By Nimi Patel
Rosh Mahtani's jewellery installation is located in the Member Market window at Soho.Home.Studio. Offering a glimpse into the designer's Hatton Garden workshop, the space is a trove of fragmented medallions, column plinths and original sketches. 'I had the opportunity to create my own universe, which is what Alighieri is all about. I wanted to build a world to connect with people,' she explains.
Mahtani founded Alighieri to guide her through a dark time. Each design is inspired by Dante Alighieri's poem, The Divine Comedy, which explores fear, darkness and feeling lost. 'I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I felt drawn to creativity,' says Mahtani. After a one-day wax carving course, Mahtani set out to create a brand that honours the timelessness of literature and art through jewellery.
The designer's sculptural pieces celebrate the beauty of human imperfection and vulnerability. 'Our Leone Medallion is one of the first pieces I created,' says Mahtani. 'It symbolises strength and courage. I wear it every day to remind myself to be strong - it's the North Star of the brand.'
'I want people to feel like an enhanced version of themselves when they wear Alighieri,' says Mahtani. 'Our talismans are created to take on whatever meaning you need at that time in your life. Carrying it, hopefully unlocks something within you,' she explains.
Using scent and the purifying benefits of Palo Santo to encourage creativity, Mahtani spends her days in her studio hard-carving each talisman in wax. She then walks them over to a local caster who transforms the miniature sculptures into bronze, recycled silver and solid gold heirlooms, using the ancient art of lost-wax casting. 'The details that are picked up in these cavities are amazing, even the tiniest fingerprint can be detected. I want each piece to feel like it's been dug up from the ground, like an artifact or treasure that you've found, but styled in a modern way for modern people.'
Mahtani's upbringing in a quiet Zambian town encouraged her to fantasise about other worlds, which subconsciously seeped into Alighieri's philosophy, along with the idea of finding treasure in unexpected materials. 'There wasn't much to do so you had to make your own fun,' she says. 'I remember making paint out of leaves, collecting stones and cataloguing them.'
The creative director's Indian heritage taught her about the sentimental value of jewellery which inspired her to think of her pieces as 'modern heirlooms'. 'Going through my mother's jewellery box was a ritual,' she explains. 'It was a treat to sit on the bed and hear stories about each piece.'
Mahtani recalls an 18-carat chain that she misplaced, which was given to her at birth by her grandmother to symbolise protection in the face of life's adventures. 'I like to think of it as a sign from my grandmother that I don't need protecting anymore,' she says. 'After creating something of my own I no longer feel lost. I like to imagine that someone else will find it who needs it more than me'.
Find Alighieri at Soho.Home.Studio until 9 January.