We had the good fortune of connecting with Sheila Khiatani and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sheila, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
Being from the little but big island of Jamaica has colored my life with many memories, both literally and figuratively. My parents emigrated from India in the 1950’s and launched their own jewelry store shortly after. So my childhood was “colored” by the vivid blues and greens of my surroundings as well as by the various hues of the gemstones in my parents’ store. I grew up in the business, having to spend my afternoons after school and Saturday mornings assisting customers. Only then could I take off to the beach, free diving into the blue waters in search of shell “treasures”. My friends came from many different backgrounds: Arabic, English, American, European and Asian, so I was exposed to a myriad of cultures and styles which only allowed me to develop an appreciation for all types of jewelry. My love for jewelry and gemstones increased with every trip to India…….the sheer number and sizes of the gemstones were breathtaking! No trip was complete without sitting with a jeweler designing new pieces, selecting the stones, and then waiting to see the final result. Sifting thru rubies, emeralds, sapphires and pearls in Jaipur, India, feeling their weight and textures, examining their color, were experiences that even then I knew would be unparalleled in my life. Later on I moved to Ghana, West Africa, and a whole new world opened up, even more exotic than I had experienced before. There I was exposed to jewelry made from more organic, natural substances. Jewelry made from ivory was very popular then and my aunt was only too happy to introduce me to local artisans who produced cuffs, earrings, pendants, rings from ivory, all by hand, all interwoven with 24 kt gold with gemstones, some with python or alligator or ostrich skin. Of course, there were also pieces hand fashioned from wood, cow horn and buffalo horn. Intricate silver filigreed pieces were a huge market also and is the same today. And then I married a jeweler! This ushered in yet another level in the jewelry and watch industry. The world of Bulgari, Cartier, Chopard and Rolex to name a few now colored my life and an appreciation of Swiss and Italian craftsmanship was born. Travelling to jewelry shows in Las Vegas, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Thailand and meeting the designers for various brands, hearing their inspirations and journeys, again sifting thru countless pieces of jewelry, provided me with yet another level of education in what had now become a lifelong passion, one that I never imagined or consciously cultivated. My early childhood years in my parents’ store started a journey which mushroomed into a passion and a career. Being exposed to different cultures and levels in the jewelry industry has developed my appreciation for so many styles ….. it is now so natural for me to wear a mix to items in my every day life – a Cartier watch, a pair of Indian earrings, a Turkish ring, silver bangles and a diamond Om necklace all mesh beautifully!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Getting to where I am today may sound glamorous but it was anything but. After my marriage, I pretty much learnt as I went along with a hard taskmaster for a father-in-law who brought me to tears a few times. Many years later I was able to open my own boutique which was a great joy to me. I spent hours selecting the right merchandise and delighted in selecting unusual items that were manufactured from natural materials with gold or silver embellishments – I even had a line of beautiful coral jewelry, from the natural coral found in Jamaica. I have an eye for beauty of all types and the quality of craftsmanship behind them. I’m proud of my ability to appreciate jewelry from all cultures – from the exoticism of Turkey and India to the edgy simplicity of Italian design. My brand is a testimony to that ability, and a culmination of all those layers of experience.
I now spend a lot of time involved in the design of certain pieces, making some of my own, and putting together a line that has something for everyone in a wide range of price points….building my brand. The joy that I feel when I find something unique and exquisite still surprises me!
My story began as a wide eyed child and has evolved into a name that has become synonymous with beautiful jewelry.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The best time ever in Miami – so much to choose from! I actually do have a close friend visiting soon so this is a great way for me to plan some things to do. Of course, I would take them first to South Beach for a great day on the sand – the W Hotel has a great beach in front and a poolside restaurant with loungey music. Then to the Fontainebleau Hotel for dinner at Hakassan and then to the world famous club Liv! Our quaint Calle Ocho with it’s world famous Azucar ice cream shoppe is a relaxing way to spend the day and learning about cigar rolling. The nearby Perez Art Museum and Bayside Marketplace provide a unique cultural experience and great shopping. Kiki’s on the River for dinner is a fun way to spend the evening – it’s a great restaurant in the Miami river with a view of the boats where guests dance wherever and whenever the vibe hits them – true Miami style. One of my favorite things to do and the best way to see Miami is by boat, so renting a speedboat to view the Miami skyline, the famous Fisher and Star Islands, downtown Miami and Brickell and Coconut Grove is fun, especially at night. Then relax over small bites and wine under the stars at Glass and Vine in Coconut Grove. Bal Harbour and the Design District provide a day of retail therapy in the extreme with all the luxury houses represented. Coral Gables, which is the oldest area in Miami, offers the famous Miracle Mile of shopping with quaint boutiques and outdoor cafes. One of my favorite spots for drinks and appetizers at the bar or an amazing Caribbean fusion dinner is Ortanique’s on the Mile owned by an old friend from Jamaica. Our famous Wynwood area is a fun, funky area where you can sample craft beer while you wander around the the famous Wynwood Walls which is a curated outdoor gallery featuring large-scale murals by world-famous street artists. Coyo Tacos is famous for their tacos and margaritas and their DJ booth in the back for more dancing! Of course, my neighborhood also has so much to offer with the brand new Brickell City Centre for shopping, the Brickell boardwalk for exercising and people watching, great restaurants like Capital Grille and River Oyster House, and Sugar for the best cocktails and breathtaking views of downtown Miami. The vibe is pure Miami…..and of course, dancing is up to you. Day trips to the Everglades National Park, the Vizcaya Museum and even a drive down to Key West are all possibilities. Miami has so much to offer and is truly “The Magic City”.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have to give credit to the woman who ignited my passion and who has supported me in my journey every step of the way…..my mother Chandra. My memories of her as a little girl in her dressing room watching her get dressed are always in my mind’s eye. She often wore her Indian sarees which shimmered with embroidery and stones, or similarly elaborate caftans. But always the ending of the process was the best part, the selection of what jewelry to wear. Going thru her jewelry box and being allowed to touch those pieces was always very exciting for me. She later indulged trips to India and long appointments with gem merchants, designers and producers until I got exactly the result I wanted. To this day, she laughs when she sees me get excited in selecting pieces for my line…… I suppose she remembers the little girl also! My sisters have also played significant roles in this passion. They have been my sounding boards, my co-designers, sometimes my critics (ever so gently) but always supporting me and introducing any new idea they came across to me. We share a common love for jewelry and the times we’ve spent looking and shopping for pieces have always been fun. My husband and his family have been equally instrumental in journey and equally as supportive. Their constant loyalty and support is a true testament of their bond. My sons also never falter in their love and assistance, also their criticism which I accept with grace. And lastly, the sister of my heart… you know who you are. Her constant faith and patience is unparalleled.
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