For Azza Skhiri, fine jewelry is more than an aesthetic statement – it can be a window into the soul of the designer, their life and musings tracked by a careful curve or subtle combination of stones. Her line, Didon, was born long before she put pencil to paper to create her first sketch; it was growing in her imagination, fueled by her Tunisian heritage and the stories that were proudly relayed to her as a child. It was, as they say, written in the stars.
“I did not choose jewelry – jewelry chose me,” she says. “Queen Dido is my first muse and she inspired the story behind the brand. I want to bring another form of attention to the history of Mediterranean countries, specifically Tunisia and Carthage, where I’m from. I’m proud and empowered by my heritage.”
According to ancient Greek and Roman mythology, Queen Dido was the founder and first queen of Carthage, a city (so the legend goes) made prosperous by her exceptional leadership and wisdom. Her legacy lives on in Tunisia, where women are sometimes referred to as “daughters of Dido.” “I believe that every single woman is a modern Dido Queen,” Skhiri says. “We are fighters and should take pride in it.”
The beauty of Skhiri’s designs lies in their simplicity – and a twist. The elegant broken circle earrings in 18ct rose gold, “dipped” with a pavé of diamonds, offer a new spin on the classic hoop. The Python ring, an utterly wearable day-to-evening design featuring white, black, and pink diamond “scales,” will appeal to both the conservative and bold, while the slim Carthage bangle is an every-day-any-occasion classic. That versatility was precisely what Skhiri had in mind when she designed them. “Didon is meant to be perennial,” she says. “You can wear the pieces layered, as matching sets, or single statement pieces. I believe it’s all about how individual women choose to wear them – they will look different each time.”
In addition to her mythological queen, Skhiri offers muse credits to present day heroes, “driven and empowered women” whom she sees every day. “Many in my entourage locally and internationally will recognize themselves [in my designs] and they all hold a special place in my heart,” she says, “especially the women in my family and my friends Hend Sabri, Lina Lazaar, and Wided Bouchamaoui.”
A curious traveler and advocate of education (she is a graduate of Institut Supérieur de Gestion, GIA, and Ecole de Joaillerie in Montreal), Skhiri has perfected a signature for her startup with confident precision. “I’ve always been driven to learn about gems, diamonds, and precious metals, and the history behind jewelry,” she says. “I’m always designing – as soon as I have a hint of an idea, I work on it and develop it.”
At a time when even small businesses feel the pressure to up their sustainability efforts, it must surely require a smart manifesto to balance profitability and environmental awareness. “I’m a nature lover at heart,” she concludes. “A clean environment is important to me and although we’re a startup, our team is always working towards ethical principles. We recycle any unsold items and I’m immensely proud of this decision.”
Originally published in the July/August 2021 issue of Vogue Arabia