I was, for a long time, steeped in the Tony Soprano school of heart jewelry. Reference please, his allusion to the historic style it in the episode titled “Whitecaps” (one of the all-time greats). Tony and Carmela are in the basement engaged in perhaps their most epic fight when Tony throws the “little gold heart on a chain” insult at her. You see, he sees it as a token, a sweet gesture, that doesn’t quite measure up to the Harry Winston sapphire jewelry gifts he has bought his wife. Or, to be more precise, he accuses Carmela of entering their specific kind of marriage agreement because she would never be satisfied with a “little gold heart on a chain.” She denies this. But back to the heart jewelry. I remember the line so many years later because it struck something in me—a deep aversion to “little gold hearts on a chain.” Let me tell you what has happened since: I saw Silvia Furmanovich’s hand painted wood marquetry hearts, Sylva & Cie’s small pointed sapphire hearts, Elena Votsi’s dangerous ruby hearts, Irene Neuwirth’s carved opal hearts.
And, looking through the jewelry history books, I reminded myself that two of the most fearless collectors of the 20th century, the Duchess of Windsor and Millicent Rogers, both had some serious heart jewelry in their collection. Wallis’s diamond anniversary hearts? Certainly not simple. And Roger’s ruby wrapped Verdura heart, a twentieth century icon, isn’t either. The trick it seems, to move the historic motif away from becoming overly sentimental greeting card territory is in material—see the hard stone styles from Van Cleef & Arpels and Sidney Garber here—or to abstract it a bit—Elsa Peretti’s heart is the ultimate example—or to take it off the chain and put it on earrings—see Irene Neuwirth’s dangling gold hearts—or make it a bracelet—witness Christina Alexiou’s heart bracelet that seems to have leaped right off of Cupid and on to your wrist. Confession: after years of rolling my eyes anytime I saw a heart charm, I now wear one—either a Syvla & Cie on a long chain with other charms, or an Antonia Miletto ebony pendant on a torque—almost every day.
How to choose one for your own beloved? My jewelry advice always begins with “Check the Metal.” Is this a yellow or white gold/silver person? Consider the metal of the pieces they wear most and choose accordingly. David Yurman and Buccellati both have excellent choices here for those who prefer white god and silver. And what about stones? Go check to see what they are wearing right now, as you are reading this. Is there a pearl around or adjacent? Wilfredo Rosado, who designed Vice President Kamala Harris’s inauguration day jewels, might be the way to go then. Or do you see colored stones you can’t quite identity? Then Haute Victoire’s multi charm heart necklace would make the perfect gift. And if giving back is on your mind, research Muse Showroom’s Have a Heart initiative, where some of the best designers working today dedicate a collection to the motif and a portion of the proceeds goes to charity.
The heart pieces below reflect the shift in heart jewelry that inspired my own, well, change of heart. It’s not that there is no sweetness to them, there is, but it’s clear designers have recognized the dangers of sentimentality and planned accordingly. They have exaggerated the shape and its contours; they have added stones that harken back to the heart’s presence in historical portraits; they have sharpened the points to add a bit of danger, or maybe it’s a warning?
I know we have not all agreed upon what happened in that final episode, but if Tony and Carmela are watching, here you go.
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Sweet Alhambra Heart Pendant Rose Gold, Carnelian
Small Diamond Heart Charm by Sylva & Cie
Multi-Stone 18K Yellow Gold Necklace
18kt Gold Heart Earrings
Bleeding Heart 14K Gold and Ruby Necklace
Continuance Heart Necklace with Pavé Diamonds
Pearl ID Gold Heart Charm
Elsa Peretti Open Heart Ring
Tulle Heart Pendant Necklace in White Gold with Diamonds
Happy Hearts Golden Hearts Sautoir Necklace in Rose Gold with Diamonds
Coral Heart Charm
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