Kilani Jewellery: A passionate Journey
Kilani Jewellery is an inspiring international success story set amid the love of family and friends, and a commitment to quality craftsmanship.
A signature of the hip-hop lifestyle since it emerged in the late 1980s is its jewelry, more commonly referred to in the culture as “bling”: the heavy chains, oversized diamond rings or large crosses that seem to make up such a large part of the overall image. For many of the athletes, artists or musicians of the hip-hop culture, much of that bling comes from a luxury custom jewelry factory and showroom in midtown Toronto, owned and operated by the Kilani family. “The Kilani family journey has been crazy,” says the engaging trendsetter of Kilani Jewellery, Akram Kilani, in a recent interview with Dolce, in recalling his family’s journey from Iraq to the top of the jewelry business.
It is a story of passion and attention to detail that the family brings to its jewelry design and manufacturing business and which has created one of the most admired luxury jewellers in Toronto. The Kilani Jewellery complex attracts an international clientele of musicians, celebrities and athletes from around the world because of its distinctive designs and handcrafted quality in all of its pieces, which has made this family-owned-and-operated business known as “the world’s hip-hop jewellers.”
It is also a story of a family’s perseverance and drive to succeed in a new country, while leaving behind a legacy in a land they loved. For those who have never had to go through it, you read and wonder how anyone could, and not only survive, but also thrive.
“Our craftsmanship in making jewelry and plates and sculptures was passed down to our family by our ancestors stretching back hundreds of years,” says Akram. “My father was an engineer by trade, but at night and on the weekend he would open up his jewelry store, and he would bring me and my brothers when we were younger to work at the store alongside our mother and our uncle. I was especially interested in the pieces because when I was 13, I was very interested in hip hop, and jewelry was a feature of that.”
The Kilani family immigrated from their homeland to Toronto in 2001, “We knew our target was the hopes and dreams of North America and we figured Canada was the best choice, and Toronto specifically,” says Akram. “I still remember seeing the Canadian flag, as Canada was always leading the world in peace.”
The new land brought new opportunities for the Kilanis to continue their jewelry business, and they opened up a small booth at a jewelry exchange in the suburb of Scarborough, Ont., surrounded by about 25 other jewellers in other small booths. But even among those others in that cramped exchange, something about the Kilanis stood out: their genuine personalities, engaging manner, quality of goods and, wow, did they know their stuff. Their creativity and passion practically leapt out of that kiosk in that they loved crafting jewelry, not just selling it, which was distinctive at the time. It wasn’t long before they were making a mark with clientele in their newly adopted city, clientele who continued to return to them.
But while the Kilanis were still selling the traditional jewelry, such as rings, bracelets, necklaces and pendants, Akram still had his hip-hop itch to scratch. One day he went to a wholesaler and took a few pieces on consignment that were standard hip-hop fare at the time: heavy chains, crosses and bright, coloured “bling.” He brought them out back at his family’s booth because he wanted to see if he could sell them at the exchange, and his father erupted, saying, “We don’t sell things like that here.”
“It was quite a clash with my father,” recalls Akram. “And while we were arguing and fighting, a Rastafarian gentleman wandered by and picked up one of the chains, tried it on and bought it. He also said he’d call all his friends because he hadn’t seen chains like this. That man, Chris, is still a friend of mine today, and that really sent the Kilani family on its journey to where we are today.”
Where the Kilani family is today is at Toronto’s biggest and most luxurious jewelry complex, adjacent to Upper Forest Hill, one of Toronto’s most desirable neighbourhoods. Here you will find the father, Zaed, the president and CEO; Zaed’s wife, Nadhema, an executive board member; and Akram and his brothers Tarik and Mohannad, all general managers and board members with the company. The pride and passion are palpable within the complex, as the entire family takes joy from the creation of the art form, which is jewelry design and manufacturing.
