Yokabid Worku’s Yoki Fine Jewelry Collection Sparkles
When Ethiopian born Yokabid Worku launched her fine jewelry collection Yoki in 2008, her maternal Aunt said, “I am not surprised that this is the path you chose.” She reminded Yokabid, “when you were a little girl, you cut the biggest flower from my garden and held it against your ear and said to me ‘one day, my jewelry will be this big’.”
Although she doesn’t recall saying this, Yokabid, explains, “I look back and smile at my journey because I believe, life is somewhat of a circle when you have a vision or an interest, you find your way back to it or it finds its way to you.”
This is certainly the case with this rising young star—whose pieces are imbued presence, character and recall the craftsmanship, precision and artistry of the renowned jewelers of the mid-20th century
Yokabid describes her designs as ‘conversation pieces’ each with their own inspiration which become part of the larger dialogue of her full collections. “Although I am extremely inspired by flora and fauna as well as architectural details, I seek to interpret this in abstract expression, highlighted by bold color combinations. I love the idea of mixing inspirations and shaking things up so it is unexpected and more implied in the finished design. For example, a colorful pattern that I may have seen on a saltwater fish scale may inspire a motif that weaves together an ornamental detail from an Art Deco building.” It is in the fusing of these disparate ideas that spring forth some of Yoki’s most creative jewels.
Bejeweled talked to Yokabid to get some more Intel on how the child with the large flower turned her youthful passion into her dream career.
When did you know you had a love for jewelry?
Around the age of seven years old. I have vivid memories of playing in my family’s garden and making wearable pieces such as rings, tiaras, hair ornaments and brooches out of buds, blossoms, stems and twigs that I gathered each day. As a young girl, there was nothing better than to be surrounded by nature’s infinite rich palette of beautiful flowers, brightly colored butterflies and all the wonderful greenery and creatures. The garden was my happy place and a lot of ‘organic’ jewelry came from there.”
What type of jewelry were you attracted to as a young girl?
“I loved brooches and suites of jewelry, which is a bit strange for a young girl but when going through my mother and aunt’s jewelry boxes –these were the pieces that called to me. I also attempted to advice the women in my family piece they should wear with different outfits. I was very opinionated about jewelry I also loved looking at the intricate tiny details, colors, shapes, cuts, sizes, style, etc. So when there were family outings and holidays, I offered to bring out pieces to chose from for my aunt and mom to wear.”
What were the first pieces you ever owned and wore?
“Earrings. I had my ears pierced at age five and my mom bought me a pair of 18K yellow gold earrings that I wore regularly and didn’t take off for years.
There was also a brooch that my aunt owned that she let me wear, as I got a bit older. I had always been drawn to it. It was a hand carved sardonyx cameo and it had round–cut black gemstones surrounded it which might have been faceted onyx.”
Were you creative in other ways?
“Drawing and painting. On holidays, I used to create my own postcards with personalized messages and pass them out to family members. I also remember when I was a freshman in high school, I used to sketch my entire outfits for a week ahead of time, which now seems both strange and interesting for a teenager.”
Can You Tell Us A Litle Bit About Your Background Before Launching Yoki?
“I went to college, took a job and then went back and got my masters degree in 2006. I then work in management but none of my schooling or my first career revolved around jewelry. Then, through a series of unrelated events, I needed to re-evaluate my life and reached the “Aha moment” which led to my learning the craft of jewelry I embarked on teaching myself each step of the creative and the business aspects simultaneously. This was not easy, as it required patience, unwavering commitment, keen observation, business strategy and most importantly the passion to see it all through. I did and launched Yoki in 2008 with one small grouping.
What were the first pieces you designed?
“Rings. One of which, in the fall of 2010, two years after establishing my company and a year after joining the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) in 2009; was featured on the cover of Prism Magazine It was a large Persian turquoise, with a surround of over 200 rubies in 18K rose gold. This recognition served as a validation for me.
What is your approach to designing your collection?
“As I mentioned at the beginning of the interview, I am obsessed with mixing up myriad objects, from the structure of a jet engine up to the inside of a flower. I can look at a lake, the intricate patterns on butterfly wings, intriguing underwater creatures, the veins on a flower petal or antique doorknobs and I will find something that inspires me. And, parts of each will flow together to create my different collections. I have one group that evokes Medieval Gardens, which brings flowers and ornament and architecture together and another, which reflects the Caribbean coastline in color and form. Color, whether it be tonal or contrasting often unifies the different elements in the collection”
Have you had a piece of jewelry handed down to you that you wear often or never take off and what is it?
“My mom gave me one suite of high karat yellow gold pieces set with rubies and one with emeralds. I don’t wear them as suites but I do wear the pieces separately or mixed with others in my personal collection as well as wearing them in combination with Yoki pieces. And I do take them off.”
How would you recommend to women to wear your jewelry and jewelry in general?
“To mix my pieces with those a woman already owns. I think it is more interesting when jewelry is chosen without too much thought or styling. Pieces that women wear should make them happy and comfortable. I love innovative ways of wearing jewelry. Even with your most serious pieces, it’s best to get creative, be playful and have fun.”
Created In Partnership with Yoki