Master jeweler Karim Oukid Ouksel was born in the tiny Berber village of Ath Yani, Algeria. Though small, Ath Yani has a centuries-old status as a producer of highly skilled artisans who make meticulously crafted, strikingly colorful jewelry. To this day, it is hailed by many as the most important region for Kabyle Berber jewelry-making in North Africa. Building on his decades-long career, Ouksel has noted that his primary goal is to perpetuate the historical reputation of Ath Yani jewelers, as well as to promote the rich culture of his ancestral land and community.
The process of creating a single item of Kabyle Berber jewelry is laborious and detailed. Working from a drawn design, Ouksel chooses which materials to use before using pliers to shape filigree patterns and manipulating sheets of sterling silver into settings, which will later be set with enamel or natural materials—usually coral. In the end, each item is cleaned and polished for a uniform, glossy finish.
Everything is made entirely by hand. Offering rings, earrings, bracelets, necklaces, brooches, and pendants in a range of sizes, Ouksel’s method produces striking combinations of colors, arranged in ornate, geometric designs. Since 2002, Karim Oukid Ouksel has made his home in Barcelona, Spain, where he oversees a workshop and also teaches traditional Berber jewelry-making techniques at the Massana Art School in Spain, as well as at other institutions both locally and abroad.