I met Sapna Mehra at Tara Gentile’s Art of Earning LIVE event back in February and I was immediately bowled over by her gorgeous work and the philosophy behind it. You are going to love the story of this amazing jewelry designer and her mission to make jewelry for people who have passed through fire to become gold.
In case people don’t know you and your amazing business, would you mind sharing what you do?
I’d love too! I’m a designer and I collaborate with master artisans in Rajasthan, India who render my designs into jewelry that’s handcrafted using 400 year-old techniques that are passed down over generations. A special form of purified 24k gold called kundan is used to set natural, hand cut gems on one side and the reverse embellished with my original enameled motifs. Kundan is made by repeatedly firing unrefined gold at extreme temperatures till all impurities are burned away.
There’s a proverb from Rajasthan that speaks to how kundan is created and inspires my work:
“Gold becomes kundan only after passing through fire.”
My work is a tribute to my heritage, to perseverance, to overcoming. In overcoming the most impossible challenges, we discover our strength, courage and grace. My jewelry is for anyone who’s passed through fire, to wear as an emblem of triumph.
I think you are the first jewelry designer, not jewelry maker, that I have met. What made you decide to go into design?
I came to becoming a designer via a circuitous path. I can’t say I always knew what I wanted to do but throughout my life I kept pursuing the things and subjects that I found engaging. I let my passion and curiosity lead me.
Eventually, my curiosity pulled me back to the land of my parents’ birth – Rajasthan. An opportunity arose for me to work with traditional jewelers and I became immersed in studying traditional jewelry making techniques that are kept well-guarded and are passed on over generations.
I found the craftsmanship of the region to be stunning and steeped in history. I was fascinated by how traditional jewels were still crafted using the same techniques, tools and designs that were used over 400 years ago. While I loved the jewelry, I found that I wasn’t able to wear any of the pieces in my everyday life because they were so ornate and opulent. But I really wanted to! So that’s when I designed my first necklace, using craftsmanship and materials that I adored but in a design that suited my lifestyle.
I still have that necklace and I still get complimented on it every time I wear it. That’s what inspired me to start my own collection. And after passing through more than a few fires of my own, I was able to design my first line of jewelry.
You blend so much mythology, storytelling, and mysticism into your work. Did these things play a big role in your upbringing? (Or, alternatively, what about them fascinates you?)
Growing up in New Jersey, as the child of immigrants, it was important to my parents that we learned as much about Indian culture as possible. Our world was colored with the telling of folk tales, epics, myths and legends. I learned about gods and goddesses, their virtues and faults, and absorbed the lessons learned from their adventures. In college and later, I learned about the power of symbolism and iconography in Eastern religions and philosophies.
Myths and symbols are like the designs and patterns woven into a handloomed textile. They illuminate our lives with color and meaning and serve as an archetype of human experience. At different periods in my life, there have been different symbols or myths that take on particular significance and speak to me in a deep way. They become like guides, helping me find direction and meaning. It’s what creates a feeling of home for me.
Lately, I’ve been very interested in tantric symbols and diagrams. They seem like very simplistic geometric shapes, but are in fact powerful symbols that are informed by a complex philosophy of the nature of the universe.
Do you have any new product lines in the works? Or do you have a big goal for your business this year?
I’m so excited to really to focus my efforts on a couple of things this year. First, I’d really like to expand my visibility and reach. I think each of us has a very special story of triumph that has shaped who we are. My jewelry, especially my Asmi collection, is a way to celebrate and honor that story and I’d love to share that message with so many more people, here and all around the world!
The second is to start working on collaborative projects. I’ve met so many amazing people who are doing such incredible work and it’s really inspired me. I’d love to offer my contribution as a jewelry designer to help develop projects that deliver enriching, empowering, transformative experiences that endure. Experiences that help you identify, cultivate and celebrate the strength and beauty that is inside you. Experiences that stay with you, and become a part of your story.
My kundan jewelry designs are poetic, powerful and graceful metaphors that capture the beauty of an experience for a lifetime.
You and your business have grown so much over the past few years. Was there ever a time when you worried about failing? How did you overcome it?
Yes, absolutely! Of course, there have been so many moments of doubt, of just feeling completely deflated, times when I thought I should just hang it all up. What has gotten me through all those times is perseverance, determination and surrounding myself with an amazing network of support. There are all sorts of voices and people around us all the time and I think over the years, I’ve become very skillful at gleaning the voices that are truly uplifting from those that are steeped in fear and insecurity.
I also find incredible motivation and strength in the Rajasthani proverb I mentioned earlier:
“Gold becomes kundan only after passing through fire.”
We all pass through our own fires and I really believe that when we are faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, it’s really the universe offering us an opportunity to become a master. There is so much joy in pushing through and coming out on the other side, in coming to understand your own strengths and abilities, in really knowing who you are and who you can be. Struggle is a part of life, but how you emerge from the struggle is what creates your unique story. I get inspired by friends, loved ones and also from writers, bloggers and artists that are sharing their wisdom and stories online and in books.
Aren’t you totally inspired!? I know we have all passed through our individual fires and Sapna really understands the importance of letting the world know you have come out great for it. You will definitely want to take a peek through her collections.