The Queen of Sheba & four mythical symbols of Ethiopia – A collection by Lydia Courteille

She proposes hard questions to the king: “If you guess, I will accept you are a man of 
wisdom. If you don’t- I will see you are an ordinary man”
"The rumor is true, - said Solomon to his advisers, - I have not ever seen a woman more
beautiful than the Queen of Sheba". 

Lydia Courteille is an extraordinary, original and mysterious woman who creates unusual pieces of jewellery. It is impossible to fully describe the unique worlds that Lydia creates through her work within a single article. Lydia’s jewellery is intoxicating and beautiful; dark at times and seemingly imbued with magic and mystery. With each collection, Lydia brings us to an exotic and wonderful world. So let start by learning a little more about the gifted Lydia Courteille.

Her newest collection, “Queen of Sheba” is an exotic and beautiful salute to the legendary “Queen of Sheba”, a woman of great wisdom and beauty who had intimate knowledge of magic and close relationship to Solomon.

In my opinion, the two extraordinary women bear certain similarity. So let us get into the thick of history and try to imagine what their souls may hide.

Tiara by Lydia Courteille from Queen of Sheba collection: Brown diamonds, yellow sapphires, tsavorites

Lydia Courteille has been the head of the jewellery house that bears her name for 30 years.  Originally in the Place Vendome in her native city of Paris, Lydia Courteille started her business in 1987, trading in antique and estate jewellery.  After almost ten years in business and at the age of 36, Lydia began creating jewellery of her own design and released her initial collection. Why am I emphasizing this? For everybody who thinks it is too late to start could see it is the age when individual creativity starts to thrive!

Lydia is wise; astute; in love with history, nature and gemstones.

She does not care to know anything about her future, as she is happy now.  And she is happy now because she is free.  Free to follow her creative instincts and her passions.

 “I would like to travel more.” Lydia Courteille adds “to find more sources of my inspiration”.  Currently she has 5 active collections, to which she constantly adds new pieces. Since her initial collection launched in 1996, Lydia has released over 30 collections of her original and amazing jewellery.   

She would gladly have dinner with Karl Lagerfeld, her client who calls her "genius of making jewellery." However, like everyone else today in this hectic world, she fails to spare time for that.  When asked: "What would you change first, if you knew that only a year is left for you to live?”, she replied: "I would immediately drop my work and set out on travels!"

“In love, I have a heart for intimacy, closeness.  In men, I appreciate elegance, education, and respect for women. But all the rest - it's about feelings ... sometimes people are good, and you do not care, but sometimes he grabs you…Immensely…it’s all about feelings”, - Lidia says.

"I want to have someone by my side, to whom I can always tell the truth." It is great wealth and value to have such people beside you, let me tell you. If we talk about sad things, loneliness is the issue. "I do not like to be alone, even at home." It is so important for creative people to have the close ones who understand their soul through their creations.

From her passion for antique jewellery, Lydia Courteille has become the creator of the most unique and fabulous jewellery, inspired by black humor and mythical stories and featuring elements of surrealism and the baroque.

Her works are in demand and desired throughout the world.  From Woody Allen to Karl Lagerfeld – she collaborates internationally, while her jewellery pieces can be found in the private collections of connoisseurs of art and in discerning jewellery boutiques all over the world. 

The Queen of Sheba collection by Lydia Courteille

The Queen of Sheba lived in the 10th century BC. While she was known for her extraordinary beauty and supreme wisdom, as the ruler of the Arabian kingdom of Sheba (now modern-day Ethiopia), she is today considered one of the most intriguing women of history.

It is said that the beautiful Queen held esoteric knowledge known only to the wise men of antiquity. She regularly arranged "Cathedrals of Wisdom" in her palace, bringing together dedicated scholars from across the continents. And perhaps this can explain the variety of wonders in the legends about her – tales of speaking birds and magic carpets.  Wonders indeed!

The history of the great Queen of Sheba is entwined with that of the legendary king Solomon, whose name even today, is equated with great wisdom. The Bible and the Quran tell us about the meeting between the Queen of Sheba and Solomon. Some sources say the Queen betakes herself to Solomon to assure herself of his wonderful mind and divine wisdom.   According to other sources it is said that upon hearing of her wealth, wisdom and beauty, Solomon personally invited her to visit Jerusalem.  

