Feathers? Owls? You won’t find any of those in engineer-turned-jewelry-designer Dido Embaby’s pieces.
by Farah El Akkad Photos courtesy of Dido Embaby
Dido Embaby, an engineer who graduated in 2011 from the Faculty of Architectural Engineering at the American University in Cairo, never dreamt of becoming a jewelry designer. As a child who always enjoyed drawing still objects and logos, a hobby that continued to flourish when he was a student at AUC, Embaby’s talent was admired by his colleagues and friends, particularly after he made silver customized jewelry for his girlfriend.
“Arabic calligraphy was my hobby in university. I was surprised when everyone liked the jewelry I made for my girlfriend, and a lot of people began asking me to design customized jewelry for their loved ones. It started off from there,” Embaby says.[caption id="attachment_502665" align="alignnone" width="620"] Dido Embaby[/caption]
Sharp-edged and very line oriented, Embaby’s designs started off consisting mostly of pendants, and then he moved on to designing bracelets. Afterward, most of his free time and winter breaks were spent in workshops to learn more about designing silver jewelry.
“Engineering makes you more imaginative and very detail-oriented. It helps you learn how to make and design anything and the steps to do so," Embaby says on the link between being an engineer and a jewelry designer. "It is not just about designing a piece of jewelry, the whole manufacturing process counts, such as how to make jewelry with a lower cost.” Embaby says engineering and nature influence his work the most. “Everything I look at, I relate it to jewelry," he says. "Today for instance I was sitting in my balcony and found myself focusing on how the air is moving trees, and it popped into my mind: why not design something related to trees with gold and silver veins?”
In 2012, Embaby established his own workshop with a team of skilled craftsmen specializing in both custom work and Embaby’s own designs. The young designer says he puts his own art into his customized jewelry, but “at the end of the day, it is what people want.”
Embaby’s own designs are more sharp-edged, crafted from silver, gold, diamonds, and precious and semiprecious stones. He starts the process by printing out the design on a silver sheet, which is then cut and soldered using special equipment.
“I wanted to put my own designs out there, whether they were going to sell or not,” he says. Without a real official launch for his business, Embaby explains that people grew into it and that social media helped spread his work. “I had two circles. At AUC, which is a very big community, all knew me as Dido who designs jewelry. After launching my Facebook page and Instagram account, I started reaching beyond people I knew,” he says.
While making a name for himself may have been relatively easy, securing the right craftsmen to execute his designs has not been so smooth. “Finding qualified craftsmen is the hardest part of the job because of the lack of skill. Most of them do not want to work or learn. It is hard to find someone who is willing to commit to the job,” says the up-and-coming designer.
Never to be one to go with the flow, Embaby sees himself as different from mainstream jewelry designers. “My standard designs are very different to the extent that some people actually see them as overly daring — some people say things like, ‘No I would be scared to wear it.’ I hate trends such as feathers, elephants, owls and so on.”
Embaby is against mixing jewelry with other kinds of accessories. “Jewelry is jewelry. It is luxury. One of the reasons I do not like to make my work available at retail shops is that I do not like displaying my stuff next to furniture or cups and other accessories. Jewelry is precious material and putting it next to stuff like that defies the whole purpose.” Embaby, who is working on opening his own showroom by the middle of next month, explains “in a showroom people can come, sit down a bit, talk. It is more relaxing. Especially because I recently started designing customized diamonds so I want people sitting and feeling comfortable.”
Embaby sees the local jewelry scene as slowly growing but still lacking in many areas. "I see few designers, and little help from the government,” he says, adding that in Egypt, there are one or two real jewelry designers and the rest are either exported, or stores with a new big collection every season. Embaby is planning on becoming Egypt’s second jewelry designer. "I am hoping to grow my design team. I will need another designer with me for brainstorming. A designer always needs an extra brain.”