While he may not be a household name, those who are familiar with high-end and finely crafted jewelry have likely heard of Avedis Kendir and his jewelry line Biriz. Often favored by royalty and heads of state, Biriz is known for its opulent Deco and Art Nouveau designs, which are intricate and playful and particularly admired for their fine enamel work. Apart from his high-end jewelry, Kendir also designs custom-made pieces, and also works on many special projects that are not just jewelry.
Kendir opened his first store in 1983, but has been working in the jewelry business since he was just eight years old, having started as an apprentice during school breaks. Today, 20 to 25 craftsmen work for him, and he sells his designs at his store at the Çırağan Kempinski hotel and in boutiques around the world. While much of his work is now exported, all of the production still takes place in Istanbul.
Kendir works out of a studio in the Sultanahmet area with a stunning view of the Old City and the Bosphorus, spanning old and new Istanbul: a view that often serves as his inspiration. The studio is filled with books, illustrations, jewelry, and all sorts of objects, forming an artful clutter.
Having established his business and his reputation over the past 30- plus years, he now has the luxury of only working on those projects that interest him. Apart from his jewelry, Kendir has many hobbies and interests, which are reflected in his designs. He is passionate about ships and sailing as well as motorcycling, and has been on many motorcycle tours. Indeed, he has traveled extensively, not only for business, but also for personal interest.
Kendir says that he is often inspired by the places he visits: the romantic history of Europe, the warmth of Mediterranean culture, and the artistry of Oriental/Islamic culture. Beirut, in particular, is a city that inspires him. He takes his inspiration from all these places, then mixes these elements up, finally adding his own touch and style so that his pieces all reflect his own character. However, he says that he still gets much of his inspiration from the rich history that Turkey offers in terms of craftsmanship and culture. Kendir points out that there is a 6,000-year history of jewelry-making in this land, and while he draws inspiration from many different sources, he does not like to replicate directly but rather uses them as bases of inspiration.
While he has many high-profile clients from all over the world (including Queen Elizabeth of England, who owns several of his pieces) he prefers to remain discreet about his client list and projects, and is not one to name-drop. However, he will say that he often makes pieces for heads of state, and that he gets many requests from the Gulf States. Kendir will often spend weeks crafting one of his entirely handmade pieces. One of his most noteworthy projects is a model boat made of silver and gold that he spent ten years working on. Such special projects serve to highlight what really sets Kendir’s work apart, which is the incredible detail and craftsmanship that goes into every one of his pieces.
Biriz, Çırağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul VIP Shop; P: (0212) 236 2422