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In an industry that is becoming increasingly saturated, up-and-coming designers must search for something to set them apart more than ever. For Rosh Mahtani, who founded jewellery brand Alighieri despite not having any formal training, that something is the creation of self-professed ‘modern heirlooms’, an ambitious objective that is only recently beginning to be fully recognised. Recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design in 2020, Mahtani has created a brand that is as much about storytelling as it is about jewellery. This mission statement comes into play with complete consistency among Alighieri pieces. Click on any product on their website and you will be given the specifications of the piece itself, but also a ‘story’ section, providing context and meaning for each creation. 

Something, of course, must link every piece to uphold the brand’s image, and Mahtani’s primary source material for all collections is Dante Alighieri’s 'Divine Comedy'. Her interest in the text was sparked during her degree in French and Italian at the University of Oxford. Inspired heavily by the epic poem, all pieces correspond with one of its themes or scenes, and each ‘tells a story of whirlwind adventures, battered creatures, scraggy landscapes and passionate mistakes.’ 

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It only takes a glance at Alighieri pieces to see this ethos realised. There are no perfect circles, no regularity in the manipulation of metals. Despite the complexity of its inspiration, pieces bear the much sought-after (and apparent paradox of) intricate simplicity, making them wearable yet still striking. Alighieri groups collections thematically, with Dantean titles that each encompass an aspect of the 'Divine Comedy'. Inspiration can be found even in the darkest of places, as is exemplified in the Land of the Lawless collection, stimulated by the perspective of the souls in hell (or, Dante’s Inferno). Disregard for regulation and enthusiasm for irregularity are embodied by mixed metals and milky mother-of-pearl in battered, imperfect shapes. 

"pieces bear the much sought-after (and apparent paradox of) intricate simplicity"

Mahtani is fortunate that she was inspired by a poet who has had such major canonical influence, allowing her to create new collections based on these literary responses whilst remaining true and relevant to her initial source material. Another example of this is T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Wasteland’, prompting one of the more recent Alighieri collections, Love in the Wasteland which, in Mahtani’s words, communicates ‘the ways in which we can, and should, find love in our 21st century wasteland’. The eponymous choker and bracelet of the collection reinterpret the long-time jewellery classic– a chain – by incorporating the concept of connection and proximity: but the links are elongated, thickened, distorted from convention. In this way, connection is presented as irregular and imperfect; a comment on feelings of loneliness that prevail through Dante, Eliot, and the wasteland of challenge in 21st century life as a result of low-effort relationships maintained through technology.

The Wasteland ChokerINSTAGRAM/ALIGHIERI_JEWELLERY

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Mahtani told Business of Fashion, ‘we're not saving lives and sometimes, it's easy to think, what's the point in what I'm doing?’ The point, it seems to me, is far more pronounced than that of many other fashion brands. It is the duality of Alighieri, its ability to fuse genuinely beautiful jewellery with thoughtful and consistent storytelling, that has doubtless contributed to its growth. Alighieri injects gold into darkness, emphasising the exquisiteness in imperfection and wildness, bestowing the wearer of its pieces with a backstory of empowerment and centuries of literature as well as, of course, a stunning addition to any outfit. That is the beauty of Alighieri.