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Sevan Bicakci

Sevan Bicakci (1965 – ) was born in Istanbul, Turkey and grew up in an Old Town district called Samatya, traditionally home to a combination of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish citizens. When Sevan’s father saw that old-fashioned schooling did not really inspire Sevan, he was allowed to complete a goldsmith apprenticeship that began when Sevan finished 5th grade at the age of 13.

From then on, this became the most important way for Sevan to express his agile imagination. Inspired by the old town of Istanbul with its Grand Bazaar, the Topkapi Palace, the Hagia Sophia church and much more, he fashioned his jewelry to convey the spirit and style of this vibrant and historical metropolis.

Sevan’s gift is to unite the modern age with antiquity in equally opulent and contemporary jewelry. He draws on his talents to bring together Byzantine, Ottoman and other local elements in single pieces.

He says, “I dream of ancient Istanbul and imagine that I am an Ottoman Sultan … Both worlds merge in this moment and allow me to create jewelry that I would have worn at the time and would be pleased to wear again.”

He uses only genuine materials such as precious metals and gemstones for the things he produces mostly as one of a kind pieces. He feels it to be a special stroke of luck that nature provides a wealth of “products”. He often combines different materials and techniques within one piece of jewelry as if he could not decide which material he should use. This could mean that 18 and 24 karat gold, sterling silver, diamonds, enamel, and a selection of colored stones are united in one piece. Known as a sensitive goldsmith, he often works with other artists.

For example, the painter of miniatures, Reza Hemmatirad, painted portraits of Ottoman Sultans and reproduced icons from the Hagia Sophia and the Chora Churches for some of the rings crafted by Sevan. Since Sevan Bicakci’s launch in Turkey, most of his sales have been to private clients in Istanbul. The fact that most of his works are uniquely crafted and time consuming at the workbench prevents him from mass production.

Of Armenian descent, Sevan was born in 1965 in the Fatih district of Istanbul. He is known as the ‘King of Rings.’ His father was a theater actor, who placed Sevan under the apprenticeship of Hovsep Catak in the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul. After serving 4 years of apprenticeship, Sevan’s master died. However, by that time, Sevan had learned a great deal about jewelry design and craftsmanship.

He then opened his own workshop to serve bigger manufacturers as a freelance jewel designer. He worked on his first collection for a year before unveiling it in 2002. Some of Sevan’s current clientele include Catherine Zeta-Jones, Elizabeth Hurley, Celine Dion, Liv Tyler, Mariah Carey, Brooke Shields, Angie Harmon, Halle Berry, and Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen.

An award winning designer, Sevan has been recognized as one of the greatest jewelers of our time. His one of a kind, handcrafted pieces are made out of 24k and 18k yellow and rose gold and sterling silver with uniquely carved gemstones and antique diamonds. His unique nature sculptures, especially his doves and sea creatures, have drawn the attention of the world’s most discerning jewelry collectors.

Sevan’s famous works include rings, pendants, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. It is not unusual for Sevan to spend months, sometimes a year, working on a single ring or necklace. The first personal collection he created in 2002 was inspired by the historical Grand Bazaar – Sultanahmet area where he spends a considerable part of his daily life. Since then his unique designs that require intensive craftsmanship have been attracting the attention of collectors as well as some distinguished stores. A wide range of the designer’s collections are on display in his boutiques in Miami and Istanbul.

Sevan has long been a favorite of top stylists and dedicated collectors who make pilgrimages to his unmarked studio near the Grand Bazaar to bring home head-turning pieces. Each one is made entirely by hand. Sevan and his team of artisans combine dozens of ancient techniques including inverse gemstone carving, miniaturist painting, micro-mosaics, calligraphy and incredibly intricate metalwork. His creations have been exhibited in top museums and art galleries throughout the world and have earned some of the industry’s top honors, including six Couture Design Awards.

When his first international debut took place in 2005, he was selected as one of five “Rising Stars” by the jury of JCK – Las Vegas Show’s Design Center. Sevan Bicakci’s 2006 Design Atelier participation within the “Couture Jeweler Conference and Collection” was rewarded by his winning the “Town & Country Couture Award” for gemstone jeweler design. In August 2006, he was selected one of Tanzanite Foundation’s five award winning independent designers.

As New York Times writer Susanne Fowler described in her 2014 feature, “Calling Sevan Bicakci a jeweler is like calling Michelangelo a carver.” His work is a parade of exceptional craftsmanship and unbridled imagination.

