5 Questions for Talon Founder and Designer Emily Hirsch

Talon was making creative zodiac-motif jewelry well before the craze for all things celestial gripped jewelry design—and the zeitgeist.

The brand’s timeless (and deceptively expensive-looking) brass zodiac signet rings, which at $124 a pop are quick sellers for indie retailers including Brooklyn, N.Y.’s Catbird, are among the handful of boho styles that have made Talon a favorite with fashion-forward jewelry fans. (The rings are also available in sterling silver and 10k gold, priced up to $525.)

With Talon’s just-dropped new collection, brand founder and designer Emily Hirsch is still mining iconic symbols for signet- and coin-inspired designs, but has pivoted to thematic territory that’s closer to home than the cosmos.

Love, Death & Rebirth, a series of six new charm necklaces and one signet ring, incorporates symbols such as the sacred heart, the skull, and the phoenix, which signify the trio of metaphysical concepts.

The collection is still recognizably Talon—down to its witchy, talismanic vibe. But Love, Death & Rebirth feels even more personal, and—in craftsmanship—polished.

We asked Hirsch, who’s lives in Ojai, Calif., with her husband and young daughter, to answer our 5 Questions.

JCK: Why did you feel compelled to create this collection?

Emily Hirsch: Almost all of my collections start subconsciously and often with just one design idea. In the case of Love, Death & Rebirth, it started with the phoenix.

When I’m getting ready to work on a new collection, I spend hours looking through my library of reference books, which cover a wide range of topics—from antique jewelry to mysticism to alchemy. I loved the symbolism of the phoenix and especially wanted the bird to be in flight upwards.

I was in the middle of creating the phoenix when the Thomas Fire broke out in my hometown of Ojai. We ended up being evacuated for almost a month due to the fire, and then the horrible air quality. In that time my husband, 5-year-old daughter, and I jumped around from family and friends’ houses to Airbnbs. It was a very challenging time, and I was not able to work on the collection at all.

I still get chills when I think about creating a phoenix rising from the ashes just a month before a big fire.

This is not the first time this has happened with my designs, though. I also started working on an eclipse design before I knew about the big solar eclipse we had in August of 2017. Creativity is one area of my life that I feel completely open in and have no judgment or desire to control. I think this leads to designs that are infused with deep meaning and powerful symbolism.

Talon Skull necklace
Talon Eternal Skull necklace, $96–$396
Talon skull necklace back
The engraved back of the Eternal Skull necklace

Once I started working again on the collection, ideas came to me fairly rapidly. I have always loved the sacred heart image and wanted to put my own spin on it as a nonreligious but spiritual person. I love the symbolism of roses as well. I sat with these designs trying to figure out where my creativity was taking me. I brainstormed words that represented these three designs and quickly realized I was creating pieces representing love, death, and rebirth. Once I had the collection name, the other pieces fell into place.

What is it about traditional symbolism that interests you?

My interest in symbolism stems from wanting to make jewelry that has meaning. My Zodiac collection was the first collection that really explored this. I find the practice of astrology and the symbolism of the sky to be fascinating. But even more interesting is how we take that symbolism and make into a personal prophesy. We use it to write our own identity. Which is why I started with the signet ring.

So instead of wearing a family crest signet, we wear our zodiac signet, and we decide what it means to us, and the story of our life past and future. The symbols of the zodiac are a perfect combination of merging the natural world with spirituality. My education was focused on scientific study, but the older I get the more I am fascinated with the metaphysical aspects of the universe.

I also love that symbolic meaning is in the eye of the beholder. For example, I had a customer say her husband didn’t understand why she would want to wear a skull, which to him represented death. I explained to her that I had created it because it reminds me that we are all mortal and should savor every day, a meaning she loved and then purchased it to represent for herself.

Talon Phoenix medallion
Talon sterling silver Phoenix medallion, $146


Talon Phoenix medallion back
The back of Talon’s Phoenix medallion

You grew up in Mendocino, Calif.—how do you think that’s informed your aesthetics as a jewelry designer?

I lived on a very wild and remote vineyard on top of a ridge. The climate was also wild, with huge thunderstorms in the winter and hot, baking summers. My parents built a geodesic dome that they lived in until I was born. I was an only child and spent a lot of time playing in the forests surrounding the vineyard and in the grapevines. I developed a vivid and engaging imagination and spent hours making secret gardens.

This experience became the base of my aesthetic and later transformed into a love of the mystical and darkly romantic, like the windswept redwood forests that nurtured me.

Talon is always priced so accessibly, which I love. What materials are you using in this collection?

It’s very important to me that some pieces in my line are affordable. All of my production is crafted responsibly in L.A. and Ojai, so by affordable I don’t mean fast-fashion prices, but a price that puts it in range for a broader audience than fine jewelry (which I also make!).

The pendants from this collection start at $96 for a 14k gold–plated charm and go up to $685 for the heavier pieces in solid 14k gold. I also sell them in sterling silver. I also offer custom metals if someone wants a piece in rose gold, for example.

What jewelry or fashion designers do you admire?

When I was first starting out in 2007, I was very inspired by Pamela Love. Her pieces really broke the mold of what was done in jewelry. I’ve since met her and really enjoyed watching as her jewelry matures.

For a long time I was fixated on the era of the 1970s and all the fashion that went along with it. I loved that there was so much going on in the world in that era. While I still love that aesthetic, I can see myself maturing and my tastes changing with it.

Aesthetically, I loved Alexander McQueen, especially Sarah Burton’s fall 2016 collection with the tulle black dress and silver-sprinkled cloak embroidered with stardust and the phases of the moon.

It’s also been fun to watch what Alessandro Michele has been doing at Gucci and the reinterpretation of sacred images. The dress he made for Lana Del Rey at the Met ball was amazing! And Natacha Ramsay-Levi at Chloé.

But mostly, I admire independent designers who are coming up with unique and creative designs, while at the same time wearing the multitude of hats you need to run your own business. Add extra points if they are trying to become more sustainable. This is an area I’m working toward and heavily inspired by.

Top: Talon brass Sacred Heart signet ring, $124 (all images courtesy of Talon)

Follow me on Instagram: @emilivesilind

Follow JCK on Instagram: @jckmagazine
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JCK Senior Editor

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