If there’s a real revolution in the jewellery business in Nigeria today, 42-year-old Temitope Adeyeye, the creative director of BOHJewellery would rightly wear the crown. Having studied English and Literary Studies, she had a short stint with Timbuktu Media, Publishers of NEXT Newspapers, where she worked in the Administrative department. Her passion for creativity has consumed her, driving her to continually redefine her space as a jeweller, writes Adedayo Adejobi
When Temitope Adeyeye started her jewellery business, consumers’ taste in gems was limited. She would later include quartz and opals in her jewellery making, drawing more customers to her doorstep. But as the demand for ‘Made in Nigeria’ luxury necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings increased, hers became the go-to store for authentic Nigerian jewellery.
Born in Lagos, she attended Morolu Nursery and Primary School, Lagos, and the University of Ado Ekiti State, where she studied English and Literary Studies. Tope’s late grandma, Princess Gladys Modupe Odedina, fondly called ‘Iya Kekere’ played a key role in what has become her attraction to this precious world of jewelry. As a little girl, she admired her grandma’s extravagant jewelry. Those formative years played a huge role in her obsession with the craft and her unbelievable attention to detail.
Her dream was to become a renowned writer like the literary icon, Wole Soyinka. But all of that changed when she visited Abeokuta to spend the holidays with her late grandmother, Princess Gladys Odedina, fondly called ‘Iya Kekere’. She was an avid collector of all kinds of jewellery, gemstones, amber, precious metals, shells, rings, necklaces, brooches, enamel, pendants and bracelets.
Her collection piqued the younger Adeyeye.
“The more I learnt about my craft, the more determined I grew to become a world-renowned jeweller,” she said in a recent encounter.
Upon her first visit to her late grandma, she got her first sets of jewelry. Afterwards, she would often bring back home a gold ring, bracelet or necklace on subsequent visits. That ignited her love for jewelry.
“Till date, I see beauty in all the stones that nature offers,’’ she said.
Recounting a memorable childhood experience, ‘‘I remember she had given me loads of jewellery, but the tasselled gold anklet she gave me when I was 15 was the most memorable of them because back then wearing anklets was almost a taboo,” the jeweller said.
Historically, some cultures believe that an ankle bracelet worn on the left foot is a charm or talisman. Such anklets were used as amulets to protect the wearer from diseases and bad omens. Today, an anklet on your left foot may also indicate that you are married or engaged to a lover. Regardless of the seeming symbolism attached to wearing anklets, Adeyeye unapologetically wears anklets and gives credence to her grandmother who pointed her the way of jewellery.
From being a budding jewellery entrepreneur to an expert in some of the most expensive stones, what started as mere fascination, took a huge leap in her mind’s eye when she was in her second year at the university. Even though there was a final year student who sold handmade jewelry pieces, when Temitope was in the 200 level, it did not deter her. Reflecting on how to fill the possible gap the lady’s graduation would create, the jeweller conferred with her guardian about her interest in jewelry-making. She swung into action, made inquiries and off, she went to the notoriously rough and densely populated Lagos Island market.
She relocated to Ikeja to begin a two-month training and apprenticeship with Emeka, a jewelry and precious stones dealer. With him, she had learned about types of gemstones and beads, corals, amethysts, garnets, onyx, etc. A few months into her training, the grooming was cut short, as Emeka left for the village to deal with family emergencies.
Even though she had learnt enough to set her off for a trade, she decided to ramp up education beyond the basics of bead and jewelry-making. She loaded up on magazines and more training, and by the time she returned to school, she used her N11,000 pocket-money to buy items needed to start her business.
“I got back to school, and before I knew it, I was the one making beads for all the top ladies in Ekiti State. I remember that there was one local government chairman that was a woman and I ended up being her jeweller,” she said.
As a student and entrepreneur gaining grounds and looking to meet demands, she would leave Ekiti at 4am for Lagos to restock her jewellery supplies and head back to school the same day, of course with the express approval of her guardian. Fast forward to two decades later, she has traversed the world, honing her skills. Having mastered the craft, she has become a household name.
Speaking on the creative process, Adeyeye said: “I design all the jewelry pieces and I personally check every step of the creation process from start to finish . I sketch with pen and paper and then I take it to be converted into a 3D computer-aided design to refine and perfect every detail.”
When she finishes a piece, she gazes at it proudly, holding it carefully as she inspects it to ensure it is absolutely perfect. But as soon as she was done admiring it, she would start working on the next one. Her drive and tireless passion for creating masterpieces is amazing.
If you are wondering where her passion comes from, don’t look too far.
“I believe my passion comes from spending so much time around beautiful jewellery and helping out from a young age,” she began.”I eventually began drawing my own designs as I have always loved the creative side of jewellery. I think receiving structured feedback helped me gain an appreciation for designing jewellery and shaped my ideas.”
“As for inspiration, I find it everyday in the beauty of the world surrounding us, as my jewels capture the essence of a moment. All my collections hold one thing in common: showcasing and radiating light, through its designs and to the wearer,” she continued.
Speaking on the challenges faced so far, she said: “The major challenges we have in this business is the under-development of the mining and indigenous jewellery-making industry in Nigeria. Much focus has been put on our oil resources while our natural stones and gem deposits are ignored. The discovery of oil in 1956 has seriously hurt the mineral extraction industries.”
In an industry worth about $300 billion, unfortunately, Nigeria amounts to a tiny fraction of the figure despite its huge gemstone deposits. Adeyeye believes Nigeria can earn $100million annually from the local jewellery industry if exported to international markets.
Sounding a note of advice to the government, the jeweller said: “With vast high-grade steel deposits in Nigeria, all our mineral and gemstone deposits are sold as rough unfinished products at very ridiculous rates abroad. If we can manufacture here then we can create job opportunities and also export our finished products thereby strengthening the naira.’’
Despite the challenges, she has forged ahead and made herself a force within the industry. Her elite clientele attests to the quality of the service she renders.
“We have notable individuals, celebrities, political office holders, and captains of industry who wear our brand. But for privacy reasons, I will not be mentioning any names.”
If she could only wear one piece of jewellery for the rest of her life, it would be a simple combination of diamonds, topaz and citrine, because the combination never goes out of style and will fit on almost any outfit.
Historically, women have always been the largest customers and purveyors of fine jewellery, but one of the biggest current trends is a cultural shift with men embracing regular and custom jewellery. For Adeyeye, her preferred gemstones are diamonds, while she loves the artworks of Ben Enwonwu and admires Moofa’s fashion.
For her, showcasing Nigeria through her dazzling gemstones and illuminating ornaments is her lifelong ambition.