Don't Call It a Caine Mutiny, but Michael's Wife, Shakira, Is Shaking Her Baubles, Bangles and Beads

updated 11/27/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/27/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

Maybe being married to a movie star, living on a country estate by the Thames, buying your clothes from top designers and being drop-dead gorgeous aren't enough. Maybe one feels—how you say?—unfulfilled! Maybe one wants to do something meaningful, like getting back to one's roots, and we're not talking hair color, darlings. We're talking baubles, bangles, bright shiny beads.

And so it was that two years ago Shakira Caine, for 16 years the wife of Michael, launched her own line of jewelry and accessories. Indian creations—because Shakira, 41, was inspired by an exhibit of Indian fashion at New York City's Metropolitan Museum—and because India is the country of her great-grandparents. "I really have my heart in my collection," says Caine, who was herself reared on a farm in Guyana, and whose first name means "thankful" in Arabic.

Her bejeweled inventions are as exotic and dramatic as she is. The trinkets, first sold at Harrods in London, are now on display at Bergdorf Goodman, I. Magnin and Neiman-Marcus. "The Shakira Collection" features oversize, bold costume designs that are handcrafted in Jaipur, India, in partnership with her old friend, jewelry designer Sunita Pitamber. Prices range from $15 for plain gold-plated stud earrings to $500, which is what Tina Turner shelled out for a gold-trimmed, embroidered paisley shawl.

Shakira, a former Miss Guyana, is to style what Alfie was to dating. You remember Alfie—that befuddled gadabout once played on screen (and to some degree in life) by Michael Caine. Well, after Michael first saw Shakira—"the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen," he has said—on a London TV ad for Maxwell House coffee in 1971, his interest was so percolated he tracked her down. Smart man: Over the years Shakira has become the standard by which other Hollywood wives are judged. "When they lived in Los Angeles, every time they went out, everyone would turn and look at her," says Shakira's close friend Jackie Collins. "When they entertained, Shakira would mix guests in the most fabulous way—the art community, the social community and the movie world. Her style has nothing to do with having money. It has to do with her warmth. She's a fine friend. Serene. Knowledgeable. And a great gossip."

Though Shakira was voted the best-dressed celebrity by buyers at a London fashion show last February, she dismisses the tribute: "It doesn't take a lot of effort to get well-dressed." At the moment, she is clad in Saint Laurent jacket and Armani trousers. "Well-tailored clothes I can wear forever," she calls them. Her fashion sense, she adds, comes from her mother, Swabera Baksh, who was a seamstress. "When I was a little girl, I'd hang around all day long and watch her make clothes for other people."

Her own life might have been as humdrum, but the 1967 Miss Guyana contest provided a ticket to soar. Her appearance in the Miss World finals (she placed third) led to a London modeling stint, which got her the TV commercial—and Michael. Their daughter, Natasha, 16, just entered boarding school in Dorset. "After she left, I'd walk into her room and burst into tears. She's my best friend."

Although Shakira considers being Mrs. Michael Caine "my No. 1 life," her new enterprise is a secondary triumph. In January she heads back to India to put together a new collection featuring brocade jackets, embroidered waistcoats, belts and bags. The last time she was there, she says, she stayed in the Maharajah of Jaipur's palace. "I sat on the floor on rugs made with real gold thread and looked up at walls covered with huge, semiprecious stones." That, she says, "was fabulous. The real thing." Her jewelry, however, will remain seriously faux. "At one time, very wealthy ladies only wore real jewels," she advises. "Now they want costume." For that she can be thankful—or shakira, as the case may be.

—John Stark, Laura Sanderson Healy in London

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