Meet The Jeweler Behind This Insta-Famous Vagina Necklace

Photo: Via @sofunnyface.
From a distance, designer Suzzan Atala's golden pendant necklace resembles a Virgin Mary statuette; if you squint, it kind of looks like a rose. It's only when you get in close that you realize the pièce de résistance is, well, labia. We first noticed the 29-year-old artist's lovely, gleaming, golden vulva pendants on Instagram about a year ago — then, suddenly, it seemed like all of our favorite Instagrammers were into them. They're the product of a collaboration called Dharma Bum Charms, between Atala's own jewelry line, Tuza, and New York-based designer Maia Ruth Lee. Ranging between $155 and $190, the Vagina Charm Necklace debuted in December of last year, and quickly found a following among cool girls like Adwoa Aboah and Chelsea Leyland. Tuza is inspired by Atala's formative years in Mexico as well as her current life in Manhattan (plus her little pooch, Lola), and there are lots of chunky curb chains, flaming hearts, and pretty hoops — and, of course, the social-media-famous celebration of the female form. The pieces, which range from delicate chains to artful rings and bracelets, are designed and made in Mexico City and NYC; they're sold at boutiques including Sincerely Tommy in Brooklyn and Otherwild in L.A. We sat down with Atala to find out her craft secrets, what makes her tick, and how she ended up creating gold-plated vulva.
When and why did you start Tuza?
"I used to make kitschy sculpted earrings covered in glitter for my friends when I was [in college]. Then, post-graduation, I stumbled into a jewelry internship. It was at that point I realized making jewelry was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I had studied technical sculpture, but took courses to learn the technical side of jewelry design where I learned how to translate my ideas into actual tangible things."

Rose only wears rose. Regram from our beautiful @rosehardy with her new Tuza pieces. X

A photo posted by Tuza Jewelry (@tuzajewelry) on

What does the name Tuza mean?
"It was my nickname when I was younger. There's an old Mexican film with a little girl called Tuzita, whose father is a badass villain but can't help but be soft and compassionate toward his daughter. He is a single dad, and my dad was, too. So when my step mom met me, she used to call me Tuzita. It evolved into Tuza."

Which Tuza piece seems to have a cult following?
"Definitely the Vagina Charm Necklace. It's a piece from a collaboration with my dear friend Maia Ruth Lee, a super talented New York-based artist. We made a whole collection of charms, with each trinket representing modern life. With [the vulva pendant], we wanted to evoke thoughts of the Virgin Mary. We had no idea that people would react so positively to it!"

Who's worn your designs?

"Our first-ever sale was to Scout Willis, who I met at Capsule [a trade show held in tandem with New York Fashion Week] when we were launching the brand for the first time. That was such a stroke of luck: She told her friends about us — like mega-babes Chelsea Leyland and Adwoa Aboah, who also now wear our jewelry." What’s your favorite piece you’ve ever designed?
"I love all the pieces — oh, god, that sounds so arrogant! But I genuinely do. My favorites change according to my mood and the season, but the piece I currently love the most has yet to come out. It’s part of the spring '17 collection called Rio, and it captures the light so beautifully and flatters the shape of a face. And my all-time favorite is the three-stone choker, because it looks so classy yet it’s so distinctive." Where do you make your jewels?
"We make all of our pieces in our workshop in Mexico City. Everything is made from scratch, except for one necklace that requires a special, discontinued vintage machine. We also outsource our lapidary [cutting and engraving gems], as that is a whole different craft! Everything else is made with all the love and care in our workshop by my amazing and talented jewelers." Where do you buy jewelry for yourself?
"[I buy] mainly when I travel. I love to see things that I would never find on Instagram, so most of them tend to be vintage pieces. I also buy jewelry from other talented jewelers that happen to be my friends, like Hannah DeBruyn and Shahla Karimi."

Vagina round neck ✔️ forever repping womanhood

A photo posted by Chelsea Leyland ??? (@chelsealeyland) on

What do you love about jewelry?
"I love that jewelry has longevity: It holds sentimental value and can be kept forever. The permanence of metal allows for jewelry to last such a long time, which makes it more than just a fashionable item and more like a piece of wearable art. I love that jewelry can be gifted and passed on from one generation to another and hardly loses its value or beauty."

What's inspiring your next collection?

"I’ve been inspired by rivers — their strength, the colors, and their constant movement and flow. I wanted the collection to inspire liveliness, strength, and to give a sense of endlessness or eternity."

When you are planning a new collection, where do you start?
"I usually find a title from a song or book or something I have seen and then conceptualize the idea. I make myself a brief to develop the new pieces around that concept. They all have to tell a story together."

Who’s your #TBT style icon?

Do you gravitate toward gold or silver...or both?
"Definitely both, and rose gold, too! I think if you manage to wear them well, both metals complement and contrast each other beautifully."

Do you have any jewelry-styling rules?
"I think that when it comes to rings and statement earrings, you have to give them space: A beautiful ring is a sculpture, and your finger is the plinth, so if you saturate it too much then it won’t have the same appeal and statement."

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