HBA: What led you to launch AYA?
CD: It started with a fascination for gemstones and sort of developed from there. I wanted to create a beautiful and unique, socially responsible African luxury brand that captures the charm and essence of Africa through its unique craftsmanship and magnificent gemstones.
Cahora Bassa necklace, Dhs9,730, AYA Jewellery
HBA: You worked in law before launching AYA – why did you decide to switch?
CD: I loved the challenge of working in law and really appreciated the opportunity to work with some of the most brilliant legal minds out there. But I always knew that I wanted to create something that would take me back to Africa and this turned out to be AYA. As I became more interested in gemstones, I decided to study gemmology at the Gemological Institute of America, where I gained my diploma in Coloured Gemstones and that was the beginning of the AYA journey.
Chelsy visited the Gemfields emerald mine in northern Zambia
HBA: Why is it important to you to use Gemfields stones in your designs?
CD: AYA works with Gemfields to ensure that all stones are authentically African, responsibly- and ethically-sourced, and of the highest quality. Gemfields is the world's leading supplier of responsibly sourced coloured gemstones in Africa and ensures that every stone is traceable, from mine to market, which is very important to us.
I spent some time staying at the Gemfields emerald mine in northern Zambia and saw first-hand the whole mining process from start to finish – from the moment the rough stone comes out of the ground to the faceted gem that is found in each piece of AYA jewellery. It was a pretty amazing experience and really made me understand the process and the integrity and transparency by which Gemfields operate.
Kafue bangle, Dhs8,225, AYA Jewellery
HBA: Which gemstone is your personal favourite?
CD: That’s a really tough question as each gemstone seems to have its own personality, but I do love the Zambian emerald – its vivid green colour with hues of blue is pretty incredible.
Kayila earrings, Dhs5,100, AYA Jewellery
HBA: Why is the Middle East important to you?
CD: We have seen strong growth in demand from the Middle East, especially for commissioned pieces. But aside from the business, I am fascinating by the Arabian Peninsula – there is so much rich history, culture and beauty: from the architecture, the art, food, to the emerging fashion industry, and of course, the women. Middle Eastern women have an elegance and grace that is unique to the region.
Chelsy's favourite gemstone is Zambian emerald with its vivid green colour
HBA: Where would you like to see AYA in the future?
CD: Ultimately my vision for AYA is for it to become a luxury African lifestyle brand that represents “everything Africa, everything luxury”. The vision began with jewellery and we are now about to launch AYA Luxury Travel, which will provide a bespoke luxury travel service to the most beautiful destinations in Africa. I want AYA to capture the beauty and spirit of Africa in every way, not just with jewellery, but also in travel, apparel, fashion and artisan.
Press play to see Bazaar's jewellery edit of Tiffany & Co.'s Archives Exhibition in Abu Dhabi.