Tiara by Lydia Courteille from Queen of Sheba collection: Brown diamonds, yellow sapphires, tsavorites

And the Queen embarked on a long and hard 700 mile journey, across the desert sands of Arabia, along the coast of the Red Sea, and over the Jordan River to Jerusalem. And the Queen proved him with hard questions.

Here is the first question: “What are the seven that issue and nine that enter, the two that offer drink, and the one that drinks?” Solomon answered immediately: “The seven that issue are the seven days of menstrual impurity. The nine that enter are the nine months of pregnancy. The two that offer drink are the breasts, and the child is the one who drinks”. “You are a great wise man”,- the Queen acknowledged.

King Solomon in response gave to the queen of Sheba “all her desires, whatsoever she asked”.

It is said that unprecedented prosperity began in Israel after the visit of the Queen of Sheba.  And “king Solomon passed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom”.

 The Queen of Sheba gave birth to the son of King Solomon - a son named Menelik, who became the first king of Ethiopia.  Even today, the Constitution of Ethiopia (adopted in 1955) reflects this royal history and relationship with King Solomon.  “The Imperial Dignity shall remain perpetually attached to the line of Haile Sellassie I, descendant of King Sahle Sellassie, whose line descends without interruption from the dynasty of Menelik I, son of the Queen of Ethiopia, the Queen of Sheba, and King Solomon of Jerusalem”.

The Queen of Sheba Collection – inspired by travel, realised in creation.

As Lydia Courteille derives inspiration from her global travels, the “Queen of Sheba” collection was born after her trip to Ethiopia.  "I was impressed by Ethiopia, its ancient civilization and culture. There are so many historical and religious holy places ", - says Lydia Courteille.

It will be a discovery for many people that Ethiopia  is a country where millenary manuscripts in Amharic are kept in monasteries, and worship services in Christian churches are held under the drum sounds. By the way, they adopted Christianity almost seven hundred years prior to Russia.

The Queen of Sheba collection by Lydia Courteille 

Is it of interest? Let us travel a bit together with Lydia along unusual, wild and wonderful Ethiopian world.

The Queen of Sheba collection features four main themes and sources of inspiration.

Inspiration 1: Flower men

As Lydia calls them, the Flower Men are from the Omo Valley in southern Ethiopia.  These Flower Men adorn and transform themselves with flowers, herbs, stems and ink made from rubbed stones and clay.  Are they people or Gauguin paintings?

These vibrant men have inspired the wonderful Flower Man rings – seen here on my finger.

Ring by Lydia Courteille from Queen of Sheba collection: Diamonds, sapphires, tourmalines 

Ring by Lydia Courteille from Queen of Sheba collection: Diamonds, sapphires, tourmalines 

Inspiration 2 – The Lalibela churches

Next, let's look at Lalibela - a wonderful small town, founded in the 12th Century BC, where most of the architectural monuments of medieval Ethiopia have been preserved.  This incredible town is ranked as the 8th wonder of the world by the UNESCO Association. 

The church of St. George (the patron saint of Ethiopia), is the most beautiful and unique of the wonders of Lalibela.  When seen from above it appears like a cross in shape.  And yet the church has been dug out and constructed below the surrounding land.  If you approach the church overland, you will only notice it when you are quite close, for the roof of the church is at ground level!  

Legend attributes the construction of the famous carved churches to the ruler of Lalibela.

Ring by Lydia Courteille from Queen of Sheba collection: Diamonds, sapphires, tourmalines 

It is said that the brother of Lalibela, was consumed with jealousy and envy and so he poisoned the heir to the throne.  In a vision, this prince saw God and God said that if Lalibela was to build rock-hewn churches, then he would establish a new Jerusalem. And so Lalibela began the new Jerusalem.

Angels helped the king to implement the grandiose plan.  The church of St George took only 25 years to build and legend has it that while men worked through the day construct this amazing feat of construction, angels worked through the night.

And here is one of the angels “who was building the churches”, created by Lydia Courteille.

