I can recall the first time I met with Rosa and her sister Monique on a buying trip in Paris many moons ago; The three of us stood crammed into a tiny hotel room gathered around luscious, long hides of leather.
As the ladies unravelled them, an incredible array of beautiful stones and precious metals spilled out all over the bed and our love for the jewellery of Rosa Maria has burned strong ever since.
To coincide with the arrival of our latest collection, I caught up with Rosa to learn more about the origins of her brand and the loving family she has supporting her from behind the scenes...
DIANA: Rosa, your collections always seem to speak of history and tradition whilst simultaneously maintaining a contemporary edge. Is this an influence from your parents’ antique collecting days?
ROSA: I would say so, yes. I've always been fascinated by traditional materials and natural forms, and will often draw upon that influence to create a union between the tribal and organic in order to reach a contemporary design.
Can you share with us what it was like growing up in Beirut?
My childhood was beautiful and carefree before the turbulence of the war arrived.
It brought along 40 years of angst and excitement, and was a big challenge for all of us.
Did you always want to be a jewellery designer?
As much as I'd like to admit it was the case, I'm afraid I can't say so. There was always a lingering sense that I carried a certain aptitude for creativity, but I was never sure how it would manifest itself until I began crafting jewellery.
Like many small businesses, it seems that family plays an important role in yours. At what point did your sisters (Michelle & Monique) come on board? And what role do they play?
There has always been very strong bonds shared between everyone within our family, we were forced to grow up this way through the war.
It took very little time after launching the brand for Michelle and Monique to join me in writing the next chapter of the Rosa Maria story. Today, Monique is in charge of our global sales and Michelle oversees the Dubai market.
Who else is family within the business?
Charles, my nephew, who helps manage the company and his brother Sacha, who is stationed in Paris.
You seem to always be travelling together. How do you manage working and spending so much time with family?
I won’t lie to you, it’s madness! A true rollercoaster of emotion that sees the unconditional love we share for one another punctuated with moments of bitter squabbling.. (laughing).
Where do you seek inspiration?
Each and every aspect of my life serves as a source of inspiration to inform my collections.
Would you say that Beirut is in some way reflected in the brand’s identity?
Definitely. Beirut is such a incredible place with sense of mystery and charm that is just palpable. There is a rich diversity in the traditions and style of the people here which excites me to no end, and is undoubtedly a huge influence upon my work.
Rosa (right) with her sister Monique.
Can you tell me about the story behind your concept store in Beriut?
I opened my store some 13 years after first launching the brand. During the many exhibitions and showrooms held along the way, we met a plethora of talented young designers who soon became close friends. At a certain point, I felt that it was time to give back to Lebanon and strengthen the incredible network of creatives that we had begun to build. It was a time to gather all the designers, painters, photographers and sculptors that I had met from all around the world into one place; and create a space for Lebanon to discover, or rediscover, craftsmanship in its most beautiful forms.
So I tried to do my best with the little I had... and sure enough it grew to be a beautiful store that I hold very close to my heart.
Stacking rings is an quintessential part of the Rosa Maria aesthetic, what is it about this styling that appeals to you?
I've always had a fondness for stacking and layers, whether it be in regards to my clothing, jewellery or whatever.
I'm a collector, and have been since birth. Curating combinations and arranging parts of collections is my way of evolving and moving into new and exciting places.
It was a bit of a challenge at first, as there were very few other designers championing stacks as a way of styling pieces.
It soon took off though - and I'm incredibly proud that it has become a signature of sorts.
Can you tell us more about the Beirut studio where you began to create your jewellery in the late 90s?
My studio began at home as so many often do. It was the place I first began drawing as I became more and more inspired by the natural beauty that surrounded it.
From there I slowly expanded into a standalone studio and continued jumping between workshops and laboratories all over Beirut. These spaces went from primitive to sophisticated as the years passed, and my output grew from a only few pieces to several hundred.
What is your favourite stone to work with, and why?
Topaz, because it’s my birth stone! ✹