Istanbul-based jewelry designer Verda Alaton has a passion for the simple forms and shapes found in nature, which is reflected in the clean lines and striking beauty of her designs. Although her jewelry line Tohum was founded in 2008, her interest in design and art extends much further back. Raised in Istanbul, Verda moved first to Switzerland then to New York City for her university studies, where she developed a strong interest in other cultures. It was when she came across a New York art gallery specializing in artworks from Africa that she discovered her passion for art from the continent. She was so taken with the pieces that she immediately walked in and asked the owner if he could give her a job. Thus began her apprenticeship and education in African art, and the seeds of her first design ideas.
During this time, she began to travel extensively and collect pieces of ethnic art and jewelry. She says that one of the things that she appreciates most about African art is that everything has a function, and even the most beautiful objects are made to be used, to have a purpose in daily life. Upon her return to Istanbul, Verda started working in the shipping sector, but eventually took the big step to leave the corporate world and start her own jewelry company, Tohum. Tohum means seed in Turkish, and the pieces reflect the simple beauty found in nature. The Tohum philosophy celebrates the individuality of the wearer. Each piece is a one-of-a-kind object inspired by the natural beauty of the materials used as well as the personality of the person for whom it is designed, and is often inspired by ethnic adornment pieces.
During her travels, Verda discovered unusual items, such as 19th-century West African trade shells, and wanted to make these beautiful items wearable. Therefore, her first pieces were built from old stones and shells, fossils, and crystals. Some pieces are subtler, while others use more striking colors and materials, such as fossilized coral or an unusual shell known as Hippo Tooth. She only uses 925 carat silver, not gold, in her designs, because her pieces are meant for every woman.In fact, one of her favorite pieces in her collection is a very simple ring made with an almond still in its shell, encased in a thin band of silver. The almond itself has no real value but it is still a strikingly beautiful piece thanks to the use of natural materials and the simplicity of the design.
Although it was not easy to transition from being an employee to being an entrepeneur, Verda has enjoyed a considerable amount of success over a relatively short period of time. Soon after founding her company, she put together an Inspiration Exhibition for Pearlfisher, a London-based design and branding company, and later on the same company designed her brand for her. Verda strongly feels that Tohum should not be a trendy brand, and instead focuses on bespoke pieces. All of the pieces are handcrafted, and while Verda herself has studied jewelry making, she currently concentrates on the business end of the company. Her pieces are all made in a workshop in the Grand Bazaar, where she works with an Armenian craftsman who has been in the same workshop for the past 30 years.
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