“Our clients are usually our First inspiration because They are so inspired by our Making and our design”
This new location has been a dream in the making for the Kilanis for more than a decade, allowing them to maintain their exceptionally high values and standards. It also marks another signpost in the Kilani journey, fuelled by hard work and determination to succeed in their adopted country. The state-of-the-art facility allows them to manufacture, design and showcase their custom-designed pieces all under one roof. Now, the operations for the Kilani group of companies are based on a wide range of employees, factories and suppliers worldwide. The retail store offers engagement and wedding rings (using the finest in white gold and the cleanest cut and clarity of diamonds), custom pendants and necklaces, chains, bracelets, earrings and watches. They have even begun a Kilani Jewellery app featuring specials and future discount codes.
When they began their business, 95 per cent of their clientele was Toronto-based. Today, 80 per cent of their business is international, including well-known celebrities, athletes and musicians, all of whom are attracted by the Kilani’s ability to listen to the customer and custom design what they want, and by doing this, the customer becomes an inspiration in the design.
“Our clients are usually our first inspiration because they are so inspired by our making and our design,” says Akram. “Once they walk in here, they already become a part of the design, so our inspiration does happen from the influence of our clients.”
The Kilanis believe an educated customer is a satisfied customer, and that by going back and forth with them with sketches and creative ideas, they are involving the customer in the design and manufacturing process. This gives each piece the special added quality of personalization, and the comfort of knowing how their jewelry is made through the exclusive ToranoMAX brand name.
ToranoMAX reflects the standards and quality in which jewelry is made with full transparency. It also refers to a diamond-setting technique, where diamonds can be packed together seamlessly and as tightly as possible to create a spectacular look. ToranoMAX also reflects the quality of tools used to set diamonds, ensuring no chips, cracks or damage when diamonds are set. In short, having the ToranoMAX name associated with its products ensures Kilani Jewellery customers know they are only getting the highest quality of diamond in cut, clarity and colour.
“Listening and education is key,” says Akram. “Some people have celebration stories, or some others may have sad stories and they want a piece to remember someone by, and that can be very difficult because you have to incorporate so many things about the person into one piece. Or perhaps people are getting married and they want a piece to celebrate how they met. Then you see the smile on their faces, and that’s the real joy of our business, conveying the very real sentimental value of jewelry. Plus, the connection to people, keeping them as customers and friends who know we are always here for them.”
As an early adopter of lifestyles and trends, Akram has used social media to become a leading influencer in luxury custom jewelry, with the medium becoming even more important over these last 18 months of the pandemic. With his engaging smile, infectious personality and never afraid- to-try-something-different mindset, Akram produces a video series on social media called Fresh Out the Oven. His social media team numbers five people, and these professionally done videos are now approaching 70 episodes.
“We love Crafting Jewelry, and Success happens Through Consistency, Love and passion For the job you Are doing”
These marketing channels exist specifically to show potential customers how Kilani jewelry is made from beginning to end. There are Instagram videos showing the behind-the-scenes of jewelry making on a daily basis. Additionally, the Kilani Jewellery YouTube channel presents videos to further educate the consumer on buying jewelry. Kilani Jewellery is proud of its entire process and shows it with confidence.
“The quality of the drilling, the finishing, the polishing and the quality of the diamonds must be top,” says Akram. “It’s very important to have the quality of the diamonds because our tools are so high-end. We don’t think about how to save money during the creating process, we think about how to perfect every piece we come up with. I also like to share our success with others, as I believe sharing is caring.”
In expanding his video presence, Akram is planning on creating a movie in the future dealing with the hip-hop lifestyle and all of its personalities and its accoutrements, featuring Kilani jewelry, of course. With the full success and trending of the Kilani group of companies, there are plans for them to expand to other Canadian provinces, as well as to some of the major cities in the United States.
The Kilani family journey is an inspiring Canadian and international success story brought about through passion and a commitment to excellence. Their stature at the top of their business is also a result of a few key common attributes shared by all the family members.
“We love crafting jewelry, and success happens through consistency, love and passion for the job you are doing,” says Akram. “There has been so much this family has gone through together, and people love this family, and this makes me feel so great. There is no better feeling than this, and no money can be compared to my family, and that’s why we do it together all the time.”