jewellery service. She opted for a gold design on her arm for her wedding last month.
"I didn't see anything like it," said Mrs Jaffar. "It is interesting and easy to remove."
Gold tattoos can cost as little as Dh200 depending on the designs, which are handmade.henna The most elaborate so far cost a little more than US$6,000 (Dh22,000) for a full back tattoo that mixes platinum with gold, which was also requested by a bride. Traditional wedding henna can cost well into thousands of dirhams, according to Mrs Jaffar. In contrast to body tattoos, which inject ink into the skin, Precious Skin is non-invasive.
Geraldine Bellini, a French national who owns Bling Design, a Dubai-based fashion accessories designer, said she often had henna tattoos and had spent almost Dh2,000 at Precious Skin since discovering the process.
"The price is worth it and I have had about six gold designs," she said. "People always stop me to ask me about them."
The company is expanding throughout the GCC, and will open locations in Bahrain and Oman by the end of this month, followed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Fifty more outlets are planned for the Middle East by the end of next year.
"In four years we want to have at least 200 outlets in the region," Mr Flambeau said. "Next year we will start in Europe with France and Italy, with a pre-launch during the Cannes film festival, working with a famous hotel presenting it to festival guests and stars.
"The next step will be to personalise furniture, bags, cars, shoes and computers. There are very wide possibilities with this product."