'We take jewellery too seriously,' says New York artisan jeweller Ana Khouri over tea in London. 'Because of its worth - because of its history. We end up with everyone in cages. It doesn't have to be that way.'
It's been more than a decade since the Brazilian designer, who originally studied fine arts, transitioned from sculpture to bijou. 'I always say that it's fine jewellery, but not the way that you expect it,' she continues. 'It's not about the bling. We allocate the value into more than how much it is on stones.'
Just like an artist, Khouri works with one-of-a-kind commissions and limited editions, with each piece interacting with the body in their own uniquely sensual way. 'My father is an engineer, so I thought, "How can I do the same thing and work so that it can be ergonomic?"' she says. 'The jewellery has to feel like it's not even on you, so it has to fit you well.'
Picking up a moulded Robocop-style earring, which sits inside of the ear, she models the piece as she talks: 'We are connecting the jewellery to the human body. The jewellery only makes sense when you put it on.' That said the wonder of her following is that even without tangibility her designs sell remarkably well online - if you can get your hands on them that is, from the likes of a Net-A-Porter or Dover Street Market.
'It's about working with pieces of the body that you don't normally associate with jewellery,' she continues. 'Experimenting, but also always connecting to the body and to today. You could have your grandma's necklace, but the women of today don't feel like it fits into their day.'
Next up she fastens a spear that looks like it has pierced right though the lobe, before escaping out the other side. The way that her hand bracelet cradles the knuckles is similarly intuitive. 'Why is this weird?' she questions, referring to the back of the hand, near the knuckles that's normally ignored by jewellers. 'I know a lot of people are using floating lately so I use deconstructing,' she says of the open ring craze. 'I want to say what I need to say using less.'
As for the pearl's recent revival, she says she's been working with Australian and South Sea varieties for some seven years: 'For me they are so classic, so I was like, "How can I turn this into today?" I have one person Emilio that searches for us. He travels everywhere in the world and if he finds three of the one pearl I'll get them as I work in additions. I don't have to produce 45 or 400 pieces.'
Khouri was also an original champion of the now ubiquitous ear cuff: 'I know it's a trend now,' she says of the piece that she first tackled a decade ago. 'The first pieces never sold, they were totally rejected, but I kept on with the idea.' Sculpture may now be purely a hobby for Khouri, but she is very open to using all kinds of materials from wood to sapphires to Fairtrade gold. 'It's like, "How can we take this gold that's super classic, and how can we make it Anna Kouri?"' she explains of her design process. 'I don't want a fantasy world, but a moment when you bring an awareness and think, "Wait, how does that go?"'