Ring by Lydia Courteille from Queen of Sheba collection: Diamonds, sapphires, tourmalines 

Ark of the Covenant

The legend of the Ark of the Covenant, also known as the Ark of the Testimony, represents one of the most important sacred objects and stories of the Christian world.

The Ark is said to be a chest, made of acacia wood, overlaid with gold and crowned by the lid of pure gold.  Within, the Ark holds the golden pot of manna, Aaron's rod and the two stone tablets that record the Ten Commandments, as received by Moses from God. 

The Ark is also said to hold incredible supernatural powers.  For example, the Talmud says "The place of the Ark has no dimensions.”  And despite its’ incredible and weighty contents, the Ark is said not to burden or be heavy for those who carried it.  Instead, the Ark “carried those who carried it.”

Lydia Courteille has taken particular notice of God’s message to Moses, where he tells Moses that he will meet him above the Ark between the two cherubim.  “…there, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the covenant law, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites. (Exodus 25:22)”.  

Ring by Lydia Courteille from Queen of Sheba collection: Brown diamonds, yellow sapphires, tsavorites and tourmalines 

Are you surprised again? Unusual similarities? As we can see from images of the Ark and Lydia’s creation, she has captured the angels in the glorious ring to protect you.

Ring by Lydia Courteille from Queen of Sheba collection: Brown diamonds, yellow sapphires, tsavorites and tourmalines 

Inspiration 4 – The Danakil Desert

The Danakil is a desert in northeastern Africa, in the Afar Triangle lands of northern Ethiopia and near the Dallol volcano.

The Dallol volcano is known for its unearthly landscapes resembling the surface of Io, a satellite moon of Jupiter. Although it is a popular destination for tourists, it is one of the hottest places in the world - a diabolical beauty of nature. 

Ring by Lydia Courteille from Queen of Sheba collection: Tsavorites, green tourmalines  

And we also visited the place together with Lydia Courteille.

Ring by Lydia Courteille from Queen of Sheba collection: Tsavorites, green tourmalines

Fossilized corals found in the Danakil desert indicate that in ancient times this land was ocean instead of desert.  The buildup of mineral salts and sulfur and the stunning colours have influenced Lydia’s selection of gems for the collection.  She has chosen rare yellow and green tourmalines, brown diamonds and clay-coloured gold to create her distinctive “Queen of Sheba” pieces.

"I love working with color. Color means emotions, it reminds you of travelling and vacation. And this makes you happy" says Lydia Courteille.

The colours and intensity of the Danakil earrings and the ring (pictured), indeed embody the wonders of terrible yet fascinating landscape.

Earrings by Lydia Courteille from Queen of Sheba collection: white diamonds, yellow sapphires, tsavorites, green tourmalines, peridots 

Fit for a princess….

Lydia Courteille’s particular favourite is the beautiful Queen of Sheba tiara. Reminiscent of snakes entwined in precious curves, this beautiful tiara is surely the symbol of beauty and a reminder that all of us women are princesses.

Tatyana Pfaifer, the founder of Jewellery Masterpiece - the online magazine, wearing tiara and earrings by Lydia Courteille from Queen of Sheba collection

And for the pieces pictured below, it is important to note that the snakes on the earrings and the tiara are of the same design.  The earrings can be transformed and the pieces disassembled to create a small necklace and smaller earrings.  A very practical solution for such a magical creation! 

Tiara and earrings by Lydia Courteille from Queen of Sheba collection: Brown diamonds, yellow sapphires, tsavorites

In total, Lydia Courteille has created 18 pieces for her “The Queen of Sheba” collection. They feature stunning use of a specific selection of precious stones and metals, chosen to reflect the themes and subject matter of the collection - for example, clay-coloured brown gold, brown diamonds, sapphires, tsavorites, opals, tourmalines and in particular the most incredibly lush green peridots.

“The Queen of Sheba” collection represent Lydia’s memories, impressions and the mysterious glories of this ancient part of the world, its’ kingdoms and rulers.  The “Queen of Sheba” collection echoes ancient and medieval history and it creates new mythical symbols and magic, imbued with humor, provocation and love.

Life is too ordinary sometimes, let the magic be in jewellery!

Did you enjoy the journey too?


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Tatyana Pfaifer

The founder of Jewellery Masterpiece