Day of the Dead Inspires These Jewelers to Craft Richly Detailed Pieces


The Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, pays tribute to family and the ritual of remembering those who have died. To honor that tradition, jewelers from around the world have created special pieces that tell the story of these festivities with respectful symbols, details, and stories.

From century-old jewelers such as Chopard to newcomers Air & Anchor, these watches, pendants, charms, and more are a way to honor Mexican culture and celebrate this tradition of life, memory, and eternity for all generations. The Day of the Dead jewelry is meant for the Nov. 1 and 2 holiday; it is not a part of the Halloween tradition.

At Chopard, it is an annual tradition to create a specialty timepiece for the Day of the Dead, officials say. This year, it created the L.U.C. Full Strike Día de los Muertos watch with Mexican motifs throughout its entirely hand-engraved case. The watch, made with ethical 18k white gold, is topped with a bezel set with baguette-cut sapphires and a dial with the calavera (skull) symbol.

Chopard detail
Chopard’s L.U.C Full Strike Día de los Muertos watch (photo courtesy of Chopard)

Another artist, Maria Belen Nilson, says she creates Day of the Dead jewelry to show her respect for Mexican traditions and her translation of those inspirations into her work. Nilson, who was born in South America, says her designs seeks to embrace Mexican culture, one that she deeply appreciates.

Nilson says she hopes the people who wear Maria Belen Jewelry and its sterling silver designs feel that connection to Mexico and its people. She also says that the artisans who create her designs support this philosophy and believes that “human touch” will help the wearer feel its care and the passion that each piece has.

“Jewelry is a way to express yourself and honor your ancestors, culture, and beliefs. We use jewels to empower ourselves—it can be seen in every country and every tribe around the world,” Nilson says. “The beliefs that Mexicans have of death itself and their dearly departed changed my vision and life, and it made me embrace Mexico and Mexican people.”

Maria Belen Nilson says the Mexican culture inspires her sterling-silver jewelry, including those to honor the Day of the Dead tradition, like these earrings.
Maria Belen Nilson says the Mexican culture inspires her sterling silver jewelry, including those to honor the Day of the Dead tradition, like these earrings (photo courtesy of Maria Belen Nilson).

William Henry’s American lifestyle brand features a calavera as well—a sugar-skull design on a solid sterling silver ring. The brand, which is entirely designed and cast in its Oregon studio, may be known for its pocket watches, but it also seeks to create unique pieces that are recognizable for their craftsmanship, says Matt Conable, William Henry’s founder and creative director.

Conable says he believes that people should invest in objects that are personal, useful, yet also timeless in their appeal and relevance—these pieces, like the Calavera ring, are meant to show the wearer’s personality and become part of their legacy.

“The Calavera is inspired by the tradition of the ‘sugar skull’ from Mexico. We realized that with the right equipment and craft, we could bring this extraordinary level of design, sculpting, and style to life in a ring that belongs in a class all its own,” Conable says.

 Calavera ring
William Henry offers this Calavera ring, inspired with meanings from Dia de los Muertos, the genesis of the sugar-skull style (photo courtesy of William Henry).

At Air & Anchor, the calaveras represent the importance of living in the moment and enjoying every part of your life—even everyday moments with the people you love, said Rachel Ajaj, founder of the Rhode Island–based brand.

“The Tell Your Story Skull Pendant was created with the idea of the Mexican calaveras. It is inspired by family and heritage, the celebration of lives past, deceased loved ones, and where you came from—which is the root of all things at Air & Anchor,” Ajaj says.

Air & Anchor is the partnership between Ajaj and her husband, Omar. They debuted Air & Anchor in April 2020 in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown. Its name comes from two ideas: Their jewelry and lifestyle goods would celebrate every moment in between those significant life events. You could be both in the moment (anchored) and elevated (air).

Air & Anchor pendant
Air & Anchor founder Rachel Ajaj says this pendant is meant to remind us that those stories we tell live on through generations (photo courtesy of Air & Anchor).

“Because heritage and symbolism are at the center of everything we do, we infuse them into everything we make,” Ajaj says. “The Tell Your Story Skull pendant is meant to remind people that those stories we tell and reminisce on are memories that live on through generations. It’s the small moments that your grandparents shared that become embedded in you forever.”

Top: It has become an annual tradition for Chopard Manufacture to honor Mexican culture with a timepiece specially dedicated to the Day of the Dead festivities. This year, a one-of-a-kind L.U.C Full Strike minute repeater model appears adorned with Mexican motifs (photo courtesy of Chopard).

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Karen Dybis

By: Karen Dybis

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