As long as humans and their ancestors have walked the earth, they’ve been gazing in wonder at the same moon as it morphs from a silver sliver to a crescent shape to a half moon to full orb-like radiance. During the long and lonely nights of the Covid pandemic, gazing out of her apartment and pondering the moon, earth’s one and only natural satellite, helped the New York-based designer Karma El Khalil stay centered and create her highly sculptural and luminous 18-karat gold jewelry collection, ‘Conversations with The Moon’. Embodying an aesthetic beauty, simplicity and philosophy that are universally appealing, timeless and chic, El Khalil’s designs are bejeweled meditations on her experience of watching the moon morph in shape, size and brilliance.
As El Khalil explains, “I called the collection ‘Conversations with The Moon’ because I spent many nights watching the moon from my apartment in the middle of New York City.” Closely observing the eight phases of its 27-day orbital period, El Khalil grew grateful for the moon’s illumination of the city’s canyons of steel and glass buildings. “While the ambulance sirens wailed,” she recalls, “the moon kept shining, which in some existential way, gave me hope.” Even though so many people lived in comparative isolation throughout much of 2020 and 2021, El Khalil continues, “During the lockdown in 2020, my sleepless nights were met by a view of the moon traversing the muted New York skyline as the still hours passed by. At a time of great isolation, I found much comfort in the fact that this celestial body connects every being on our planet, and as such, it reminded me of something we too often tend to forget — our oneness.”
Known for minimalist yet fiercely feminine jewels that embody angular yet sensuous and seductive silhouettes, ‘Conversations with The Moon’ builds on the aesthetic tendencies that have made El Khalil a favorite of such cultural stars as musicians Miley Cyrus and Rihanna along with actors Nicole Kidman and Angelina Jolie. This new collection glitters with pieces in 18-karat yellow gold or 18-karat white gold that sparkle and shine with repurposed diamonds. (The gold is also recycled, having been melted down from some of El Khalil’s previous collections and prototypes.)
While some of the rings that form this latest range are set with moonstone and chalcedony to embody a luminosity that’s subtly highlighted by tiny diamond accents, El Khalil’s cocktail rings set with champagne diamonds, Morganite, green tourmaline and topaz glitter like moonlight reflecting off skyscraper windows. Earrings manifest as morganite danglers or blazingly chic chandeliers of sky blue apatite and diamonds. Unlike El Khalil’s previous collections, Conversations with The Moon embodies a sculptural spectrum that ranges from raw gem silhouettes to exceedingly refined shapes: pendant necklaces contain dramatically irresistible hunks of raw blue opal, raw red spinel, or raw dioptase, which gleams in shades of forest green. The versatility and classicism of this collection’s designs is epic: these are luxury jewels that can be worn every day to make a memorable statement.
While she was dreaming up this new collection, “I sometimes felt like the moon and I were in a dialogue,” El Khalil recalls. “The moon was my companion during a time of total isolation, a mysterious presence who I knew embodied so much more time than a human lifetime, but with whom, in this moment, I felt physically, visually and emotionally connected.” Looking out of her apartment into the city’s sea of sparkling glass buildings, El Khalil recalls, “While the New York City lights from high rise buildings progressively went dark as the pandemic raged, the luminosity of the moon grew noticeably stronger with the passage of time. In a sense, the vibrant sparkle of the city lights was replaced by the expansive moonlight. As the moon grew more brilliant,” she relates, “it streamed more and more light through my windows, which in turn inspired new jewelry designs.”
Visually and viscerally experiencing the moon gave El Khalil the unexpected gift of crystallizing new forms and concepts for her latest collection. “What I feel grateful for is for the beauty and knowledge that I absorbed while speaking with the moon,” she reflects. “When one is open to seeing and listening to nature, one can learn invaluable lessons about life.” [Writer’s note: Approximately 240,000 miles from Earth, the moon also helps stabilize our planet’s wobble and regulate our climate.]
El Khalil is part of a long tradition of fine jewelry designers who created adornments inspired by the moon and its role in our universe. One thinks of the many Neolithic and Bronze Age collar necklaces that are shaped like crescent moons. Then there are the moonstone jewels that New York-based Count Fulco di Verdura dreamed up in the 1940s, along with the 18-karat gold and ruby Moon pendant earrings created in 1969 by the Athens-based jeweler Ilias Lalaounis. Commissioned by Aristotle Onassis for his wife Jackie Kennedy’s 40th birthday, these LALAounis jewels were also fabricated to coincide with the first NASA moon landing. In 2019, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, LALAounis created a limited number of Apollo 11 Moon earrings that glittered with diamonds on the moon’s surface.
While El Khalil’s moonstruck and New York City-inspired jewelry collection springs mainly from her sculptural and poetic imagination, ‘Conversations with The Moon’ also seems animated by a compassion for the human family that is expressed by the 20th century Lebanese-American poet and painter Kahlil Gibran. (While El Khalil is of Lebanese extraction, she grew up in Africa, Lebanon, France and the United States.) Like Gibran, who also lived in New York for part of his life, El Khalil is by virtue of cosmopolitan artistry carefully focused on connecting to various cultures and creeds. She just happens to do this via jewelry creation, rather than by poetry or prose.
As Gibran wrote in his book The Prophet, published in 1923: “In the stillness of the night I have walked in your streets, and my spirit has entered your houses, And your heart-beats were in my heart, and your breath was upon my face, and I knew you all. Aye, I knew your joy and your pain, and in your sleep your dreams were my dreams.” Created during a time of global fear, pain and mourning, El Khalil’s ‘Conversations with the Moon’ embodies lunar life-giving energies to make jewels that soothe the human spirit while adorning the human body.