Eyakenoabasi Bob-Hassan: Nigeria’s Bling Connoisseur
Creativity and ingenuity have been her guiding principles since she ventured into jewellery making. Her ability to transform rough gemstones into stunning pieces of jewellery won her a national laurel at the recently held Lagos Chapter of Women in Mining Gold and Gemstone where she emerged a winner. Welcome to the world of Eyakenoabasi Bob-Hassan, the brain behind Eno Bassé Diamonds. Funke Olaode writes she is a chip off the old block. Her father, Senator Effiong Bob is a successful Nigerian lawyer and politician who has served Nigeria from the state to the national level. Her mother, Comfort is a renowned lace and gold merchant in Akwa Ibom State. In a way, Eyakenoabasi Bob-Hassan must have cut her teeth under the tutelage of her successful parents.
“Of course, I grew up with politics,” she began. “My father has been through by God’s grace all the ranks in Nigerian politics. He has served the state. He also served at the federal level. He has been a very hardworking man; he still is very hardworking, and very agile and my mother is as well. So, I always grew up seeing my parents working. My mother was a lace merchant from the 90s to the 2000s and was very popular in Akwa Ibom for that. Also, she sold gold. I have always watched my parents not only in politics but in business. They have always been goal-getters, trying to achieve the best they can.”
Engineer, Gemologist, Jeweller and Goldsmith, Eyak as she is fondly called has had a keen interest in gemstones since she was a little girl watching her mother sell jewellery. She has an eye for spotting beautiful gemstones and transforming them into innovative designs.
“My love for jewellery started from my mother. She used to love jewellery a lot and used to sell gold. So that is where it really started. In university, I studied civil engineering, and then eventually I got my masters in Project Management. I came back to Nigeria to work in a multinational for a while and then I decided to venture into this full-time. Even when I was in graduate school, I think that was where selling really started. I used to do it as a part-time hustle just to have extra cash. I was just a trader doing buying and selling and that is where I really got to harness and understand the different metals, list for jewellery, silver, gold, and stainless steel, I really got a full understanding from trying bits and pieces here and there. Obviously, there are not so many jewellers in Nigeria. It is a niche aspect of fashion but it is very interesting. It takes a lot of creativity to come up with designs and come up with pieces that people would like.”
The brain behind Eno Bassé Diamonds, a jewellery design company where unique and timeless pieces are created, Eyak founded the brand with the vision of procuring gemstones to create gorgeous, one-of-a-kind jewellery; a place where she creates beautiful, luxury, timeless, and antique jewellery pieces, which could be passed down through generations.
Each of her designs is a piece of true work of art made with the world’s finest and most precious gems crafted by the world’s best goldsmith. It has access to over 1.5 million GIA-certified diamonds, which are embodied in its stunning creations.
Eyak is very ambitious. She possesses the zeal, talent and qualifications required to grow her brand successfully. There is no doubt that the experience garnered while working as a civil engineer in a multinational company where she successfully handled several projects came in handy in her jewellery business.
A well-grounded young entrepreneur with a vision, Eyak earned a Bachelors’ Degree in Civil Engineering at Swansea University, Wales and also a Masters’ degree in Project Management at Keele University, England. To equip herself with the requisite skills in her new field, she attended Certified Goldsmith at Alchimia Contemporary Jewellery School, Italy. She was also a Gemologist (Gemstones, Pearls and Diamonds) at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), California.
Eyak’s craft is already gaining national recognition. At the 2022 jewellery design competition organised by the Lagos Chapter of Women in Mining Gold and Gemstone, she shone brilliantly. Contestants were given a task to design jewellery pieces that portrayed the beauty of Unity. Among the four contestants, she stood out with her traditional brooch, the type worn by South-south men in their traditional outfits. She eventually emerged as the winner of the competition.
Eyak said the winning piece was with nine-carat gold and diamonds worth USD6,000. The renowned international designer who was among the panel of judges, Ade-Bakare of Ade Bakare Couture, London said Eyak won because she adhered to the guidelines for the competition, which is mainly to promote and encourage designs in the Nigerian jewellery industry, and to act as a platform for jewellers to communicate and share their creative ideas.
While embarking on this newfound trade, Eyak has one thing in mind.
“My sole aim is to accelerate the development of our mining sector and provide much needed support to the value-addition process while connecting the sector to local and global opportunities,” she said.
