Prince sang diamonds and pearls while Rihanna sang shine bright like a diamond. These words describe Ivorian Satta Matturi’s world of fine jewellery. By Maryanne Njeri Maina
The Satta Matturi Fine Jewellery brand is about tradition, the expression of values and allowing women to celebrate their femininity and cultures through these pieces. Her designs are strong, feminine, elegant; beautiful statement pieces infused with elements of nature, that can stand the test of time.
“I’m enthusiastic about diamonds and the art of jewellery. I struggled to find pieces that appealed to me and I decide to create my own pieces that resonated across age groups and cultures,” explained Matturi. “Jewellery design started as my hobby with a collection of costume jewellery and it evolved slowly from there. It was a great way to test some branding concepts as well as products, price points and understand the markets and consumers in-depth.”
Besides the challenges, the prospects are high for the sector. According to Matturi, the African millennial and emerging middle class across the continent will define their own culture, which will influence their trends and buying habits to unique and different brands.
“I thought I had a good story to tell, I am from Sierra Leone which is synonymous with diamonds. I think it’s nice for an African woman and someone who worked in that level – De Beers and looking after big clients – Tiffany and Graff, to create fine jewellery for women to wear my pieces, I want them to feel strong, feminine, and elegant.”
A British and Sierra Leone national, Matturi nurtured her diamond knowledge and skills as a key account manager at De Beers for 16 years learning about the business. Her role required her to learn about the process of sourcing diamonds as well as rough and polished diamonds.
“At De Beers I acquired indispensable skills, insights and experience of the jewellery and diamond industry, globally. I travelled to several cutting centers and consumer markets to meet manufacturers and jewellery designers,” explains Matturi. “This knowledge gave me the foresight for my brand. My designs are about Africa and they can be worn anytime. I storytell the cultures, wonderful treasures and legacies of the continent through my pieces.”
Matturi’s first collection launched in 2016 with an ode to West Africa and the designs took the form of various different ceremonies, heritage, and customs from the region. The collection celebrated all women and enabled women to identify with the pieces and their story.
“The ‘Kola’ earrings symbolize the kola nut, which is highly regarded across West Africa and is an integral part of significant life events such as weddings and the birth of a child. It is synonymous in many West African traditional gatherings and social rituals,” she said. “I have portrayed the kola through a Rose Quartz stone and paved with diamonds.”
The process of creating her pieces takes six months from concept to final product. Matturi works with stones that have already been purchased or a ready-made design. The creation process involves inspiration, research, plan, drawings, testing prototypes and ethical sourcing of stones.
“All stones used are pre-polished from reputable suppliers who undertake best sourcing practices. I conceptualize the designs and the collections then work with my designers to create a computer-generated image, which I refine and fine tune. The next step is to select the stones for the product and these can range from rubies, diamonds, to pearls or even sapphires. Diamonds are a main feature in my pieces.”
Her business is by appointment only and she spends most of her time London and Botswana catering to women from Africa, Russia and other countries.
“My clients choose my designs as they are unique and limited. These are mostly self-purchasing women; both married and single women who are successful and run their own businesses or work in senior management roles in corporates. More and more women are financially independent today.” explains Matturi. “There will always be a demand for jewellery. However, we often have periods where the demand slows and jewellery is likely the first to be cut of the wish list but I feel that the new millennial middle class shows a huge potential for growth.
The bridal collections are some of her main jewellery business performers.
In Africa, there are certain markets that have been essential to Satta Matturi Fine Jewellery business.
“The two markets that have matured quickly in regards to buying fine jewellery from boutique brands are Nigeria and South Africa. They are receptive to alternative brands,” Matturi commented.” Outside Africa, we have Russia UK and USA that show a lot of interest for my pieces.”
There are often three types of jewellery consumers; new money, emerging markets and young consumers. In addition, there is an increase of new jewellery designers in Africa though there is a gap in African designers in the fine jewellery space.
“The emerging markets have the kind of clients who drive sales for boutique jewellery businesses. They are travelled, sophisticated and desire to be different by wearing boutique brands, ” elaborated Matturi. ” There is a lot of potential and I have met many talented designers but with fine jewellery a lot is required to bring a design or concept to market and future designers in Africa need access to various valuable resources such as marketing knowledge, public relations among other necessary aspects.”
The industry has several challenges for small business entrepreneurs, which include access to raw materials, fierce competition from global brands, access to finance and access to industry knowledge.
“Competition is fierce, you and have to constantly reinvent and differentiate yourself. I have learnt to make quick informed decisions as opportunities are few in this industry. I have learnt as a business woman to constantly network and grow my knowledge thus building my confidence to work on more collections,” she reflected. “I intend to share my brand values and aesthetics globally and placed retail environment which enables my clientele to access the pieces easily.”