However, his collection of one-of-a-kind watches may well be his biggest project. It was more than a decade ago, in 2007 that Bicakci visited an exhibition of 18th and 19th century Ottoman clocks, created by clockmakers who worked for years on a single timepiece. That concept — that Ottomans would spend their entire lives working on one project if necessary — was his inspiration for the watch collection he introduced in 2018.

Bicakci unveiled his 85 unique hand-made luxury watches at the Watches & Wonders Show in Miami, Florida. The introspective and creative Bicakci spent nearly a decade designing and developing the series, each conceived and then he created entirely by hand. While all the watches house ETA quartz and mechanical movements made in Switzerland, the collection is more about a sense of timelessness, art, and beauty than it is about being a timepiece. Each one is a work of art, sculpture, and history.

According to a February 2019 article in Forbes, “Sevan Bicakci’s unique watches incorporate signature elements from his jewelry, including reverse engraving on the sapphire crystals. [We] didn’t rush in the process,” says Bicakci. “That’s exactly what I wanted to accomplish with my timepieces. Let the beholders’ minds drift from time consciousness to a fresh way of enjoying the moment.”

The designs range from Byzantine daisies, water lilies and other flowers, to winged dragonflies and birds captured in flight, and sensational geometric stories that stun with their detail.

The watches are crafted in precious metals such as platinum, 18-karat rose gold, 24-karat yellow gold, and sterling silver. They are set with gemstones including diamonds, pearls, and more.

Each watch features a sapphire crystal, many of which are faceted or feature reverse carved engravings on them. They offer incredible depth and dimension. Every creation is a rendition from Bicakci’s mind and soul – woven, etched, finely worked, uniquely finished, and magnificently crafted to tell a special story on the wrist.

Even the leather used for the straps is carved or gem set in his workshops in Istanbul. Every watch, like every piece of jewelry or object of art that Sevan Bicakci creates bears his symbol: the beautifully decorated dagger.

His great grandfathers were sword makers for the Topkapi Palace, and Bicakci took that part of his Armenian history to heart — placing a dagger on everything he designs. Even the handles of the doors to his boutique are finely finished replicas of the dagger. In fact, the USB key that he created to launch his watch collection is also one of the most unique in the watch world: a finely carved sword.

Each of the watches in the collection retails for a different price, ranging from about $180,000 to $2 million. An example is his ornate Potamides watch ($275,000), named for the water nymphs in Greco-Roman mythology. Made of 24-karat gold, sterling silver, diamonds and what Bicakci has called “[a] very unforgiving” sapphire crystal, it features a reverse-engraved intaglio image of a dragonfly whose wings, at certain times, obscure the minute and second hands. The watch’s gem-encircled dial is surrounded by a 4-inch cuff laden with still more diamonds and styled in the shape of outstretched wings.

One of his easier-to-read pieces is Gate of Heaven, which is also is one of the collection’s most expensive. It features more than 100 white diamonds and dozens of smaller black ones, ribs of rose gold that look like a radiator grille, and a small version of Bicakci’s trademark dagger dangling from the clasp.

Another user-friendly watch is the gold, silver and diamond Loves Me, Loves Me Not ($160,000). The dial has an acrylic painting of 12 daisies with petals that increase in number to match the hour.

One of the more macabre — and a favorite of Bicakci’s – is the Full Moon watch ($240,000) with its reverse-engraved intaglio of a skull and bones hovering over a graveyard. The Medusa ($170,000) shows her disembodied head encircled by fanged snakes while the Arachne ($240,000) features black diamonds and a reverse-engraved intaglio of a spider.

Bicakci’s pieces are carried at shops that include Barneys New York and in the Dubai-Wafi Mall. In Istanbul one can visit him at his atelier or see his work in his boutiques, including one in the W hotel.

Simultaneously with the launch of the watch collection, a book on Sevan Bicakci published by Assouline made its debut. Authored by Vivienne Becker, a jewelry historian, the book is entitled, “Sevan Bicakci: The Timekeeper.”

All of this is quite amazing when one realizes that this talented artist is only in his late fifties with much more work yet to come. Some of his new collections include a pair of cufflinks in 24-karat yellow and rose gold and sterling silver with parrots covered with colored diamonds, rubies, and sapphires ($15,500), and a reverse intaglio carved citrine parrot ring in 24-karat yellow gold and sterling silver, made with a multicolored micromosaic ($26,650).

Each of his Sevan’s new pieces can take between three months and a year to complete, with a single design possibly passing through the hands of as many as eight artisans (including Sevan) who assist with carving, painting, stone-setting, and molding.

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