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Q&A With Jessica Hendricks Yee, Founder of Zahava

November 09, 21

Q: Where did Zahava begin and what is the story behind the brand and your connection to it
The inspiration behind Zahava really began at the time of my wedding. I’m Jewish and my husband is Chinese American, so our wedding was a feast of rituals (and food!). I began to think about the symbols of the past — motifs and words of wisdom that have been meaning to people all over the world for thousands of years -- and how they may be able to make our lives more beautiful and meaningful today. I’m interested in design ideas that feel universal, and yet deeply personal, like a wedding. 


Q: What does the brand represent?
The brand is inspired by ancient wisdom and the magic of faraway places. Much of the inspiration comes from the middle east and days long gone. I’m fascinated by those elements of nature and culture that have remained unchanged for thousands of years — think desert, camels, pomegranates — another time and place! Of course, all of our technology and science of today has so impacted our lives for the better, but I can’t help but feel that a certain innate, feminine wisdom has been lost, or at least often feels just out of reach today.
I also adore the more recent history of my grandmother’s heyday, the 20s through the 1960s, when my precious heirloom pieces from her were crafted. Our tin gift boxes, for example, are created to be reminiscent of a tin candy box you may have found at your grandma’s house, taking you back to that nostalgic time.


Q: What does "Zahava" translate to and why did you choose this word to embody your brand.
Zahava means Golden in Hebrew. My intention behind the pieces is that they remind you of all that’s golden within you. So often we look outside ourselves for the answers, when in fact, oftentimes the most important wisdom comes from within. We just need to tune out all of the noise to be able to access that inner voice.


Q: How do you craft your jewelry to transcend today and create a piece that symbolizes so much more?
Our pieces are created with meaning that is known to the wearer, but may be hidden to the world. Our Traveller’s Tokens for instance feature an animal or botanical symbol on the front, with the meaning engraved on the back. Wearing a Traveller’s Token isn’t a statement for the world to see, but rather a private message for you to hold close. In this way Zahava pieces become a part of you, like a tattoo, embodying a value you cherish or celebrating a moment in time.


Q: What is a piece or collection that you designed that is particularly special to you? 
The Protea Traveller’s Token (symbolizing Renewal) is one of my all time favorites. I ADORE Protea flowers, and am instantly drawn to them whenever I see them in a flower shop or in the wild. However, when designing our Tokens, I felt that it might be smarter to use a more common flower — something a wider audience would be able to relate to. In the end, I decided to put forth what I find most beautiful, even if it spoke to less people, and the incredible thing is, it’s one of our absolute best sellers. It was a wonderful lesson for me to remember to trust myself, and that part of my job lies in distilling where I find beauty in the world, and putting that forth to share with others.


Q: Zahava is ethically produced — what does this mean to you and how does this affect the brand as a whole.
This means only working with a small number of trusted, vetted metalsmiths that have become friends and family. It means crafting pieces in small batches with care and intention. It means sourcing stones thoughtfully, from certified suppliers. It means going the extra mile, and dedicating our time and financial resources to creating pieces with integrity.


Q: How do you hope your jewelry pieces will make people feel.
Beautiful in their own skin, and connected to the shared human spirit.


Q: What does the word heirloom mean to you?
An object or idea that physicalizes a moment, and defies the rules of time and space. It could be a piece of jewelry but it could also be a recipe, or a song — something that reminds you of where you come from, and keeps that memory alive within you.


Q: What are your hopes for the brand and the impact it will have?
Of course, as an entrepreneur, you dream big — new partners across the globe! I love to travel and meet new people through my work. At the end of the day though, it’s the little moments that define success for me: A woman moved to happy tears when she puts on one of our pieces because it connects back to a piece of her story — these are the moments that keep me so deeply in love with what I do. I hope for more of these moments.


Q: What is the advice you would give to someone hoping to create a meaningful and ethical brand?
If you aren’t making each piece yourself, find an artisan community or craftsman that you really, truly, whole-heartedly trust and believe in, because this relationship will be absolutely crucial. There are incredible artisans out there producing ethically and soulfully, it’s just about finding the right partner for your business.