While she could be tagged an emerging Queen of ‘bling’, Eyak’s skills go beyond creating jaw-dropping designs as she possesses skills and competence in gemology, gemstones identification, diamonds grading, diamonds and jewellery pricing, diamonds and jewellery purchasing, repairs and goldsmithing. She also works with clients on custom order designs, creating unique designs for collections.
“We prioritize beauty and luxury. We offer consultation services relating to gemstones and allied services. We deal with the trading and export of gemstones to various countries. Eno Bassé is allied with the mining and marketing of natural rough gemstones.
“We are unique. We design pieces. We design all sorts of jewellery ranging from earrings, wristwatches, bracelets, all sorts that have to do with jewellery and custom made. We are opening our store before the first quarter of this year in Lagos. We are going to have a couple of these pieces on display in our store. We also authenticate gemstones, all types of gemstones. For example, if you do not know what type of stone you are carrying, if you want to authenticate your diamonds, we could help. So, our aim is to of course have an international standard manufacturing house here in Nigeria so that all our pieces from beginning to end will be done in Nigeria. Some of our pieces are done here, some are done with our partners and organisations in Europe. That is what we do. Our winning piece for the women in mining jewellery event was actually made here in Nigeria. We are proud to say we are also a Made in Nigeria brand; from gemstone cutting to jewellery making.”
Aside from her passion for designing one-of-a-kind fine jewellery, she is also keen on educating the youth and women on gemstones, precious stones and metals.
“The company is also affiliated with training and educating the youths and women on the value of gemstones, precious stones and metals through the ‘Dirt to Wealth’ initiative. We do this through enlightenment and awareness campaigns in nine states – using the gemstone industry to eradicate poverty and diversification from the oil and gas sector, the exhibition of raw materials, and linking artisanal miners to stonecutters and Identification and training of miners within the region.
“As a company, we are committed to this. It is very important to let people know what we have in Nigeria. It is also a part of beneficiation on the gemstones we have to add value to what state we had even before exportation.”
With this initiative, she is educating people, especially women and the youth on how they could make money for themselves and add value to the gemstones in Nigeria. Moved by the need to divert attention from the oil and gas sector, the mining industry and of course the jewellery industry is the next cash cow with glowing examples of this in India.
“India is a major exporter of jewellery and that is a major source of income there. I would love to especially as we have a ton of beautiful gemstones that we get from Nigeria. I think we should really look into that jewel-making and producing aspect, even just producing for Nigeria alone could go a long way. We need to talk more about this thing, educate people more and try our best to bring people on board. That is what we are doing. It is a collective vision and of course, I cannot do it on my own.”
In 2021, she organised a couple of training sessions to build capacity in this growing sector of the economy.
“Even my team had worked with people, or rather I have worked with over 500 people on gemstone cutting. I will really love to partner with more organisations to tell people about this thing. I did that in our facility in Abuja.”
As Eno Bassé Diamonds is set to capture Nigerian markets, she assures its prospective clients of authentic ‘blings’ which will stand the test of time.
“All our products are genuine. We source the gemstones that I used locally. Diamonds are not in Nigeria, so they are imported. Africa is trending in everything. So from the music, fashion, to come into the jewellery space.”
Eyak is carving her own niche. But what were her parents’ initial reactions to her new career?
“The Africanness, through my eyes and my creativity is actually really amazing. So I am grateful that I really have supportive parents, without them I wouldn’t be here. I am very grateful to have amazing parents that understand the vision. Once I was able to communicate effectively to my father what I wanted and I had to tell him that this is the trajectory I am looking at, he gave me all his support. Nigeria is blessed with a lot of gemstones and a lot of us don’t know their value. So it also took me leaving the country and getting this education for me to actually know and understand the value of what we have in Nigeria which a lot of people do not have a clue about. I am sure anybody that is reading this now would not actually have an idea of the fact that we actually have gemstones that are possibly more expensive than those diamonds.”
Apart from her parents, Eyak also praised her darling husband for his support by giving her the wings to fly and follow her passion. “My husband is extremely supportive. His name is Olufemi Hassan. We got married last year and he has been supportive from day one and I am so super grateful to him.”
Though trained as an engineer, her love for bling is palpable throughout the conversation. “It feels amazing doing something entirely different and knowing that I am learning as I am growing. Things like this women in mining award of course gave me the courage to let people know what I am doing. As we set to open our shop somewhere in Lekki this February, we are going to focus on engagement and wedding rings. So it is open to everybody, it is open to people that love art and appreciate quality jewellery. Because we only do jewellery with silver and gold and natural gemstone and diamond. We are super excited that we are adding value to the Nigerian economy through our trade,” she stated.