Several jewelers around the world seem to be going through a second childhood, creating luxury pieces for adults featuring motifs from happy faces to hamburgers. But then, as Rosanne Karmes of Sydney Evan jewelry, said, such images “transport me back to a carefree time.” Who wouldn’t want that?
“We are seeing a shift in consumer zeitgeist towards nostalgia,” Juliet Hutton-Squire, head of global strategy at Adorn, a jewelry consultancy in London, wrote in a text message. “There is a resurgence of childlike symbols and motifs: Teddy bears (reminiscent of comfort and friendship), shells (seaside holidays), flowers and butterflies (gardens and play) and pooches and kitties (pets) all form part of this nostalgic update linked to childhood memories.”
Here, five jewelers talk about the inspirations for their designs.
Cece Fein Hughes
Cece Jewellery, London
Ms. Hughes, 28, considers herself a storyteller and creating jewelry, her way of sharing tales. “I was born on the wild moorlands of Devon in the early hours of Bonfire Night,” she said, and grew up with “sweet memories of the English countryside, making daisy-chain crowns surrounded by the hazy aroma of sweet peas and forget-me-nots in my grandmother’s garden in Devon.”
Such memories inspired her new collection of Forget-Me-Not hoop earrings. “Each hoop feels like it is woven with magic,” Ms. Hughes said. “Untamed flowers crawl and curl and become entangled amongst stars and diamonds along the way.”
Her jewelry is handmade in the Hatton Garden jewelry district of London and, she said, “focuses on the ancient art of enameling, a technique that has been used since the Byzantine Era. Each hoop is handmade from 18-karat yellow gold and hand-painted in cornflower blue enamel forget-me-nots that twist and turn their way up the hoop, complete with a scattering of star-set diamonds.” The small version retails at 8,500 pounds ($10,151) and the larger version, £13,950.
Ms. Hughes said the earrings evoke poignant memories: “When I look at them I feel wistful for a very special time gone by.”
Sydney Evan, Los Angeles
Ms. Karmes, 61, named her business after her two children, Sydney and Evan, and her father Sy. “My father was a Holocaust survivor from Poland and my mother was a hidden child survivor from Paris,” she said. “My mother was very superstitious and used to sew red in my clothes when I was a child for protection, a large part of the reason I would go on to design jewelry that offered that same sentiment.
“The whole foundation of Sydney Evan,” she added, “is designing jewelry that makes people feel happy.”
Ms. Karmes found the perfect vehicle: “Our Happy Face collection has so many variations and styles, from tiny gold ear studs to charms on our iconic beaded bracelets, rainbow-colored stone tennis bracelets and a full diamond-set necklace. Material-wise, I make all of my jewelry in the Happy Face line in 14-karat gold, using a range of stones including white diamonds, black diamonds, various colored sapphires, emeralds and rubies, with prices from $355 to $20,000.”
And her favorite piece? The Le French Happy Face Charm. “It’s a charm necklace that features a happy face wearing a beret and scarf,” she said. “I designed it in honor of my French mother, who was impeccably chic and never left the house without red lipstick and a silk scarf on.”
Ouroboros Jewellery, London, and Jaipur, India
Fond memories of childhood holidays at the British seaside are what inspired Ms. Young, 35, to create the Happy Crab Ear Cuff (price on application).
“I used to love nothing more than jumping waves with my mother, building overelaborate sand castles with my father, being turned into a sand mermaid by my siblings and all of us ending the day with sunset walks, picking up little beautiful memories with all sorts of treasure that would then fill a shelf above the fireplace in the bathroom back home,” she wrote in an email. “Seeing one of these mementos made me so nostalgic, I decided to immortalize this delicate crab claw and turn this fragile fragment of my childhood into something I could wear every day.”
The model crab claw came from the Kenyan island of Lamu, “where the crab’s color almost looks like the reflection of the sunset, a soft rosy hue, and so I mixed the 18-karat rose gold to match it as closely as I could,” she wrote.
Ms. Young has a home in Jaipur, which is where all her jewelry is made. She and the artisans working for her were able to make the cuff lightweight enough to be worn comfortably. “When I look at it,” she wrote, “I see love.”
Boochier jewelry, Hong Kong
Ms. Zeman’s childhood memory might be an unhappy one, but the jewelry it inspired, she wrote in an email, is positive.
“The Ties collection is inspired by my experience growing up in Hong Kong as a half Chinese and half Ghanaian child in a mostly homogeneous society,” the 35-year-old jeweler wrote. “I remember attending large Chinese New Year gatherings every year as a young child and always being the only one there who looked different. My identity was always something I tried to suppress and hide.”
Her website describes the Ties design as “delicate arms of 18-karat gold that furl around each other, elegantly weaving the wearer into their bond.”
One of the Ties rings ($7,360) is made of white gold and rose gold with 1.4 carats of white diamonds. “I wear my Ties ring every single day and it reminds me of my journey, my childhood and all the experiences that have touched and shaped me,” she wrote. “It reminds me to embrace who I am and to always see my difference and uniqueness as a strength and never a weakness!”
Nadine Ghosn, London and Paris
Growing up in cities around the world, the 33-year-old jeweler said she could always count on “the happiness that came with a trip to McDonald’s.”
So in 2020 she reimagined her Gluten-Free Veggie Burger Ring, a 2017 design that is “a combination of six rings designed to be worn together,” she said. “The ring includes a top bun with sesame and ketchup detail, a veggie burger patty, an onion made of princess-cut diamonds, tomato, lettuce and a bottom bun with mustard detail.”
Its price of $18,950 could pay for a lot of Big Macs. The ring features 260 gems — champagne diamonds, sapphires, tsavorites and rubies — set in 18-karat gold. And she recently reworked it so the pieces fit together more tightly and mold around the finger.
The burger ring isn’t Ms. Ghosn’s only foray into whimsy: “My latest collection, Lifecycle, is comprised of bike chains. It reminds us of our childhood attempts at balancing.”
“Most of my pieces speak to our inner child, revisiting shapes and sizes that remind us of our inner child,” she said. “Whether it be a pencil, Legos or burgers, they all embody that fun spirit, juxtaposed with the serious names of the material.”