Cleopatra. Sheba. Hera. Nefertiti. Josephine. What do these ancient women (and goddesses) have in common, other than confidence and endurance? Next-level, attention-grabbing bling, that’s what. These women are icons of empowerment and beauty millennia later, due in no small part to their distinctive and captivating adornment. For several seasons now, demure minimalist jewelry has reigned supreme. Isn’t it time for styles more suited to feminine fierceness to take the limelight?
Part of the pushback against bolder jewelry came from the acknowledgment of the unethical sourcing and production practices that were commonplace in the traditional jewelry industry. Precious materials became associated with war, child labor, and exploitation. But pearls and precious stones don’t have to come at the cost of ethics, and gold might not actually be what you want to look for when shopping for statement-making forever pieces.
Why Gold Jewelry Doesn’t Last
Gold jewelry is typically gold-plated, which means it is actually another (less precious and less malleable) metal topped with a very thin coating of gold that will scratch, tarnish, and discolor over time. Why invest in “gold” jewelry that will only last you a year or two? Other production methods that use more quantity of real gold in their pieces are prohibitively expensive and not practical for day to day wear. So how is the ethically conscious jewelry lover supposed to get her shine on?
This was the question Bynes New York was asking when they went looking for their first jewelry collection. The brand sources limited edition, handcrafted designs from around the world that reflect cultural heritage and modern sensibility. In Bali, they found Kasha Bali Moroccan-born designer Kenza Barrada, who works with a single Balinese family to turn her regal jewelry drawings into handmade, ethically sourced, absolutely stunning reality.
Kenza Barrada - Kasha Bali founder
Fit for a Queen
There is a bold independence to Barrada’s creations, a sense of confidence and empowerment that has drawn the likes of Bella Hadid and Joan Smalls to this small, woman-run business. Barrada’s inspiration ranges from Greek mythology to ancient Egypt to the African Maasai, the connecting thread being the strength of the women in these societies and their unapologetic love of standing out.
Kasha Bali makes only statement pieces, those that will “turn heads and catch eyes,” as she says. She began making tribal-inspired chokers and has developed earrings, rings, and cuffs as well. Each piece looks powerful, almost magical, like it was meant for a goddess, a queen, or a superhero. The bold, light-catching metalwork designs stand on their own or are complemented by precious gems like turquoise, topaz, labradorite, and pearl. There is no blending in when wearing one of Barrada’s pieces.
Beautiful Materials, Beautiful Processes
Kasha Bali sees nano-coated brass as the more durable, less volatile answer to gold plating.
The high-quality brass she uses in all Bynes New York jewelry is brighter and closer in color to true gold than gold plating, which takes on a reddish tint. The nano coating she uses is not a chemical, but rather a physical process that fixes the metal and keeps it from tarnishing or changing color over time.
Founder Barrada herself tests each piece for comfort and durability, taking them into the ocean and even sleeping in them. She expects her jewelry to look brand new in ten year’s time, so she takes the utmost care with her designs and with the artisans she partners with. A single family of Balinese metalworkers hand-makes all the jewelry from start to finish, and Barrada works closely with a local jeweler to source her materials and communicate her drawings to the atelier.
Even though it is more costly for Barrada to have her designs made in Bali, she says the consistent quality of result is worth it:
“Once I show them what I want, even if I'm not there, I know it's gonna be right. It's something for me that has no price, to trust the people with whom you work. It's like family.”
This kind of transparency and loyalty is rare in fine jewelry, and Bynes New York hopes that, in their small way, they can begin to make the jewelry community a little more kind and inclusive for everyone involved. Every piece in the Bynes New York jewelry collection is adjustable, because Barrada believes women should not be defined by or insecure about a size. Each piece should fit and flatter your body like it was made for you, and should look just as stunning and bright ten years from now as it does today.
Embrace Your Power and Beauty
While these attention-grabbing pieces are made to last forever, now is the perfect time to explore the bold jewelry trend. With the first taste of fall in the air, we are already beginning to see gold statement jewelry appearing in collections from the runway to the department store. Rather than spending too much on a gold-plated necklace or earrings that will only last a couple wears before becoming scratched and tarnished, step into the season with confidence in a piece from Kasha Bali that manifests your feminine power and will be central to your collection for years to come.
Designer Kenza Barrada says starting her own brand Kasha Bali is what allowed her to discover her own empowerment and fierceness, a gift that she hopes to pass along to the women who wear her designs: “It's my biggest challenge, my biggest accomplishment, and it gave me so much strength and empowerment. This is my gift—this piece of my story, of my soul.”