When it comes to life lessons and generational knowledge, one thing accessories editor-turned-jewelry designer Maria Dueñas Jacobs is passing down to her three daughters is a love of jewelry. Playing dress up courtesy of Lorraine Schwartz natural diamonds, Jacobs exudes confidence alongside her girls—who are all wearing Jacobs’ jewelry brand for kids, Super Smalls. “I love that kids don’t take themselves too seriously,” she says of designing for the youngest generation. “It’s so fun to tap into that joy and inner sparkle that all children have.”
Not only does Jacobs have a passion for jewelry, she has an appreciation for natural diamonds. In fact, her daughters are already asking which of her heirloom pieces will be passed down to them one day. “The girls love seeing their names engraved in things,” she says of some of her personalized pieces that honor her daughters. “Which is the best way to ensure it will be theirs when they’re older!”
Ahead, get to know Jacobs, her impressive career, and the natural diamonds that mean the most to her.
Only Natural Diamonds: Can you share your background in jewelry with us? How did you get into the industry?
Maria Dueñas Jacobs: I began my career working in fashion. I started off as a stylist, and then moved into the editorial world as an accessories market editor at Glamour magazine and then as accessories and jewelry director at ELLE. My time in magazines was incredible and I was exposed to the best of the best, and I fell in love with accessories and fine jewelry. I always had a passion for jewelry but after over a decade of covering the industry, my admiration and love for it has only grown deeper.
OND: How did you pivot from being an editor to starting a business?
MDJ: I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit – a gift from my parents – but it took time to find exactly the right thing to start on my own. Looking back, it’s easy to connect the dots: working in fashion and accessories, a love of jewelry cultivated since I was young, becoming a mom to three girls… It feels like everything ultimately led to me starting Super Smalls, but it happened organically. I think I was finally ready for the pivot when the right idea came to me. It didn’t happen all at once; it was a building urge to start my own thing, and to be able to combine all these key themes in my life.
OND: What about Lorraine Schwartz jewelry speaks to you as a diamond lover and why was it your dream to play in Lorraine’s iconic diamond designs?
MDJ: I’ve never been a minimalist when it comes to fashion and design, and Lorraine’s pieces are wonderfully over the top! Fine jewelry is already such a luxury – made of rare and expensive materials, and with exquisite craftsmanship – but these pieces take it to another level. Lorraine’s jewelry feels designed to make you gasp. I love that feeling!
OND: What sort of energy or aura do Lorraine’s pieces bring when you wear them?
MDJ: Wearing these jewels makes you feel giddy – like a kid again! Whatever you’re doing or wearing feels instantly magical. Lorraine’s jewelry emits a sort of joyful exuberance – it’s the exact energy that inspires Super Smalls.
OND: What’s your favorite thing about designing jewelry for kids?
MDJ: Collaborating with my own daughters is really exciting; they are a major source of inspiration. Super Smalls lives at the intersection of kids and adults, and it’s an awesome space in which to create – combining humor, whimsy, and magic with a real sense of luxury and design. We always talk about wanting to dream up things that would make a kid’s eyes pop out of their head – designing for that WOW moment is the best.
OND: How would you describe the Super Smalls kid?
MDJ: There’s not really one Super Smalls kid – Super Smalls is for every kind of kid. We want to be an ultra- welcoming space where there’s something for everyone – girls, boys, creative/spirited kids, thoughtful/shy ones – even cool adults! More than anything, Super Smalls kids love to express themselves, and we hope we’re giving them lots of options for doing that – for going out into the world with wild imaginations and unique, over-the-top style.
OND: What’s your first memory of a natural diamond?
MDJ: Even before I knew what a diamond was, I have childhood memories of watching family members take special care with certain pieces of jewelry; cherished pieces that had stories that went with them (an engagement, a birth, a love story). I noticed that jewelry could take on mythic proportions, even an item that is worn every day. This is one of the things I love so much about jewelry – how you can attach meaning to an object, and wear and carry it with you. In the case of Super Smalls, these aren’t ultra- expensive jewels, but they still have that storytelling element that makes them feel like a luxury.
OND: What does luxury mean to you?
MDJ: One of my biggest luxuries is time – being able to be in the moment, building memories, being on vacation with my family, quiet moments with each other, the times we’re together celebrating! And of course, fine jewelry is such a luxury. It’s something that freezes a moment in time or a celebrates a connection. It’s such a luxury to wear something precious and beautiful that carries those memories and bonds with you.
OND: Have you ever designed something with your daughters in mind?
MDJ: Absolutely – I feel like everything I design is with my daughters in mind! Sometimes it’s completely their idea, other times I’m running design ideas by them. They really are my co-founders and co-designers – they’d be mad if I didn’t mention them here! They are my walking, talking inspirations.
OND: Are there specific pieces you know you’ll pass down to them?
MDJ: Yes – I always think about how things will be passed down to my kids. And whenever I wear something new – whether it be clothing, accessories, jewelry – they rush to be the first to call out “CAN I HAVE IT WHEN I’M OLDER?!” fighting over who said it first, as if they were calling dibs on a specific seat in the car, which always makes me smile. They love hearing the stories and meanings attached to my jewelry as much as I love telling them. For example, my husband gave me a ring with a blue amethyst when my daughter Luna was born to match her eyes, which thrills her.
OND: How does being a mom influence your creative thinking and design process?
MDJ: I love being able to loop my kids into everything we do at Super Smalls – they are very familiar with the idea of feedback and collaboration. They run their own little focus groups, wearing works-in-progress to school, and polling their friends for their opinions about what they like. I hope they have a sense of pride, not just because they’re involved in the process but because they see their mom creating something and putting it out into the world. They might not understand the full extent of what goes on behind the scenes, launching and running a business, but I hope as they get older they’ll be proud of what we’ve built.
OND: Did you inherit jewelry from your own mother?
MDJ: Funnily enough, my mom was not a huge collector, but she has given me some jewelry, which I cherish. Something that sticks with me is the way she cared for the pieces that were meaningful to her – she would store her jewelry in little pouches, protected and tucked away. I remember sneaking in to look at and touch her things. The closeness I felt from holding her treasured pieces is the same connection I feel wearing them now.
OND: What’s one piece of diamond jewelry that you wear that feels the most personal to you?
MDJ: My most personal diamond jewelry is my engagement ring –a yellow gold channel set baguette band. Fifteen years later, I still wear it every day. Because it’s a band, it’s super wearable, and as much as our lives have changed in last decade and a half, it reminds me of such a specific – and special – moment in time, my husband and I officially starting our lives together. I think a circle of diamonds is such a perfect symbol of time and continuity