Meet Benedicta Awere-Malik of Didi Rose Jewelry
“My name is Benedicta Awere-Malik and I'm the creator of Didi Rose Jewelry.
I've always loved to make things by hand. Learned to braid hair when I was 7, learned to sew at 11 and because my mother was a baker, I've always baked. I don't remember how old I was when I started testing out recipes from my mother's books but I remember frosting/decorating my first birthday cake when I was 9. Around that time, I also used to make beads from wire. This involved cutting the wires into little pieces after taking out the copper bit then frying them a little in palm oil so they melt and look like raw uncut coral. I'm talking about the little red electrical cord that we used in Nigeria in the 80s.
Just like any woman from Southern Nigeria, I love jewelry and I always have... My grandmothers were huge gold and coral buffs. Many of the pieces I make are inspired by those amazing woman. My maternal grandmother with her patterned hoops/rustic looking pendants and my paternal grandmother with her signature long coral necklace that she tied to make it look like a lariat. Also, I love the look of gold jewelry. Doesn't hurt that it looks really great against my dark skin. And silver? Don't say it again, I love...
While in college, I started selling 18k gold jewelry as a side gig. It was while doing this that I met a Lebanese goldsmith who taught me a lot about gold and precious gems. I loved layering my necklaces. Wearing at least 5 necklaces at a time and multiple bracelets. I still wear multiple bracelets on both my wrists today.
After I graduated with a diploma in Business Management in 2003, I tried looking for a job but couldn't find one. I was no longer in the gold business at this time so, one day out of boredom, I took out a coral set that i'd worn to my grandmother's funeral and decided to revamp it. I had reacted badly to the metal in the piece but I really loved the beads. I had a few different images in my head of what I wanted to turn the necklace into (it was an elaborate piece) but I had no idea how to get it done so, I looked in the classifieds section of the papers to find bead stores in my city. Found a couple. The first had a very rude owner but in the second shop I met a very lovely lady who was instrumental in my learning how to create jewelry pieces.
After revamping my coral necklace, my friends wanted me to make them some so, I did and that was how Didi Rose Jewelry was born. Didi was a childhood nickname and I really love roses. A few times, I've walked away from making jewelry but I always came back to it but at last in 2009, I made the decision to forge ahead and never stop.
I'd always created elaborate pieces of jewelry with beads and wire but I yearned to be able to make pieces that can be worn everyday. The kind that don't need to be worn only when there's a party or some time of celebration. Initially, I learned to set stones in simple prongs and made some sketches which i sent to a company in Isreal to create for me. Just the bases which i'll set stones into but they stole my designs and that made my mind up for me. I had to learn how to solder and fabricate my own.
2017 and a different country. Plenty of time to learn. Close to the material source which means I didn't have to pay a ton of money to have my tools/equipment shipped to me and I knew I was ready.
When I first came to America, Swarovski crystals were my preferred stones until I was introduced to the world of gemstones and that created a whole new addiction. I couldn't believe the variety of turquoise. Prior to this time, I only knew the turquoise the Lebanese goldsmith Richard showed me which turned out to be sleeping beauty. I bought and still buy a lot of natural gemstones which I now use in my work.
There was a lot of nail biting, finger roasting, thumb smashing and hours of watching videos but I finally taught myself the basics. The rest of what I can currently do just came with constant practice. I still learn and I have plans to take classes in the second half of this year plus many more classes moving forward.
In the meantime, I continue to do what I love creating some pretty pieces for you that I hope you will cherish forever and pass on to your loved ones...”