Tanzanian-based jewellery company Rosenkrantz Africa caused great excitement in 2019 when it produced the largest Tanzanite and diamond necklace in the world. The woman who designed this magnificent piece, with over 700 carats of jewels, is Jhaleh Aziz Rosenkrantz, co-owner and creative director at Rosenkrantz Africa.
A fourth-generation Tanzanian, born in Tabora and raised in Dar es Salaam, Jhaleh's family is originally from Iran. She has been interested in art from an early age, and studied photography and oil painting in South Africa.
Jhaleh and her Danish husband, Iver Rosenkrantz, started the jewellery company in 2016.
Her jewellery designing skills are self-taught, born out of her passion in fine art, and her contemporary designs of clean-cut lines and African gemstones, are purchased by clients across the world.
In an effort to support undervalued mining communities, Jhaleh's company only works with small-scale and artisanal miners. Rosenkrantz Africa also operates the only female-run gemstone mine in Zimbabwe, an initiative to empower local women "because we believe there is a need for change and inclusivity," said Jhaleh.
How did you get into the fine jewels business?
My family had always been involved in mining, so I was exposed to the industry from a very young age. When Iver and I started Rosenkrantz Africa, he was mining rubies in Tanzania. With the shared love we have for Africa and gemstones, we created our brand. I have always been passionate about arts and nature, and it is hard not to be constantly inspired by the beautiful continent we live on.
Where do you get ideas and inspirations for your designs?
Our designs are inspired by our diverse cultural backgrounds and surroundings. I come from two very different but vibrant, colourful and warm backgrounds. The vibrancy and rawness in our pieces are inspired by Tanzania, while my Iranian heritage inspires the intricacies in our work. Iver is Danish and we both love the minimalism of Scandinavian design, so we have incorporated that in many of our pieces, making sure the finished product has clean lines.
What philosophy guides your work as a designer and business owner?
My philosophy is to produce responsible African luxury. We strive to always do right by the people we are working with and our clients. We are not only inspired by the continent but also dedicated to empowering its people. Our partnership with artisanal miners aims to help them get the global recognition and pay that they deserve for what they produce. We hope to further this.
Tell us the story behind the largest Tanzanite necklace?
Tanzanites are gemstones that are unique to Tanzania and, therefore, close to my heart. We got the opportunity to create the largest Tanzanite and diamond necklace in history. It was a fascinating project, but it was a lot of hard work. We spent a month searching for suitable stones, going to the mines, cutting and polishing until we had reached the level of perfection we were after. The piece has more than 600 carats of Tanzanite and 100 carats of diamonds that were carefully selected and had to be the right match in colour, size and shape.
Are there many female designers of fine jewellery?
It may seem surprising to some, but this industry is predominantly male-dominated. Men tend to work mainly in the industry's primary and secondary sectors, such as mining, trading, and manufacturing of products that use precious metals and stones. Jewellery design seems to have more females involved, but even then, some of the most prominent jewellers globally are male.
How do you market and sell your jewellery?
We service our clients privately and use our online presence, website and Instagram, to sell products to clients across the globe.
A lot of our work is custom pieces for private clients and that has been our focus, attending to our clients one-on-one so they get a more personalised experience.
What are some of the more popular pieces you have designed?
Our most popular pieces are the signature Karura Collection of semi-polished gems such as tourmaline and ruby, wrapped in 18 carat gold.
What kind of gemstones are you mining from Kenya and Tanzania?
We are currently working with tsavorite and tourmaline mines here in Kenya. We also source Tanzanites and spinels from Tanzania.
Why did you choose to establish a women's only mine in Zimbabwe?
Unemployment in rural areas of Zimbabwe is a big challenge, opportunities for women are very few.
But what we were told when we shared our idea of starting an all-women mine is, "women couldn't possibly do this job!" Today, Zimbaqua is the largest aquamarine mine in Zimbabwe with a team of 30 women, who have put that statement to shame.
Many of our employees are single mothers who were struggling to feed and offer their children basic needs. Each Zimbaqua woman is now the breadwinner of her family and on a daily basis, they prove that mining can be fun and life-changing.
We are setting a new standard for mining and creating opportunities for women, ultimately uplifting and improving their living standards.
How has Covid-19 impacted your jewellery business and mining works?
The pandemic has definitely affected the way we work. Travel restrictions have slowed down production but has also given us time to focus, regroup and catch up on ventures we had planned but were too preoccupied to see through.
We had to be cautious with our clients constantly trying to look out for their health and safety as well as our own. On the flip side, I've had time to carefully design new pieces.
How do you spend your free time?
I enjoy wildlife photography but it is unpublished because it's something that I like to keep to myself, for now at least. I enjoy food, whether it's eating it or cooking it. It is a great way to bring people together and being social is a large part of my personality.
What are some of your favourite places to visit in Africa?
I love Africa. It is so different and diverse, and we are so privileged to have some of the most beautiful landscapes and most pristine beaches on the planet. My favourites include the raw, red terrains of Samburu, the crisp beaches and clear blue waters of Zanzibar and Tsavo, where we adventure for stones.