New York Times | Jewelry Often Has a Message, but Sometimes It's Hard to Find

In 2014, Fie Isolde’s future husband wrote her a 28th birthday card that, she said, was “full of dreams about all the things we were going to do.” 

“When I got the card,” the Danish jewelry designer recalled last month during a video interview from her boutique in the Sycamore neighborhood of Los Angeles, “my first thought was actually my fear: One day, this ink will be gone.” 

So in 2020, she had the words microscopically engraved on the 14-karat gold ring that she now wears on her right pinkie.

“You can’t read it with the naked eye, only with a loupe,” Ms. Isolde said, referring to the simple magnification eyepiece used in many industries. “People see it as small black lines or etchings.”  

 

 

THE JEWELRY DESIGNER FIE ISOLDE IN LOS ANGELES THIS MONTH. JENNELLE FONG FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES 

Some jewelers are using messages to sets their creations apart. Jennelle Fong for The New York Times 

At the end of this month, at the Couture jewelry show in Las Vegas, Ms. Isolde plans to introduce a collection inspired by the ring. Called Secret Note, it comprises four customizable 14-karat gold ring styles and four pendants. Each can accommodate 300 to 850 characters, depending on the font and type size, she said. (A loupe is to be included with every ring.) 

“Maybe it’s something you want to tell your child, and you don’t need everybody to know, but you want to have it on you every day,” Ms. Isolde said. “It’s a way to tell your story.” 

Jewelry is, almost by definition, symbolic of love, power, wealth and more. But not since the Victorian period (1837–1901) and the Georgian era that preceded it (1714–1837) have so many jewelers used their creations for hidden messages. 

Today, perhaps in reaction to the ubiquity of personalized jewelry such as birthstone rings and initial pendants, some designers are using creative forms of messaging to set their pieces apart.

Such secret messages are a common feature in Shaun Leane’s bespoke creations, including the 2019 engagement ring that Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi presented to Princess Beatrice, Prince Andrew’s elder daughter. “Between Edo, her husband now, and Beatrice and I, we’re the only people alive that know what that message is,” the British jeweler said. 

PRINCESS BEATRICE AND EDOARDO MAPELLI MOZZI POSED FOR A PHOTOGRAPH BEFORE THEIR MARRIAGE IN 2020. HER ENGAGEMENT RING, CREATED BY THE BRITISH JEWELER SHAUN LEANE, INCLUDED A SECRET MESSAGE. PRINCESS EUGENIE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE — GETTY IMAGES 

 

In the 1990s, as an apprentice in London’s Hatton Garden neighborhood, Mr. Leane spent years restoring period jewels. “Not only was I totally enthralled by the craftsmanship and the innovation of techniques and materials that the Victorians used, what blew me away was the messaging,” he said. 

Mr. Leane held his left hand up to the camera during a video interview and pointed to the gold ring covered in black enamel with gold lettering that he wore on his pinkie. “This is a Victorian mourning ring,” he said. “Most mourning rings were black enamel, but if it had white enamel, it would represent the death of a child. And sometimes if you had black enamel with a white line around the outside, that meant that it was the death of a spinster.”

The symbolism made an impression on Mr. Leane. “Being a young goldsmith, I couldn’t help but carry these traditions through in my own work. There’s a message in everything I make.” 

Mr. Leane referred to his cylindrical Messenger pendants, which open to reveal parchment paper bearing private messages. “I have a calligraphy writer who can write the message,” he said. “You then scroll it up and lock the message in. It literally locks. And on the outside, it’s enameled with a date, like the old mourning jewelry.” 

The Victorian era proved equally seductive to Elizabeth Gibson, the owner of the jewelry boutique Eliza Page in Austin, Texas. About a decade ago, Ms. Gibson stumbled on an article about acrostic jewelry, which involves organizing gems so the first letter of each stone’s name spells out a message of affection. “I’m an English major, and I’m a sucker for romance,” she said. “When I read that you can spell poetry in gemstones, I was so excited.” 

THE FIRST LETTER OF EACH GEM IN THE SCRIBE BANGLE BRACELET BY ELIZABETH GIBSON SPELL  “YOU ARE MY EVERYTHING.” 

In 2022, she introduced Scribe, her take on the idea. “Love is one of the most popular words because it’s the most colorful: labradorite or lapis for the L, usually pink opal for the O, violet amethyst for the V and emerald for the E,” she said. “And we can do ‘loved’ by adding a diamond at the end.” 

And George Inaki Root, the founder and creative director of Milamore, a New York brand whose jewelry is manufactured in Japan, found a tactile way to convey messages of love in his Diamond Braille collection. “It started with a puzzle charm featuring diamond Braille initials when Milamore launched in 2019,” he wrote in an email. 

Some secret messages materialize in highly unexpected ways. Caustics, a 2022 collection from the Royal Mint’s jewelry brand, uses light to create symbols. “You know when you place a glass of water on a table in the sunshine and it fires off those beautiful patterns of light around the glass,” Dominic Jones, the brand’s creative director, said. “Those patterns of light are caustics.” 

Mr. Jones said the line, which offers horseshoe, clover, star, heart and tower symbols, was inspired by Sir Isaac Newton’s theories on the reflection of light, and originally had been devised, but never used, as a security feature on coins. 

“It’s a very elegant, understated piece of jewelry,” Mr. Jones said, referring to the collection, “but also has a really fun and surprising piece hidden within it.” 

And binary code, the two-numeral basic computer language, is one of numerous formats that David Wegweiser, founder and designer of David Alan Jewelry, a custom fine jeweler in New York City, has used to hide messages in his bespoke jewels. 

Once, using fluorescent and nonfluorescent diamonds, Mr. Wegweiser even placed an encrypted binary code message inside an engagement ring that the recipient “wouldn’t be able to break until she broke the code on her wedding band a year later,” he said.

But anything of significance — whether it is tangible, such as a favorite instrument, or intangible, such as a nickname — can be incorporated into a jewel, he said. 

“When I speak to clients, I listen for these little keys as to what will be important for them,” Mr. Wegweiser added. “It starts with me explaining that we can do anything they want. I’m nothing short of a mad scientist.”

 

New York Times article written by: Victoria Gomelsky