The Dandelion Chandelier Luminary Café is the place to find a series of personal interviews with fascinating people who are stellar achievers in their chosen field of endeavor. Our Luminaries are sharing their origin stories, life philosophies, secret songs, guilty pleasures and hidden talents. It’s guaranteed to be illuminating.
Award winning jewelry designer Sharon Khazzam is a star in the world of haute joaillerie. She was the sole in-house jewelry designer for Asprey for eight years. With Asprey’s support, in 1993 Sharon launched her eponymous collection, which reflects her tastes as an artist and also her expertise with gemstones. You can find her one-of-a-kind collection of earrings, rings, bracelets and necklaces at Barneys New York, Isetan and Mitsukoshi in Tokyo, and Ylang 23 in Dallas. Or you can work directly with her to create a bespoke piece, choosing stones that speak to you, and seeing the design and the final product come to life in her studio.
On a sun-splashed autumn morning in October, we sat down with Sharon and her team in her vibrant and stylish New York atelier for a chat. Any excursion to the workshop of a master jeweler is dazzling – this one was made ultra-luxurious by the gorgeous décor and the splendid array of refreshments on offer: fresh Concord grapes and strawberries, rose-colored macaroons, a cheese plate, fresh-brewed cappuccino. And best of all, a freshly-baked apple tart made from local ingredients by Sharon’s daughter, who is an art gallerist, photographer – and in her free time, an excellent baker.
Tell us your life philosophy in 6 words or less.
Remind myself to beware of indifference.
How did you decide to do the work you’re doing now?
By chance! In high school, I was always drawing. I wanted to be in fashion. When I applied for admission to the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) they wanted to see finished apparel that I had designed. But I couldn’t sew. So I applied for the jewelry design department instead, thinking that I would just switch over to apparel design in a few months. I fell in love with jewelry, though, and that’s what I’ve done ever since.
Who lights you up?
My family. I have a son and a daughter. My son is still in school, and my daughter works with me. She also has an art gallery where she showcases the work of talented artists who don’t have their own exhibition space. It’s really tough for young artists. We have seen some incredible talent with no place to show what they have created.
How do you like to celebrate?
My people, my music. I think a celebration requires being surrounded by people who make you happy. My team has been with me for over 5 years – in some cases twice that amount of time – and it’s like being at home when I’m at work. When I started my own business, I vowed to not work with people who make me upset. It doesn’t matter how talented they are, if they’re unpleasant, it’s not going to work. As for music, I can’t live without it. I don’t watch television, but music is with me 24/7, wherever I am.
If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? Where would you stay?
If I could go anywhere, I would return to Iran, and stay in the home in which I grew up. For a vacation spot, last year for the holidays we went to Thailand and stayed at two different properties in the Anantara hotel chain: the Anantara Layan Phuket and the Anantara Chiang Mai. They were both so luxurious; and it was also like being sent deep into Thai culture and nature. I remember one evening when we were headed out for dinner and we came across a traditional dancer in a square near a fountain. He was being accompanied by a woman playing a traditional Thai instrument. It was really magical.
What’s the last new food item that you tried for the first time? Did you like it?
I am a picky vegan, and I don’t like trying new things! But about 6 months ago, I tried the Vietnamese dish pho, and I really liked it. It’s simple, the broth is so good, and now it’s my new food.
What song is on your playlist that people would be surprised by?
“You’re All I Need,” by Method Man & Mary J. Blige
What’s your favorite form of exercise?
Swimming. We have a pool at home, and I’m up every morning at 4:00a at the gym. I do one “sprint” triathlon every year in August. I am on my 11th one now – its running, biking and swimming, just with shorter distances than a traditional triathlon.
Who is your favorite artist?
The pianist, Vladimir Horowitz. I began playing classical music – on the piano – at age 5. He was one of the most talented pianists who ever lived.
What are you reading right now?
The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer. It’s a novel based on the true story of a prosperous Jewish family in Tehran shortly after the revolution. The patriarch of the family is a successful jeweler and gem merchant, with a wife and two children, who is imprisoned because he had been the jeweler to the wife of the deposed Shah.
Tell us about your style.
I follow no fashion – fashion is just a little too commercial. I think you should dress for your body and for your lifestyle. When I find things that are right for me, I’ll wear them season after season. My advice is to invest in good pieces and really enjoy them. I enjoy mixing and matching, and playing with high-low combinations.
What is your favorite item of clothing? Who’s your go-to designer?
My favorite item of clothing is a sarrafin – it’s a jumper dress [she’s wearing one as we speak]. I love it because it can be casual or chic, depending on how you style it. It’s fun and not too serious. Prada is my favorite designer. My favorite Prada pieces are all bright orange – I have a maxi dress that I wore to a wedding once that I also wear to work. Prada ready-to-wear is really well-made. And it’s got a little twist that I really like.
What’s your dream car?
An old Jaguar – Type E.
What are you looking forward to?
Enjoying today, waking up tomorrow. That’s my feeling every day. November is when I start doing events at Barneys’ stores across the country. Its non-stop travel up until the holidays, and it starts again in late January and runs until May. So a January vacation is really important. Last year we went to Thailand. This year, I want to go to Tanzania. I want to see the places where they excavate tanzanite.
What skill do wish you had that you don’t currently possess?
What’s your hidden talent?
What’s the most extravagant thing you ever bought?
A rare Paraiba tourmaline. It’s one of my favorite stones. They were discovered in 1989 in the Paraiba region of Brazil. They’re naturally an incredible electric blue color – so beautiful. They didn’t realize when they first found them how rare they would turn out to be. It turns out that they are so rare that you can count on them increasing in value steadily each year.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
A ring from a homeless woman. About 15 years ago, I was on a bus in Manhattan sitting next to a woman and chatting with her and she explained that she was homeless. When we got to my stop, I got up and said goodbye, and she said “wait!” and tugged on her finger and took off her ring. I tried to prevent her from giving it to me – I got off the bus, but she followed me right off (the bus driver waited for her to get back on). I still have it – it’s pinned to a board in my studio, so I see it every day at work. I always think about what a precious object that must have been to her. And she chose to give to me – I’m still really not sure why. I talk to homeless individuals pretty often. Many are victims of circumstance. Everyone has a story.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Ice cream! I’m vegan, with this one dairy exception. My favorite flavor is pistachio.
What does luxury mean to you?
Indulgence without boundaries.