aelle Khouri was born in Beirut, Lebanon. Her original goal was to become an economist, and with this in mind she left her country and went to study in New York. After graduation, she secured an internship at Oscar de la Renta, then joined the business development team of Toyota in New York, before returning to Beirut, where she was hired by an investment bank. But finance was not her destiny. By chance, she met the Lebanese artist Bernard Renno, who taught her jewellery design. After a few months, her decision was made: she would radically change her career and opt for jewellery, to give her many ideas material form.
- Gaelle Khouri
She started to develop her jewellery-making skills in workshops in Beirut, and created her first jewellery in 2015. She started out using a variety of metals including bronze, silver and gold. One of her first rings, called Bouquet, has a unique beauty precisely because of the mix of materials: it looks as if it comes from an undefined time, perhaps from the land of the fairies or the forest of Brocéliande. “I mixed metals because I didn’t have the money to do otherwise, I didn’t know the industry. But as it enriched the pieces aesthetically, I simply continued,” explains the artist, who presented her latest collection, La Trahison de l’Objet, at the GemGenève 2022 exhibition.
Gaelle Khouri creates in an instinctive, organic way. Her work is not just beautiful, it also exercises the intellect. Some of her jewellery featuring geometric and asymmetrical shapes was inspired by the work of Vassily Kandinsky, who was himself inspired by Rudolf Steiner. Their harmoniously interlocking yet unbalanced circles create the impression of complex geometric equations performed in three dimensions.
- Le Bouquet Ring, a cocktail ring, designed in 18K yellow gold and rust-toned bronze, lending the piece a vintage appeal. The delicate flowers are set with white, brown, and yellow diamonds; blue, yellow, and pink sapphires, and green tsavorites.
Her latest collection moves away from abstraction to embrace a more concrete question. “I tried to explore the concept of beauty. What is beauty? Why do we find an object beautiful? Is it simply an aesthetic response, or is there a hidden reason, a psychological and logical component that runs through the mind as we look at an object?”
- Self Portrait earrings carved in gold and sterling silver, set with diamonds.
How do you feel when you look at her spider brooch, whose amethyst body is mounted on thin yellow gold and blackened silver legs? Or her earrings in the shape of half-dead fish, called Self Portrait? Do you feel attraction or repulsion? “There is something very beautiful, but at the same time very ugly about them, which scares me. In my subconscious I try to escape from the idea of death, of illness, but by confronting it – and this is a difficult process – I see a certain beauty. There is a point where the beautiful and the ugly mix.”
The jeweller is passionate about philosophy. She likes to explore abstract concepts, and she does so through her jewellery. Behind her latest collection are two opposing currents of philosophical thought: empiricism and innatism. “According to empiricism, we are born without knowledge and acquire it through experience,” she explains. “Innatism proposes that you are born with a fixed truth embedded in your mind. But the two schools of thought agree on one point: when we look at an object, there’s always some external reason why we identify it as beautiful. Either we have already experienced the concept of beauty, or we have it innately, but in both cases we recognise it. That’s the mindset I was in when I created this collection.”
Can beauty exist in the absence of good? “While designing, I questioned the concept of good and evil. Today, everything that is justified becomes good in one way or another. The line between the two doesn’t really exist anymore. I asked myself how people today interpret the concepts of good and evil, and from there I moved on to a question about beauty – how do good and beautiful relate to each other?”
Throughout our meeting, we talked about Descartes, Wassily Kandinsky’s “Concerning the Spiritual in Art – and Painting in Particular”, François Cheng’s “The Way of Beauty: Five Meditations for Spiritual Transformation”, Rudolf Steiner’s research, various philosophical currents, mathematics, synaesthesia and intangible beauty. After that, you can’t tell us that jewellery is trivial.
- Crafted in 18K rose gold, the Soleil Vert Earrings are set with chalcedony and brown diamonds.