JESSICA HENDRICKS YEE: Founder, Designer & CEO of Zahava

At SIDIA, we create pieces designed for generations, to be passed down along with the stories and personal legacy each one of us holds.

Born to a family of creatives in Paris, Jessica Hendricks Yee founded Zahava with those same pillars in mind: connecting people through meaningful heirlooms, and the stories they tell.

No stranger to the design world, Jessica launched her first jewelry line in 2014. Based on the celebration of courageous women, The Brave Collection features jewelry handmade by Cambodian artisans and mothers, giving resource to education and empowering against human trafficking.

Enamoured with the lasting power of design, her second line Zahava was born in 2018, and is worn today by women across cultures and countries. Jessica's designs are not only a celebration of our past, but what we choose to bring into each day. And I don’t mind saying, it feels a bit magical.

What was the inspiration behind your brand, and the name Zahava?

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.

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.  

Where do you find most of the inspiration for your designs?

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 find inspiration from 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. 
 
How does the idea of heritage, legacy and storytelling play into your brand and designs, holding connection to the past, present and future?

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. To me, an heirloom is 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. My hope is that these pieces become the heirlooms of tomorrow. 

Tell us about the SIDIAs in your life, the women who have inspired you with their drive and depth?

My grandmother is my Sidia. She is 95 years old and still sharp as a tac, wise, beautiful, kind, elegant, and hilarious. When she was in 40s she started having health problems, and instead of listening to the doctors of her day who wanted to prescribe her a slew of pills, she decided to go macrobiotic, grow and juice her own wheatgrass, and start every morning with a headstand. She was a rebel and a pioneer in wellness and her chutzpah and innate wisdom are a source of such awe for me -- she is a North Star in my life for sure. 

You can follow Jessica's journey IRL @jessica_hendricksyee, and find more about Zahava @zahava_heirlooms

P.S. We’ve teamed up with Zahava to share a piece of the story with our community. Enter your email here to win a Caftan of choice + Cloud Nine Headband from SIDIA, along with the Turquoise Diamond Stud Earrings from Zahava.

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