“I was making a picture in British Colombia. We were on the Colombia Icefield. It was raining and there was a heavy mist around. We could not shoot and so we huddled around a fire. Suddenly out of the mist came a man. He was not a young man. He had a beard… well… not exactly a beard, he just hadn’t shaved for a while. And he was sort of a miner type; at least he was dressed like a miner. As he came closer to us he said: “Hey, which one of you guys is Stuart?” …I raised my hand and I said that I was. He came over and he looked at me and he said “Oh yeah yeah, now I recognize you. Well I heard you were here and I thought I would come up and say hello. I’ve seen a lot of your pictures. But I think the one I like best is when you were in this room, and your girlfriend was in the next room, and there were fireflies outside, and you recited a piece of poetry to her. And I thought that was a nice thing for you to do.” And I remembered exactly the moment, and exactly the film, I remembered who was in it and who directed it. And also, I realized that that picture had been released 20 years before, and it made a tremendous impression on me….that man. To think that I had been part of creating a moment that this man had liked, and had remembered for 20 years. And I will never forget it. This is what I mean by “the moment”.
In his interview, Hollywood actor James Stewart (1908 – 1997) was describing one of the most fundamental realities about his craft, which was his calling to touch other people in their lives, and these moments coming to life through the acknowledgment of his public. The moment, as he called it, embodies the philosophy passionate people share about their life, and their reason for walking up every morning to venture themselves in whatever tasks they have set for themselves.
In jewelry, I believe what makes a creation relevant is when it crystallizes a moment. It could be any celebration, big or small. After all, we should celebrate each day we live in, and jewels are objects which symbolize these moments in an intimate way. We wear the jewels on our body, we carry them around like we do with our memories. Jewels are the precious reflections of these moments: we are the jewels on our body. As designers, this moment comes to life only when it is understood by a public. For sales people this moment comes when they understand how to link together the design, and the needs in the life of a client. The beauty of the moment in jewelry arises when all elements balance each other out, when the design, the acquisition and the wearing of the jewel hold a special meaning which surpasses trends of fashion to become timeless and inspiring.
According to archaeological findings, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, and Hittites (600-400 BC.) began collecting amulets or talismans to ward off evil spirits or bad luck. In Ancient Egypt, these trinkets were used for identification and as symbols of faith. They also served to identify an individual to the gods in the afterlife. As the art of crafting jewels grew over the centuries, shapes and forms sculpted from gold became more sophisticated, and these jewels translated more precisely specific meanings related to their owners to become what we know today as “charms”.
Queen Victoria wore charm bracelets that started a fashion among the European noble classes. She was instrumental to the popularity of charm bracelets. When her beloved Prince Albert died, she even made “mourning charms” popular. These were made with lockets of hair from the deceased, miniature portraits of the deceased, charm bracelets carved in black jet. This bracelet (see picture above) was worn constantly by Queen Victoria. This was one of a group of jewels placed in the ‘Albert Room’ at Windsor Castle after the Queen's death in 1901. This was the room in which Prince Albert had died in 1861 and the Queen left instructions for a specific list of personal jewelry to be placed there and not passed on in the family.
After World War II, soldiers returning home brought with them trinkets made by craftsmen local to the area where they were fighting to give to loved ones. Charms and Charm bracelets eventually became trends of their own in the decades that followed. International jewelry brands designed charm collections, as a strategic way to celebrate each special moment in their loyal clients’ lives and therefore establish long term relationships with them.
I remember when in the early 2000s Louis Vuitton launched their charms, putting back in trend. Japanese clients would flock in Paris to purchase a charm, and it was said they did so mostly for the box, which was a miniature reproduction of their iconic traveling box.
The LVMH group brands followed, launching their own interpretations of the charms. Dior Joaillerie, for instance, launched in 2008 a collection of charms representing all the different icons of the couture house. Typical of artistic director Victoire de Castellane’s humor, one of these charms represented a small locket jewelry box which, when opened, revealed a miniature diamond ring. In 2011, “Charms by Harry Winston” introduced five charms paying tribute to the history and legacy of Harry Winston design. This translates how, over the years, the concept of collecting charms became overruled by commercial branding, and the public losing slowly the appeal of celebrating moments of life, and rather paying tributes to brands.
Whatever you do, create moments and share them. Whether you create jewels, buy jewels, sell jewels, think of creating a moment. In the grand and provocative mist of things, there is always that simple man who will come to you and acknowledge you have touched him in the purest way, with emotion. We work, we live, we create, we struggle for that simple man in the mist. The art of protecting these moments is at the source of Beauty, and the energy triggering the sparks of passion and Life. One charm at a time…
- James Stewart (1908 – 1997)
- Queen Victoria's famous Charm Bracelet
- Antique rose gold Edwardian locket pendant on a 16inch chain. In the back of the locket is a four leaf clover.
- Louis Vuitton 18K Yellow Gold World Travel Charm Bracelet with Lock, Key and Twelve Diamond, Onyx, Lapis & Topaz Charms
- Dior Joaillerie, Charm Bracelet, 750 Gold and diamonds
- Harry Winstone, Charm collection, Platinum and Diamonds