Talisman jewelry is nothing new. Charms and amulets have been worn to ward off bad luck since ancient times, frequently as circles to symbolize universality, wholeness and protection. In our unsettled era, many jewelry designers have found themselves drawn to exploring themes of sanctuary and protection, producing meaningful pieces for consumers increasingly looking to jewelry with more resonance and significance. Whether it’s a desire to feel more grounded, a need for protection or simply an urge to tell a personal story in jewelry form, the time has never been better to try a talisman.
The choice of pendant can be a reflection of the wearer’s personality. For Beth Bugdaycay of Foundrae, “exploring identity through jewelry in this way, can be a means of self-discovery that inspires us to reach our full potential.” The signs of the Zodiac and initial charms – which also tap into the current trend for personalization – are especially popular as pendants, alongside more abstract forms with personal meaning.
Since the pandemic began, designers have also reported a surge in interest in crystals, which are believed to work on the vibrations of each of the seven chakras to enhance physical and spiritual wellbeing. “When worn next to the skin, a crystal can be an incredible source of power,” says Los Angeles-based designer Jacquie Aiche, who cleanses each crystal she works with under a full moon, in her garden.
From ancient symbols reimagined for our times, to crystals as a timely manifestation of the importance of wellbeing, and brand new ways with classic love tokens, independent jewelry designers are creating modern amulets with 21st-century resonance. Six designers present new ways with an age-old style.
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The driving force behind Almasika is commonality. Designer Catherine Sarr‘s journey has led her across three different continents, from her native Paris, to London, Abu Dhabi and now Chicago, and each time she has put down roots in a different country, she has connected with others by looking for what she has in common with them: “my jewelry is the manifestation of that approach, rooted in those forms and symbols that speak to all of us, to create modern talismans that transcend cultures,” she says. The Sagesse collection reimagines ancient symbols like concentric circles, seeds and the eye in an exploration of universality and femininity, worked into minimalist statement pieces designed to resonate with an empowered female luxury consumer. In the Veni, Vedi, Vici lariat necklace (above), the lozenge, the eye and the comb celebrate life, symbolize protection and honor feminine power, in a refined contemporary amulet with universal appeal.
Ellis Mhairi Cameron
History and tradition are also drivers for London-based designer Ellis Mhairi Cameron, whose jewelry is is an exploration of the relationship between identity and place, firmly rooted in the landscapes and past of her Scottish Highlands heritage. “I fell in love with its history,” she says, “the ancient buildings, the rugged seascapes, and the artefacts and jewelry hoards which have been found buried within the earth. The idea that these pieces had lived through other lifetimes really resonated with me.” In her recent circle pendants, traceable diamonds are hand-cast into recycled gold, to emerge like buried treasure from the peaty earth of her native land. The necklaces were initially designed during the first Covid lockdown in April 2020, inspired by the Gaelic word ‘caim’; an invisible circle of protection drawn around the body with the hand. Mid-pandemic, the circle as a symbol of sanctuary held particular resonance, denoting strength, wholeness and courage: “a reminder of being watched over and cared for, even in the bleakest of times.” Entirely handcrafted by the designer herself, Cameron’s talismans bear the imprint of her homeland in their rich textures and organic forms.
Beth Bugdaycay’s jewelry has impressive depth of meaning. Through Foundrae, the designer has created a whole lexicon of self-expression in solid gold, enamel and occasionally, gemstones, referencing the four elements, astrology and the qualities that make up our characters. The beautifully thought-out collections are designed to help the wearer create jewelry stories made up of symbols with personal significance. “Knowing what we’re composed of is an important tool, but our path is not only about destiny,” says Bugdaycay, “jewelry can be a reminder that we can change and grow.” New for 2021, is the sister hook, an interlocking clasp designed to carry its own medallion on necklaces that can be worn long or wrapped around the neck, as well as Zodiac signet rings, oversized initial charms and orb and crescent medallions in lapis, malachite, carnelian and onyx, all with Foundrae’s characteristic chunky styling. Jewelry with substance, in every sense of the word, that epitomizes a mature take on the luxury of symbolism.
LA crystal queen Jacquie Aiche has garnered a celebrity following for her crystal amulets, from Gigi and Bella Hadid to Elizabeth Moss, via January Jones and the Kardashian sisters. And she takes her stones seriously, each one is hand-selected and charged in her garden under the full moon at her home in the Hollywood Hills, during a barefoot ritual to cleanse and purify the stones and their vibrations. “A crystal is a sacred talisman of energy,” says Aiche and at its most elemental, the prolific designer’s core collection of crystals bound in a gold and gemstone cap and strung as a personal amulet, is a comforting reminder of the healing power of self-belief. But if you’re not sure which to choose, keep it simple: “the most important question to ask when choosing your crystal is: what are my mind, body and soul in need of?,” advises Aiche. “Be open and be honest, the energy crystals carry is magnetic and ethereal, collected from centuries of tradition, adoration and personal meaning. The piece you naturally gravitate towards is often the one that will provide relief and healing where you need it most.”.
When jeweler Raphaël Dantcikian’s daughter was born, he set to work to create a piece of jewelry for her. “If I had been a furniture maker, I would have made her crib,” he laughs, “so I made her a ring, for my wife to wear on a chain.” Over time, the concept developed gradually until he decided to launch it as a separate line to his Art Deco-inspired Raphaël Dantz jewelry brand, based in Cannes, France. Today, that idea has grown into a line of ring pendants on chains and tiny solitaire rings mounted on their own ring, all handmade and engraved by Dantcikian himself. To the original, more feminine solitaire and diamond pavé rings, he has now added signet rings that can be engraved and plans to develop the concept further. Although the idea was born of the parent-child bond, the intimate pieces could equally celebrate other important relationships or milestones in life, like personal talismans: “in the past, people wore religious symbols,” says Dantcikian. “Now, we need something else, something more personal and heartfelt. A sacred symbol doesn’t need to be religious.”
Italian jeweler Amedeo Scognamiglio learned to carve cameos from his father, at the age of 16. He went on to helm a fine jewelry brand as one half of the design team behind Faraone Mennella, before branching out with his offbeat contemporary cameos as Amedeo, with stores in New York and Capri. His intricate carvings are meticulously worked in shell, usually sardonyx or cornelian, then set into precious metals and accented with colored gemstones. The craftsmanship is incredible, but these are not your grandmother’s cameo brooches, instead, think monkeys partying in Capri, grinning skull bracelets, and Spike Lee’s bespoke cameo eye ring and lucky horn necklace. The Hamsa in Capri necklace is a reworking of the classic Hand of Fatima amulet, a common symbol of protection against the evil eye across the Middle East, hand-carved from cornelian shell then mounted on sterling silver and surrounded with amethyst, for good luck and protection in flamboyant Italian style.