By Isabelle Kellogg
What led me to the Misahara jewelry boutique in New York recently was its location - just off the lobby of the legendary Plaza Hotel, which overlooks Central Park at the cross streets of 59th and 5th Avenue. From the famous hotel to the Eloise books, to afternoon tea at the Palm Court, no hotel in New York - or indeed most parts of the US - has achieved the same level of prestigious recognition.
Stretching back to the glory days of the Gold and Silver Ball and the Edwardian Room, to its current Harrods-esque food court, the hotel has retained its luster through several ownership changes. What a fitting location, then, for the unique jewels of Misahara, which reflect the bi-cultural, well-traveled and active outdoor life that owner Lepa Roskopp leads with her family in Silicon Valley, California.
Misahara is a combination of the names of each of Lepa's four children. With a flagship boutique in Montenegro (a connection of Lepa's), an office in Geneva, and now the New York boutique, the mission of the brand is to raise awareness and funds for the children of the Thimbini school in Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa. The unity symbol appears on each piece of Misahara jewelry.
The story behind how Lepa launched her line of fine jewelry is equally unique. When her husband started to buy her pieces from some of the well-established high jewelry houses, Lepa would redesign the pieces using her own jeweler so that they looked more creative and less corporate. Eventually, her husband gave up and suggested she start designing her own jewelry. Lepa sought out a master artisan based in New York to realise her designs, while searching for unusual coloured gemstones on her trips abroad. The places where she lives and travels, along with the color, texture and individual uniqueness of each precious stone, play a major part in her designs.
Asking Lepa to identify her favorite jewel, she reveals: "Each piece I design contains the essence and identity of Misahara. My favorites, however, are the Koral, Korali and Koral-Korali rings. There are many variations with this particular ring, which makes it universally wearable for today's woman."
"You can find beauty in almost every precious gem," she continues. "I'm loving tourmalines right now with their varying hues from soft to intense. Each one reveals a different translucency in the sunlight."
Lepa uses white, rose and yellow gold in her designs. "Gold is warm and rich all at the same time, and whether it's rose or yellow gold, it accentuates most skin tones and becomes an exotic blend next to the body," she explains. "You can put the same gold bracelet on two different people and their unique skin tone will reveal a contrast in the golden color."
Misahara jewelry has a bohemian side mixed with a classical side. Mega-carat, semi-precious gem slabs such as those in the Nzari collection are artfully set with delicate diamonds. The Ari signature ring is a puzzle-like composition of the six classic gemstone cuts (brilliant, pear, marquise, emerald, baguette and oval), all bezel-set in a chunky, oxidized yellow gold band.
The Koral-Korali chain link ring delivers an indy-rock look with a series of double-linked cuff-like rings connected by a delicate chain. Set in yellow gold with pink sapphires and diamonds, the ring is customizable. Talas rings from the Adriatic series are cabochon set with semi-precious gems adorned with a dangling Misahara triangular-shaped charm. In the Sahara collection, the Unity-SaharA flower ring with its pink sapphires and diamonds is set so that it spins.
The Adriatic-Sahara series deserves a special mention. The Drina ring, named after the meandering river in the Sahara flatlands, is a ribbon of yellow memory gold that wraps around the finger with amazing freedom of movement. Detailed with rubies and diamonds, the ring mimics the curving motion of a snake. "Our Drina I and II snake rings were a big challenge because we were doing something unique in that we were using memory gold. We tested them several times before we went to final production. They turned out amazingly beautiful and comfortable to wear."
All Misahara jewelry is made in New York and test-driven by Lepa and her staff to ensure that each piece is not only beautiful but comfortable. Earrings are made to such a precise gram requirement so as not to weigh down the ear, and the weight distribution of each necklace is carefully considered to avoid the kind of neck pain and headaches that occur when a jewel is too heavy. Such a high degree of attention is paid to each piece of Misahara jewelry to ensure that customers get exactly what they paid for: an exquisite and exquisitely wearable piece of fine jewelry.