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Soju: Silver Egyptian Jewelry Inspired by All Things Nature

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Soju: Silver Egyptian Jewelry Inspired by All Things Nature

Photo credit: Motaz Faisal

While everyone else swam or relaxed, she would observe broken shells, dead corals, and oddly shaped rocks by the coast. It was the same everywhere she went; she would stop on a walk and muse at a fallen flower or leaf. It is safe to say that 28-year-old jewelry designer Somaia Omar has always felt a powerful connection with the smallest details of nature, ones that others would consider mundane.

Aptly titled “Things I See,” the first line in her newly-launched jewelry label Soju uses an organic casting technique to mold and transform the unique treasures she collects into elegant silver jewelry.

As part of Egyptian Streets’ Spotlight Sundays series, which features young and aspiring Egyptian artists, start-ups, filmmakers, and more, we spoke to Omar about her journey as a female jewelry designer embarking upon a traditionally male-dominated industry and what jewelry making means to her.

What inspired you to start Soju?

In 2019, I decided to attend a workshop on the basics of jewelry making. Afterwards, I created a small studio for myself with a bench, pliers, and other simple tools. I’ve always been curious about how jewelry is made and how a piece ends up looking the way it does.

I still have this same feeling of curiosity and intrigue about jewelry making, even though I’ve already learned several techniques; it is what fuels my hunger to learn more, explore more, read more, and experiment more with the craft. It pushes me to move forward.

“Sitting on my bench and working on my pieces makes me feel grounded and present,” Omar explains.
Photo credit: Somaia Omar

Jewelry-making seems to be a personal endeavor for you, can you tell us more about that?

The year I took the workshop was the same year I lost my father, and the process of making jewelry helped with my grieving process immensely because it was the one thing that helped me feel grounded, present, and focused only on the task at hand. It helped me find myself during a very difficult time of my life. For that reason, I’m very humbled and grateful for it.

How do you find inspiration for designs, and why did you choose corals in particular for the first line?

Soju is based on a technique of organic casting, so all the pieces are molded from nature. I’ve always been passionate about collecting damaged or broken items from nature, like a dried-up flower or a broken seashell. It is never anything that is alive or functional to the ecosystem around it.

 

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A post shared by Jewelry by Somaia Omar (@soju.____)

I started with corals because of my love for the Red Sea; all the items molded in this line were collected from there. Future collections will still include corals, along with other items I’ve collected from outside Egypt.

What’s the process of designing a new piece like?

For this line, the design process started on the beach. I’d find something interesting in the sand and then put it on my neck or around my finger. The people around me didn’t understand what I wanted to do until I finished the pieces and showed them the final product.

 

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A post shared by Jewelry by Somaia Omar (@soju.____)

What are the main challenges you’ve faced?

I faced a lot of challenges in Khan El Khalili, where I go to get my wax molds done. It took me a long time to find someone trustworthy enough to take on this task without scamming me or not believing in what I have to offer just because I’m a woman.

Silver jewelry-making in Egypt is seen as a “man’s job” because it requires physical strength, so these are issues faced by any female jewelry designer in Egypt. In spite of this, I ended up meeting a lot of people in Khan El Khalili who encourage me even if they don’t completely understand what I do. It helped me form friendships with a lot of people I wouldn’t have met otherwise, and I’m grateful that I have a community of friends there now. I now feel incredibly safe in the smallest, darkest streets of Khan El Khalili, even in the areas without a network connection.

 

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A post shared by Jewelry by Somaia Omar (@soju.____)

What are your hopes for the brand in the future?

Right now, my objective is not to expand by building branches or dealing with a factory; I want to keep working on each piece with my own two hands. I feel connected to my pieces, from the moment I begin working on them until they continue their journey as someone’s accessory, and I don’t want that to change.

Explore the Soju collection by visiting the label’s website or Instagram page.

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A writer and editor based in Cairo, Mona is passionate about providing people with a platform to share their stories. Her interests include cultural issues, mental health, environmental sustainability, and animal welfare. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Multimedia Journalism from the American University in Cairo.

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