The most important piece of jewellery that Sheikha Fatima bint Hazza owns was a gift from her grandfather, Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father. A traditional Emirati headpiece made from gold, the design is clearly echoed in Jannah, a high jewellery collection that Sheikha Fatima has crafted in collaboration with Bulgari.
Jannah pays tribute to Sheikh Zayed in myriad ways. "I spent most of my childhood with baba Zayed listening to tales of sacrifice, willpower and aspiration. He taught me that we have achieved so much today, only because we dared to dream yesterday. He instilled in me a love of the UAE and a determination to raise the UAE name high always," Sheikha Fatima tells The National.
It is this ethos that has continued to drive the UAE royal – who is an accomplished equestrian, a firm proponent of women in sports in the UAE and internationally, an author of 200 children’s books, a patron of the arts and founder of the Fatima bint Hazza Cultural Foundation.
“I always felt that my love for baba Zayed inspired me to continue and dream bigger. Baba Zayed contributed to peacemaking in the world, and I take it upon my shoulders to continue in his footsteps.”
Accordingly, the central motif uniting the designs in Jannah is a five-petalled flower that will be familiar to anyone who has been to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. “If you take a visit to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the monument in his name standing tall for openness and tolerance, you will find art on the wall,” Sheikha Fatima explains.
“I chose the five-petal flower to symbolise baba Zayed in every jewellery piece, to tell the UAE story in every design, and to embody the UAE’s openness to all cultures through art. Bulgari approached me because they were interested in my vision – the voice of the UAE in a global context. These jewellery pieces carry UAE heritage, culture and aspiration all around the world; creating dialogues between civilisations, bridging nations.”
Sheikha Fatima spent two years working closely with Bulgari’s creative director of high jewellery, Lucia Silvestri, who comments: “There are a lot of similarities between Italian and Middle Eastern women. The warmth, generous hospitality and sense of humour. Whether I’m in Italy or the Middle East, I feel at home.”
The two like-minded women individually sourced and selected the perfect gems for each piece, starting with a striking sautoir intended for Sheikha Fatima’s grandmother. At the heart of the necklace sits a single cushion-cut Colombian emerald weighing 13.38 carats, with the name Zayed engraved in Arabic on the back of the pendant.
Other standout pieces include a duo of poncho necklaces that required between 1,200 and 1,500 man hours to create; elaborate ring-bracelets that nod to traditional Arabic jewellery, rendered in glittering, multi-hued gemstones; and the aforementioned headpiece, which is crafted from pink gold, set with white cultured pearls and brilliant diamonds.
“The most challenging part was putting the designs together,” Sheikha Fatima reveals. “I designed the collection with the UAE's heritage in mind, but also with a global appeal – integrating both necessities of mixing our culture with modernity while preserving our heritage in a way that speaks to many people.
"I wanted to include the Jannah flower with its five petals in all designs. This meant that I had to come up with exclusive designs for the flower in each set, creating more than one artistic set, different ambiances, choices of colours – gold or rose gold, amber, turquoise – choices of stone and what looked best with what. I was feeling very inspired during the process.
“Also, it is very important to mention the focus on pearls in the collection. Baba Zayed loved pearls. UAE history testifies we have very high-quality pearls and their trade was very popular in the region up until the rise of the Japanese lab-developed pearls. Pearl diving was the main trade of our grandfathers.
“Moreover, I chose the emerald because baba Zayed was a man of nature. He advocated for water saving long before it became the buzzword for environmentalists in the region. Green reminds me of baba Zayed, his generosity and his love and care for nature.”
The collection is groundbreaking in many ways – marking the first time that an international jewellery house has paid such an expansive tribute to UAE culture; and also the first time Bulgari has created a collection that focuses so specifically on a single motif. And it is only the first chapter in what is shaping up to be a longstanding collaboration between the two entities – the first bridge of many between Abu Dhabi and Rome.
Moreover, proceeds from the collection will go towards causes that are close to Sheikha Fatima's heart. "I am very passionate about literature and education, and I make it a priority to support access to education in the Middle East. Through my foundation dedicated to supporting art, literature and humanitarian causes, I have agreements with official entities, including the Ministry of Education in the UAE, to assess educational needs in terms of access and content," she says.
“I launched a campaign highlighting the struggles that children endure in remote areas around the world to access education. I dedicate a great percentage of my work for humanitarian goals: this time too I plan to use the proceeds from this collection focusing on education and on psycho-social support for under-privileged communities and the refugees in the Middle East.
"I feel that empowering people through education and providing psycho-social support can uplift societies and can harmonise nations and promote peace in the world. This is the message that my grandfather has instilled in me and how I plan to pay it forward.”