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A Children’s Jewelry Line So Luxe, You’ll Want to Wear It Yourself

From former accessories director Maria Dueñas Jacobs, Super Smalls may have you wandering into the kids department.

By: Hannah Baxter
Styling: Hannah Baxter
Photography: Tim Buol

Think back to when you were a little kid playing dress-up in your mother or grandmother’s closet. There were probably some too-big high heels or a cocktail dress that dragged on the floor when you walked. If you were lucky enough, she might have even let you pillage some things from her jewelry box, but when playtime was over, those diamonds and pearls went safely back into hiding where little hands couldn’t reach them. Why wasn’t there a jewelry option that looked just like the real thing for you to wear even after you changed back to your regular clothes? Maria Dueñas Jacobs wondered the same thing after she had her three daughters, and being the former accessories director at Elle, she had plenty of expertise to draw upon to create her debut costume jewelry line, Super Smalls.

 

After her decade-long career in the fashion and media space, it’s not surprising that Dueñas Jacobs has an impressive collection of jewelry of her own, which we were delighted to explore when we stopped by her family’s Manhattan apartment. “I always loved jewelry,” she explains in between photos with her daughters, Luna, Silvi, and Isa, and the exceptionally patient cat, Frankie, “because as a little kid, how can you not love anything sparkly? But my mom wasn’t like, a huge collector at all. It wasn’t until I started working for magazines when I was 22, and seeing real and amazing jewelry on set, that I felt it.”

As she and her daughters piled on pieces from both her brand and her collection, it truthfully became harder and harder to differentiate the fine jewelry from the sparkly rings, bracelets, earrings, and necklaces of Super Smalls. “It was really Luna helping me and saying, OK, well, if I’m not allowed to play with your things, then make me something that looks like yours,’” says the founder. “I couldn’t find them, so I made them. When I was designing, I wanted to have pieces that were cool for her. Like these little [clip-on] earrings. If they were real gold or Tiffany’s, I would totally wear them. This sapphire ring, too, looks like it would be real.”

Keep reading to learn more about Dueñas Jacobs’ career in the jewelry business, the pieces she loves to collect, and how she managed to create a kid’s line so sparkly and luxe, it fools even the most devoted of jewelry lovers.

“My first job was as the assistant to the fashion director of Glamour. I went on set with her all the time, so I was taking care of the jewelry, packing it. It helped me understand it and love it and pointed me in that direction. From then on, I was covering jewelry and accessories. Then I joined Elle as the jewelry and accessories director, where I was able to cover fine and high jewelry. There I started to learn more about the history of jewelry and stones. It became a total love affair.”

“Trends for jewelry come and go, and when I first started covering jewelry, the big costumey pieces were really important, like Lanvin and Marni pieces, but then the minimal pieces came into the picture, and those are a little easier to invest in—demi-fine pieces like small chains with a little diamond. One of the perks as an editor is that you get gifted things, so I started collecting beautiful midi-rings and other things that I loved. I also started to want to link back memories to my jewelry. So for me, it became very sentimental.”

“Even with this ring, I had it made, it has Luna’s birthstone here and then Silvi and Isa’s birthstone. This ring, Jordan gave it to me for Mother’s Day; it reminds me of him because he has blue eyes. And this one, they’re two hands holding each other, it’s from 1820, and it comes apart; it’s really cool and really delicate. I love the ’60s and ’70s, actually, because I love yellow gold. I love what people are doing now. I definitely love when people give me gifts when they’re jewelry, but I’m such a self-purchaser. I think it’s really empowering for women to want something and get it for themselves. Like if I find something that I love that’s vintage, I buy it for myself.”

“When Jordan was going to propose, he asked me what I wanted, and I was already working in jewelry, but I couldn’t decide because it was all changing so much. So I wanted a band; it’s timeless. These baguettes are so popular now, and I’m really happy with my choice.”

“I think a great chain that you can then change your pendant out is a great investment piece. If you love your chain, you’re going to wear it all the time. Foundrae does such a great job. This Jennifer Fisher new one I got also. If you can find a statement ring that you love—you don’t have to wait for your engagement ring to find a ring that you love. A signet ring is classic. I really love lockets as well. This bracelet is Jemma Wynne, and I wear it every day. I really love rainbows now more than ever because of my kids. I told them that it has rainbow powers so whenever they need it, they say, ‘Mommy, Mommy, I need the rainbow bracelet!’”

On starting Super Smalls:

“I wanted it to be pieces that kids really thought were real. It wasn’t really as much about the yellow gold as it was the sparkle. So I took inspiration from Graff and Harry Winston—the ultimate high-end jewelry but also legacy brands that are doing the best of the best. Kids like sparkle, so I wanted them to immediately understand it. So from far away you couldn’t see they’re for kids, but up close you can see that they’re adjustable, et cetera. I made things like, if they were real versions, would I wear them? This heart ring, if it was real, I would wear it.”

On moving from editorial to the brand side:

“I love it! I can look at things in a different way, and I feel more creative. I love a challenge; I’m motivated by it. I feel inspired by so many things. I’m just having fun. It was nice to see that it resonated, and people are giving it as gifts. Everything down to the packaging was important to me, and the name really says it all. Super Smalls Accessories, they’re small but they’re super. Luna actually added the Super and made everything come together. It is really how we build a community with the adults, but also the children, so that they come to Super Smalls for a brand that has a positive message.”

“We’re only [five] months in, but we have big goals and aspirations. We’re hoping that these kids, parents, and caregivers can come along for a ride. And you know what’s so funny about 2020? Kids have their own personal style. You can even look at my kids: ‘I want a second earring, give me more.’ It’s so cool to see. Even styling the kids in the photo shoot, they kept putting more on. More is more.”

“I wanted the branding to be cooler. Not too princessy, not too girly. Super Smalls is for everyone, for everyone who’s a kid at heart. We love the yellow because it feels fresh and new. The happy face is great. It was styled more with street style in the photo shoot, just because that’s our branding. We’re launching with jewelry, but we’re expanding. We’ll have hair soon, and then sunglasses. It’ll be an accessories brand, but we want it to be so much more.”

“I’m such a ring person. I have a lot of fun tricking people when I mix and match them with my own personal jewelry. I was sitting at a restaurant and someone was like, ‘Wow, I love your sapphire ring.’ And I was like, ‘You can get 5 for $27!’ When I first got the samples back from the manufacturer, I opened the samples up in front of Luna. And the first thing she said was ‘Can I touch it?’ And I was like, ‘Yes, you can!’ It might’ve just added to the confusion, to be honest [laughs].”

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