A string of beads changed Ravinder Thatthi's career from an animal scientist.
“I worked in a lab for 20 years researching on the vaccine for Trypanosomiasis,” said Thatthi, now-turned jeweller.
Leaving the scientific world 30 years ago, she co-founded Aromatics, a wellness centre and spa. That is where I saw the beaded collars, necklaces, earrings and bangles.
“I made them,” she said. “Come over and I’ll show you,” she said.
A few days later I found myself in her studio surrounded by beads of every colour, sourced from around the world and turned into signature pieces exquisitely put together by her, under her brand — Seed Bead. Each piece is unique.
“I saw these beads in Singapore that were so beautiful that I had to buy them,” says Thatthi.
On her return to Kenya, she wanted to have them stringed. “I couldn’t find anybody to take my beads to the next level.”
From the beads, a string of fluorite, Thatthi made a necklace. This was in 2017. She dates the year as a start to a new life. She wore the necklace and a lady at the spa asked if she could buy them.
“I sold the necklace thinking I was making good money. But when I saw a necklace made from the same beads, I realised I had sold it for a throw-away price.”
Dubbed “the most colourful mineral in the world”, fluorite gemstones are renowned for their fluorescence and for transmitting positive energy.
“Gemstones have an intrinsic energy coming from deep within the earth,” explains the jeweller.
She handed me a string of rose quartz beads.
“It’s just a string of beads.”
Then she brought out an exquisite necklace made with the same beads.
“It’s the accessories that make the difference …like the clasps,” she says.
On her table, she has two necklaces she’s working on. They are the beaded collars that I was so enchanted by at the spa.
Each miniscule seed bead is strung on netting — handmade by Thatthi — a delicate operation demanding precision. Her work table by a window is set with pliers, sectors, a tube light, eye glasses and beads.
“This makes the difference,” she explains picking the net. “It has to sit firmly on the neck.”
After the first necklace, Thatthi worked on her hobby.
“A lady from England contacted me because she saw someone wearing one of my pieces. She wanted 10 pieces. I made them and took them to a shop to have them freighted.”
“Here I was standing in the shop with the jewellery spread out and the courier would not accept to freight them, which was a standard practice then.” This was in 2018.
A customer walked in, saw the pieces, and bought the whole collection.
“And I grew from there.”
Born in Kisumu in western Kenya, Thatthi’s early childhood was spent in Elburgon near the Mau Range on her grandparents’ sawmill.
“Elburgon was so rural then with a school that was just a room and one teacher. I was 10 when I went to a proper school in Kisumu.
“We were a big family of almost 30, living in a timber house in Elburgon and ate what was growing in the kitchen garden, the milk from our cows. I remember raiding my grandmother’s cupboards for knick-knacks like beads to make things with. We made our own clothes and so on. It was a really rich childhood.
“Reflecting back, that’s where my calling comes from.”
While we were talking, a customer called from out of town, gushing over the necklace she had received.
“The lady came one day with her old jewellery and asked me to do something with it. So here’s the picture of before and after.”
With a contemporary twist, the same necklace looks alluring.
A proud grandmother of one, Thatthi’s mornings are spent at the spa handling administration, and then managing her household and working on her jewellery.