Ring the bell and when approved, the unmarked door opens and you are ushered into a petite shop filled with exquisite jewelry designed and created by a master jeweler. Customary Turkish tea is served as we begin our conversation; again, as in my favorite hotel arrivals, the pleasantries are established, the prologue to the play.
Mr. Hilat, a distinguished and bohemian gentleman speaks only Turkish, your guide will translate; I spent an hour interviewing him and was granted a rare peek at jewels fit for an Empress. Despite the language barrier, he was charming and affable. His eyes sparkle as he describes his rise into his profession, his precious gems, what a charmer! I loved him after the first five minutes, a story teller, a man with history and passion.
I encourage adventure, mystery and depth in travel, my visit with Mr. Hilat is a lovely example of adding layers to an escape.
Mr. Hilat crafts gold in the designs of the ancient art of Anatolia, each piece is intricate and unique. He has lived in the area of the Grand Bazaar his entire life and at the young age of 12, was an apprentice to a master jeweler, in his own small workshop. He loves designing and the craftsmanship, he describes each piece as ‘his child’, always working in 22k gold, adding rubies, emeralds and sapphires to many pieces. He has opened his shop to the most discerning clientele since 1972. His necklaces, earrings and bracelets are based on classic historic Byzantine and Ottoman Empire designs – truly exceptional and exquisite. On inquiring the price of a few select items, some were ‘not for sale’- he would know the right customer if they come in the door; other pieces were his children and ‘not for sale’, too precious. I can only imagine the price of the items I was not allowed to photograph, it seems, according to many Turks, that copying is a common problem.