April 19, 2022—My Instagram scrolling came to a screeching halt the other day when my eyes locked on a photo of Viola Davis in her stylist Elizabeth Stewart’s feed. The actress was dressed in some seriously stunning gold and diamond statement earrings for the premiere of Showtime’s The First Lady, a limited series in which she portrays Michelle Obama.
The caption for the image revealed the Kwe earrings were designed by Satta Matturi of Matturi Fine Jewelry with ethically and sustainably sourced De Beers diamonds from Botswana. Custom made for Viola to wear, the one-of-a-kind jewels are part of the #BlackIsBrilliant project. The De Beers and Radvocacy initiative works to amplify Black voices through representation on important red carpets.
I wanted to know more about the statement earrings and reached out to the British-West African designer who happened to be in New York on spring holiday over the weekend.
“The work on these earrings started about six to eight months ago,” explained Satta. “As part of the Black Is Brilliant initiative De Beers presented us with around 23-carats of diamonds that were not only sustainably sourced in Botswana, they were cut and polished there as well which was all very inspirational to me.”
Satta, who lived for a period in Botswana, began thinking of what she would design with the gems and spoke with her team about how they really needed to push the creative envelope.
“In conversations around this project, we were talking about sustainability and the environment,” remembers Satta. “It made me think of the Kwe bushman, some of the oldest inhabitants of Africa, who would be near the top of the list of people who live in a sustainable way.
“I also had in my mind flora and fauna in the contemporary African art I have collected over the years. It was part of my a-ha moment of paying tribute to Botswana through the design of the jewels.”
When Satta was paired up with Viola Davis’s stylist Elizabeth Stewart, they met repeatedly over Zoom to review all these ideas as the process progressed.
In the workshop, Satta directed her master craftsmen based in London to scatter multiple textures over the surface of the gold on the branches and buds in the earrings.
The pieces were set with various shapes of diamonds. Marquise, round and pear shape stones added to the organic quality of the jewels. “I wanted to capture an asymmetric angle and keep a wild look to the earrings,” explains Satta. “The earrings are not done to a high polish because that is not what Botswana is about. It is an expression of raw natural beauty.”
All the elements and thought that went into the design came shining through on the red carpet and, yes, my Instagram feed.
Find out more about the process and exchange between Satta and Elizabeth Stewart in the video below.