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11 May 2023

Sevan Bıçakçı: Istanbul’s King of Rings

In the world of fine jewellery, Sevan Bıçakçı is well known, winning multiple awards and having his jewellery worn by celebrities.

Sevan Bıçakçı: Istanbul’s King of Rings

Image: Sam Aronov/Shutterstock 

Sevan Bıçakçı is a name that echoes throughout the world of fine jewellery. Renowned for his impeccable craftsmanship, Bıçakçı’s masterpieces are created using the intricate intaglio reverse carving technique, which involves painstakingly carving details into precious stones from underneath, creating a breath-taking sense of depth when viewed from above. His attention to detail is unparalleled, with some pieces taking months to complete, and are coveted by collectors and celebrities alike.   

From Catherine Zeta-Jones to Halle Berry, Bıçakçı’s clientele list reads like a who’s who of Hollywood A-list actors. Two of his pieces were worn by Whoopi Goldberg to the 2016 Oscars. On one hand, Goldberg wore one of his gold, silver, and diamond watches valued at $280,000, while on the other, she wore a piece featuring an ornate octopus that is part of his private collection.   

“I sent him an email,” she told the New York Times in 2019. “Hi, my name is Whoopi. I’m an actor, I’ll be doing the Oscars, and I wonder if you would ever lend me some of your jewellery. Your look is extraordinary, and yes, it’s really me,’” it read. “I thought he was one of the most innovative jewellers. Like Lalique or early Cartier. His work is just sublime,” Goldberg explained.  

Sir Anthony Hopkins also wore Bıçakçı’s work in ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ and Cate Blanchett did the same in ‘Ocean’s 8’ in 2018. And even politicians can’t resist the allure. In 2008, then-Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan and his wife Emine gifted Queen Elizabeth II with Bıçakçı’s “Paradise Garden” ring during her official visit to Türkiye, a testament to the artist’s skill and talent. In a world where luxury and beauty are synonymous, Sevan Bıçakçı’s creations are the epitome of both.   

Walking into his five-story atelier in Istanbul, with ornate oriental knives as door handles, it is clear that the city’s vibrant culture, rich history, and stunning architecture have undoubtedly influenced Bıçakçı’s creations. Replete in its charm and history, the city is the perfect setting for an artist like Bıçakçı, who effortlessly combines centuries old traditional techniques with modern innovation to create timeless works of art with Ottoman and Byzantine influences   

It’s easy to see why Bıçakçı is known as the “King of Rings”—his designs are as enchanting as the city itself.   

“Sevan is a genius,” says Bıçakçı’s Creative Director, Emre Dilaver, as we sit in the atelier’s viewing room, just a stone’s throw from Kapalıçarşı, Istanbul’s renowned Grand Bazaar. “His jewellery is pretty much like Istanbul, layer upon layer and he does that in an incredible way. He doesn’t compare to anyone else. It’s about representing the culture—elements of the culture that we started to miss today. We want to remember it and create jewellery so that not only us, everyone else can remember.”   

In 2009, Bıçakçı won a prestigious Jameel Prize established by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, which awards artists who explore Islamic influences through contemporary arts and crafts. Though highlighting how creativity knows no race or religion, this was all the more significant because not only is Bıçakçı a non-Muslim, but he is also a Turkish citizen of ethnic Armenian origin.   

Born in 1972, he started working at the Grand Bazaar aged just 12, learning the trade under another renowned jeweller of ethnic Armenian origin, Hovsep Çatak. In 1990 he set up his own workshop and 12 years later released his first personal collection.   

“He’s a very special mix, and I don’t want to do injustice to his coloured spectrum,” explains Dilaver, who has known Bıçakçı for 20 years. “He’s an Armenian who grew up in the district of Samatya, so by coincidence, he spent most of his childhood in the historic areas of the city. Sevan, being in that neighbourhood, played in the ruins of old houses, discovered tunnels connecting these old houses, and played accordingly. There was a lot of space for fantasy.”   

On 21 December 2022, Bıçakçı was awarded a Presidential Culture and Arts Grand Award in Ankara. “I received this valuable award on behalf of all the late masters who have contributed to the recognition of Kapalıçarşı as a world craft centre,” he told the Hürriyet newspaper afterwards. “I wish 2023 to be a year that opens fresh horizons to the master-apprenticeship tradition, full of beautiful surprises, love, friendship, and peace.”