This past year, faced with global malaise and uncertainty, jewelry designers have poured their energies into creating something – anything – that could provide a powerfully curative, spirit-lifting tonic. They have turned to the heavens and the history of ancient symbolism to arm us with fine jewels that might empower us – delivering an arsenal of talismanic fine jewels with poignant substance, as well as style. “I really think that what an amulet or talisman brings is up to the wearer,” explains San Francisco-based designer Lauren Harwell Godfrey. “I think jewelry is often bought, given and worn with intention – and that intention is likely the thing that sticks.”
It seems the most prolific symbol dominating designers’ minds is the evil eye. A relic of antiquity, the evil eye has a profound history as the world’s most recognizable talisman, originating in Ancient Greece and frequently referenced by the likes of Plato and Plutarch. The eye was believed to bring bad luck upon all it spied, and wearing an eye amulet was considered a potent antidote to its malevolence.
Greek jewelry designer Ileana Makri has a lifelong bond with the symbol, wearing it when in need of emotional armor ever since her mother first adorned her crib with one. Makri is often credited with its global proliferation, first making evil-eye jewelry in 2001, after she witnessed the September 11 attacks. “I believe that it marked the start of a period where people felt less secure and needed to feel safe again,” she explains. “Times have not really changed, and therefore more and more people feel they need a good-luck charm,” she adds. Diane Kordas, Lito and Sydney Evan are all also renowned for their interpretations of the symbol, each bringing a different aesthetic to this mystic symbol.
Almasika has harnessed the power of the eye and combined it with another force – its ‘Vidi’ medallion is named after the Latin term for the diamond ‘eye’ at its heart, which is embraced by a double crescent moon. “Celestial jewelry is absolutely a powerful talisman – it’s your connection with the significance of a piece that can uplift your spirits and bring you closer to the natural earth and sky,” confirms Andrea Fohrman, an LA-based designer who specializes in moon phases. Fohrman believes moon phases bring out different qualities in each of us, having felt a connection to the heavens since she was a young girl living atop a mountain in north California, where she would study the sky daily.
Lauren Harwell Godfrey puts her faith in crystal energies – her rainbow gemstone beads are inspired by vibrant African trade beads and are complemented by a variety of compelling symbols. “I believe that stones have remarkable properties and that colors have energy and vibrations; these colorful stone beads give off really good energy,” she explains. Those looking for supercharged stacks may also look to Sydney Evan and Jacquie Aiche, whose gemstone-bead bracelets can be layered up the wrist for extra karmic power.
Foundrae’s Beth Bugdaycay, the high priestess of fine-jewelry symbolism, has developed an entire lexicon of meaningful motifs to illuminate wisdom that is difficult to define with words, having sought out symbols that transcend time, cultures and boundaries; scouring books, ceramics and walls the world over for every scrap of meaning. Bugdaycay’s roadmap of symbols, which can be used to create jewels bearing entire tomes of fortuity and spirituality, is translated into gleaming 18kt gold charms. These jewels are designed to channel both our natural proclivities and the good fortune we would like to manifest. “The reason I utilize symbols to communicate these ideas is because I agree with the school of thought of noted philosophers, anthropologists and psychologists, such as Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, that symbols help us to access a deeper memory that resides in all of us; to retrieve an inner ‘knowing’ that we each have deep inside,” she explains.
Many seek ancient artefacts to bring good fortune, such as Dubini’s minted coin designs, which reference Greek, Roman and Persian mythology – with each jewel featuring a unique medallion dating as far back as the 4th century BC. Not all amulets are ancient, however, as Marlo Laz’s contemporary Porte Bonheur jewels attest – each one is emblazoned with the French for ‘lucky charm’ and features undulating curves to remind us of life’s ups and downs. “I love all things that encourage community, and powerful symbols and talismans do that,” says founder Jesse Marlo Lazowski. “They are their own universal language, with a global reach that connects like-minded people.”
Since its launch in 2003, Carolina Bucci’s ‘Lucky’ bracelet has seen extraordinary success, originally intended to echo friendship bracelets exchanged by loved ones, often by mothers and daughters. “It is very emotional to see what each generation wishes for the other and to know that each carries a daily reminder on their wrist of that bond,” says Bucci. “I firmly believe that whether you are truly superstitious or just believe in the power of ‘placebo’, there is much to be said for focusing one’s positive thinking through jewelry,” she adds. “I think it’s because having a colorful and sparkling reminder of what you hope for tied around your wrist is a very meaningful way to put your good energy out into the world.” But with so many lucky charms, how should you select your own amulet? “I always advise our clients to trust their intuition,” says Lazowski. “Choose the piece that speaks to you, that puts a smile on your face; the good fortune will follow.”