Whispers of Meroë by Matturi Fine Jewellery, the recently rebranded label of designer Satta Matturi, is an exploration of the rich history of Ancient Egypt and the Greater Upper Nile. Not the gilded land of the Pharaohs that has been so often plundered for inspiration, but the Nubian dynasty and its stories of female power, resilience and lost opulence.
Africa – its art, history, design and culture – has been a constant muse for British-West African designer Satta Matturi. She transforms the diverse narratives that emerge into luxurious jewels, set with diamonds and coloured gems that are ethically sourced. With Whispers of Meroë, we see Matturi return to Africa; this time, to its early Nubian kingdoms with jewels in rich, textured 18ct yellow gold, glittering with triangular-cut and round brilliant diamonds, black onyx, soft morganite, deep-red rhodolites and lustrous golden pearls.
“I have always been fascinated by Egypt,” says Satta. “As a little girl, my father would play the Cleopatra movie starring Elizabeth Taylor and we would watch that on repeat. That was my first encounter with Egypt.”
Matturi 18ct gold, morganite, onyx, diamond and enamel Amanishakheto earrings, price on application, Matturi
A fascination with Egyptology followed Satta through life. As did a love of Art Deco – a style punctuated by scarabs, hieroglyphics and pyramids. When designing her latest collection, she wanted to draw on these two influences and set upon a research project, spending time at the British Museum and with independent Egyptologists to deepen her knowledge. During this time, she learnt of an alternative Ancient Egyptian civilisation that had fallen into the footnotes of history – the Nubian Kingdom of Kush.
The Nubian dynasty and its Pharaohs had once ruled Egypt, forming their seat of power south of the Nile delta in what is now present-day Sudan. Here, these expert goldsmiths, who had access to bountiful gold mines, set about rebuilding their empire; crafting temples, royal baths and more than 200 tall and slender pyramids at the necropolis of Meroë, the capital of Kush. The technologically advanced Meröites were also famed for their lavishly dressed, strong female leaders, such as Queen Amanirenas, who went to war with the Romans.
Jewels within Whispers of Meroë, the first series of which will be available exclusively at Goralska Joaillerie in Paris for a limited period, include bold chokers, with jewels anchored to ribbons crafted by heritage British embroiderer Hand & Lock. The signature Matturi Totem earrings, inspired by African masks, make a return – this time donning stylised Pharaonic headdresses embellished with precious stones and pearls.
Matturi 18ct gold, onyx and diamond Nomoli Totem earrings, price on application, Matturi
The majority of the pieces are modular in nature, to give the wearer multiple options, and gender fluidity has also been taken into consideration throughout the design process. Bespoke gem cuts, such as pyramidical diamonds, spiky onyx and rhodolite add a sense of exclusivity to the collection.
“Whispers of Meroë is a celebration of a fascinating period of history within Africa and its traditions,” says Satta. “The rich yellow gold pays homage to ancient Nubian jewels unearthed by archaeologists, and the deliberate use of black onyx and pearls denotes the trade of ebony and ivory during that era. The gemstone palate has been selected to connect to the colours of the landscapes along the Nile. Each piece is stamped with the Eye of Horus, which symbolises protection, royal power and good health to the wearer.
“The bold designs within the collection echo the confident fearlessness the Queens of Kush had to emanate – a feeling we women of today still aspire to, despite the centuries that have passed between us.”