By Michelle Graff

The influence of the Far East on Western jewelry design is nothing new to American jewelers, who can--these days--have their pick of chandelier earrings, pile-on bangles and stackable rings fit for a Bollywood princess (and perfect for American self-purchasers looking for an exotic, Eat Pray Love-like look).

But two brands that held press previews recently have found their design groove by channeling the history, culture and geography of the Middle East to create jewelry that can work equally well in Istanbul and Illinois. And while each of these companies manufactures and sells its own jewelry at the retail level, they are both eyeing retail partnerships in the United States.

One is Zaiken Jewelry, a newcomer to the industry that debuted in June, which offers pieces inspired by Arabic culture that come in at entry-level to mid-range price points. The other, at the higher end of the price spectrum, is Gilan, an Istanbul, Turkey-based global jewelry brand with a retail store on Fifth Avenue on Manhattan's Upper East Side.

Zaiken Jewelry

Zaiken Jewelry's founder/designer Malak Atut came up with the company's moniker by combining the names of her two sons: "Zain," which means "object of beauty" in Arabic and "Kenz," which means "treasure." Crafted in fine gold and sterling silver, Zaiken's jewelry is hand-made by skilled local artisans in New York City.

The goal of Atut's collections: to reflect both the richness of her Middle Eastern lineage and the sophistication of her New York City upbringing. The results are pieces inspired by Islamic art, the rippling desert terrain and the art of calligraphy, with symbols such as the crescent moon, the evil eye and the hand of Fatima, also working their way into her work.

To view the images below at a larger size, simply click on them.


Zaiken "Allah" pendant necklace from the "Calligraphy Collection" in 14-karat rose gold with purple sapphire accent retails for $545. The fluid, sensual curves of the collection pay homage to calligraphy, a celebrated Islamic art form.

"Five Pillars Collection" necklace by Zaiken in hand-hammered silver with a rhodium finish is accented with assorted color tourmalines. Retails for $525. One stone in the collection sits as the largest in the group of five, paying homage to the first pillar, the belief in a unifying God.

Zaiken's "Desert Dunes Collection" ring pays homage to the mystique of the Middle Eastern desert. This oxidized silver piece retails for $150.


The "Mediterranean Collection," designed to evoke the colors of the sea for which it was named, features custom-made necklaces such as this one with assorted emeralds, rubies, and sapphires on a 14-karat yellow gold clasp, retailing for $1,250.

The "Woven Star Collection" pays tribute to the star, a universal symbol of balance, harmony and cosmic order. Earrings in oxidized silver retail for $145.


, a Turkish jewelry house, was founded by two brothers, Muharrem and Ferhan Gilan, in 1980, but the company's design influences date back to jewelry-making masters from centuries ago.

Jewelry artisans based in Istanbul create the company's signature collections, which aim to bring the opulent Sultan Court swag to the 21st century. One of the brand's signature looks: rose-cut diamonds (popularized by Dutch diamond cutters of the 16th century, but now making a comeback) set in silver with detailed engraving work on a yellow gold back as part of an exclusive technique called Telkari.

The new "Bosphorus Dreams Collection," set for launch in November, pays homage to the famed strait connecting the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, where East meets West. The collection features pieces that symbolize the waterway, the boats and even the dolphins that traverse the strait.

Although Gilan has its own retail store, it is also looking into wholesaling to select U.S. retail partners that fit with the brand's aesthetic.

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Gilan "Colored Domes" ring features 4.59 carats of pink tourmaline and 0.62 carats of diamonds; suggested retail price is $6,200.

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Gilan "Cabochon Sparkling Waves" ring features 29.89 carats chalcedony, 0.52 carats of white diamonds; suggested retail price is $5,100. 

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Gilan "Bosphorus Collection" necklace in white gold features 22.89 carats of sapphires, 6.84 carats of emeralds and 9.74 carats of diamonds; suggested retail price is $92,500.


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Gilan "Secret Palace" earrings in white gold feature 14 carats of amethyst and 1.92 carats of diamonds; suggested retail price is $12,000.

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Gilan "Moon Reflection" 18-karat white gold ring features 23.50 carats white crystal and 1.16 carats diamonds; suggested retail price is $6,500.


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