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‘I love gemstones’: Calgary man turns passion for rare stones into local hand-crafted jewelry shop

Nawar Sahli’s love for art and gemstones has driven him to open a studio for his hand-crafted goods here in Calgary.

It’s a modest store in the city’s northeast that he said is unique to all of Alberta.

Born in Syria to a Palestinian father, Sahli made his way to Calgary after living in Thailand for just over 4 years. He taught English at a rural school outside one of the big cities.

After hopping between a few jobs in Calgary, he knew that he wanted to go back to creating hand-made jewelry.

“Whatever job I worked, I felt like it wasn’t me,” said Sahli.

“I love gemstones. I love anything artsy, anything beautiful.”

A love for art, history, and all things beautiful

While completing his bachelor’s degree in Syria, Sahli worked with gemstones and antiques in Old Damascus.

Rooted in his love of history, Sahli’s passion for hand crafted jewelry began with his days wandering the traditional markets and collecting antiques.

That passion was fueled even more when he started working at a museum where he would meet and speak to over 200 tourists daily from all over Europe and North America.

“Before I talked to the tourists, I have to know everything about jewelry and antiques,” he said.

“It’s my favorite thing.”

Every stone has its story

Nawar Sahli in his new NE Calgary jewelry store. OMAR SHERIF / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Sahli talked about gemstones as though they are living things. He described each piece with a knowledge and eloquence like he’s been studying it for decades.

“Every piece has a story,” he said. And no one piece is like the other.

Gemstones are more than just jewelry for Sahli. They are pieces of history that have markings of their environment and surroundings reflected in them.

“It’s a soul, it has a life,” he said.

“When you wear it, you can feel the energy.”

Different stones provide different benefits for the wearer, said Sahli.

Some give you energy and others reduce stress and anxiety. Some change colour depending on the light. And some cultures also believe that certain stones protect you from harm and keep evil spirits at bay.

Fit for an emperor

Sahli is currently working closely with traditional Ottoman or Turkish style jewelry. It’s a jewelry style that originated in Turkey and made its way across the Middle East in countries such as Syria.

He believes that the intricate detail, as well as the amount of work that goes into each piece, shows how much people care about what they do.

These rings were originally crafted for sultans and emperors, said Sahli.

“But I’m selling them here for everyone,” he said.

A community coming together

Sahli’s new store at 117-17 Avenue NE opened July 25.

People from the Calgary Immigrant Support Society and the broader community of Calgary came together to do a mini-grand opening for the jewelry store.