Editor's Note: The story incorrectly named Zakar El as the owner of House of Africa. The store is actually owned by Pape S. Ndiaye.
Coral doesn't just look good at the bottom of the sea. At House of Africa, 1215 Thomas Ave., coral and amber jewelry is a fixture that's been popular amongst patrons. Zakar El, the creator of the jewelry line, works not only with coral but also with wire, wood, silver, copper and pretty much any other natural element that comes her way. "I work with anything that's workable," El says. "My most favorite thing I've worked with is a rattlesnake vertebrae." Periodically, the owner will visit Africa to retrieve items that might be unique to have around the store.
A coral necklace on display in the shop has pieces shaped like tiny, vibrantly red chili peppers. She strings the naturally red coral and then polishes it or leaves it unpolished, depending on her mood. Some pieces can take 30 minutes to complete, whereas others take up to two weeks. She takes custom orders and insists that she'll never make two of the same kind because she likes making sure people have something unique. "I don't like to do duplicates," El says. "Custom means it's made for you."