“All creation, natural or manmade, can be viewed through mathematical laws of similitude, symmetry, and geometry. Mathematics and art are deeply related. In fact, maths have been described as a form of art motivated by beauty. Even in 1509, the Renaissance mathematician Luca Pacioli spoke of the use of the golden ratio in art in his treatise ‘Of Divine Proportion,’ which was illustrated by Leonardo da Vinci.”
When speaking with jewelry designer Mania Zamani about her work, one begins to quickly realize that there is much more at play within her collections then what appears at the surface. Elegant repetition plays out in gold and diamonds, minerals and precious stones. Triangles bind together, rectangles link, lines meet, all in perfect symmetry. But what makes this bold look even more powerful is knowing the ethos behind it, its unseen intent. For Zamani, jewelry is not simply about adornment; it’s about creating the physical manifestation of heritage and history, a translation of something both mystical and academic.
Zamani’s path to design, like the pieces themselves, is not immediately obvious. Born in Iran, Zamani’s father worked for an oil company. Her mother was a teacher. “I think I got my creative side from my father,” Zamani muses. “He was very good at drawing. I’d spend hours painting with him on the weekends. He was the one who taught me how to draw and sent me to an art class.” Those early influences only began to take their present form later on. After studying mathematics at university, Zamani went on to work in advertising before opening her own spa business. Her “jewelry adventure,” as she so aptly calls it, began just five years ago, soon after moving to New York City.
From her adopted home, Zamani designs collections deeply influenced by the architecture of her native country. “I’m inspired by the fundamentals of Iranian architecture,” Zamani explains. “Structure, homogeneous proportions, minimalism, symmetry, antisymmetry.” Her pieces–favored by everyone from Wallpaper* and Vogue Brazil, to actress Karine Vanasse and model Candice Swanepoel–often feel like cityscapes in miniature, little slices of very big ideas. And, given her penchant for pulling from ancient patterns, they are, perhaps little slices of the very biggest ideas, millennia old.
As deeply thoughtful as Zamani’s works are, they are not meant to be shelved away and used only on special occasions. She believes jewelry is something to be incorporated into everyday life. “Jewelry is an important part of our lives because it tells a story about us. Even historically, it’s always said something about the wearer’s identity. I certainly believe that when you invest in a piece of jewelry you have to be able to wear it; it won´t channel your identity if it´s in the safe!”
Below, we speak to Zamani about complexity of design, universal patterns, and how a piece of jewelry can perfectly embody the past while looking towards the future.
What is the most challenging part about making jewelry that is so heavily influenced by expertly constructed architectural works?
Design and practicality. The successful marriage of these two ingredients is as essential to architecture as it is to fine jewelry. Just as with a building, in jewelry you need to consider design concept, body and weight, connections and structure and–of course–beauty.
Are there any shapes or pieces you haven’t been able to do–or wanted to execute but found yourself limited by the form?
Sometimes my designs are very complex and not so easy to realize. I like symmetrical shapes and clean lines; I don’t like to see clasps, connections, or locks. The combination of all of these requirements can make for challenging constructions!
Is there one building you find yourself the most fascinated by?
The Boroujerdi House in Kashan, Iran and Santiago Calatrava’s World Trade Center transportation hub in New York.
Do you find inspiration in the architecture of your adopted home?
Walking in New York gifts me with so many design concepts. The repetition in lines, shapes, and colors means endless inspiration.
What ancient patterns to you find yourself drawn to and why?
The hexagon. It’s at the heart of Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist iconographies. Its patterns are seen in the both the sacred and the profane.
How should someone best incorporate jewelry into their daily life?
My advice is to ask yourself a few questions before buying a jewel: How much do you love the piece? How often your will wear it? And will you still wear it in ten years?
Three words that best describe your work:
Architectural. Modern. Viable.
Three words that best describe the women who wear your work:
Elevated. Chic. Powerful.
You’ve mentioned the deep Iranian tradition of gifting gold and jewelry, passing treasures down generation to generation. What is the best piece you have ever been given and what does it mean to you?
My grandmother gave me a beautiful gold ornament that is traditionally worn by brides. This piece has huge emotional value to me: it connects to my grandmother, who passed away two years ago, and it’s something that I can pass on to the next generation. So it tells a story about the past but also looks at the future.
Viewed through the prism of history, how do you think people will look back on this particular era of jewelry and adornment?
I have mixed feeling about this. Fast fashion has had a big impact on the jewelry market. The timeless aspect of jewelry relies on the quality of its materials, craftsmanship, and design–values that don’t necessarily stand in the 21st century. On the other hand, though, we have amazing designers who´ve changed the way you look at the jewelry by using new gemstones, different materials and innovative techniques. This is exciting and fresh.
Given the current political climate, your “Unity Collection” seems particularly apt. How important—in life and in design of your work—is it to remember that there are universal things that tie everything (and everyone) together?
“The essence of the beautiful is unity in variety.” — William Somerset
I grew up in Iran but I’ve traveled a lot. What fascinates me is the similarity in cultures, architecture, designs, motives, and patterns around the world. Five hundred years ago people didn’t have access to the Internet, yet they used similar shapes or colors to create and express themselves. That’s fascinating! Regardless of our cultural backgrounds, skin colors, and languages, we share so much. That’s a key consideration in my design process.