THE FAMILY STONE
In Elham and Issa’s Chelsea studio, there are hundreds of pieces of exquisite jewellery for sale – and one that isn’t. In a glass case is a dazzling diamond tennis necklace made with a unique twist of pear-shaped, round-shaped and marquise stones. It was created by master jeweller Issa Sabeh as a wedding gift for his designer-partner wife, Elham Kalaji.
“To celebrate our marriage, I wanted to make something classic but modern for Elham,” explains Issa. “I chose the diamonds and came up with the design by playing with them.” His wife Elham agrees. “It felt so special to have something that was made just for me,” she says. “On our wedding day, my jewellery was as unique as the man I was marrying.”
The necklace perfectly captures the Elham & Issa aesthetic: timeless, elegant jewellery, made with love, to the highest standards of craftsmanship, inspired by their daily lives. The pair met in 2005 in Amman, Jordan, when Issa interviewed Elham for a designer role at the jewellery company where he worked. They joined forces to launch their business in 2007, married four years later and now have two children.
“Issa had faith in me from the moment we met,” says Elham, “we are a great team.” Issa agrees: “From the beginning, it was easy. I understand her, she understands me and she understands our customers. I want to be there for her to make her dreams come true.”
The story of their success is as fairy-tale as their romance. Soon after they launched, their jewellery was being sold at Harrods. Inspired, they opened a boutique in Amman and, in 2018, their studio in Chelsea. Their jewellery has been worn by Queen Rania of Jordan and featured in Vogue, Vanity Fair, Marie Claire, Elle and Tatler. “It’s still a surprise,” laughs Elham.
Although the couple now live in London, their brand is proudly “made in Jordan”. Their craftsmen are all trained by Issa, who has more than 30 years’ experience at the bench having started making jewellery at 13. “I was always fascinated by turning gold into art,” he says. “Now I’m driven by developing new techniques. I love to challenge myself – and for Elham to challenge me!”
Elham also began making jewellery as a child. At 18, she went to the University of Kent, becoming one of the first women in Jordan to get a degree in gold and silversmithing. The couple’s bestselling collection, Evolution, is inspired by rutilated quartz, which Elham fell in love with as a student. “The lines in it look like a starburst,” she says. She extends these in gold, adding white and black diamonds to enhance and refine the gemstone’s natural markings.
One of Elham and Issa’s recent creations is a pair of cufflinks called The Spirit, inspired by their appreciation of Rolls-Royce motor cars. Featuring sapphires and white diamonds set in yellow gold, the design is “curvy for elegance yet sharp for power”. “We try our best to be different,” says Elham. “If someone said our jewellery was like someone else’s, it would crush me.”
This desire also drives the couple’s bespoke service. After consulting with a client, Elham will hand-draw their creation, before Issa brings it to life, “from ink to gold”. “We love meeting our clients and making something unique they will love forever,” says Elham. “We want our jewellery to be like the watch on your wrist, something you wear every day – it’s not to be bought and then kept in a safe.”