Jewelry designer Johnny Nelson, founder of New York City–based Johnny Nelson Jewelry, became known to many jewelry and fashion editors in 2017 when he debuted his bold and brilliant Gold Rush four-finger ring, which captures the stony presidential faces of Mount Rushmore in miniature.
He went on to design alternate, thought-provoking versions: the Civil Rights Mount Rushmore ring, which features the faces of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, and Frederick Douglass, and the 4 Fingers of Def ring that depicts iconic hip-hop artists Biggie Smalls, Tupac Shakur, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and Easy-E.
Now the designer, formerly a hip-hop artist himself, has debuted an iteration that incorporates the faces of four iconic black women in history: Harriet Tubman, Shirley Chisholm, Sojourner Truth, and Ida B. Wells.
The Her Freedom ring, $480, pairs history with pop culture—an alluring and modern-feeling mashup. The solid brass piece is plated in 18k gold and also comes in solid gold, white gold, and sterling silver. Nelson created the new ring to honor both Black History Month (February) and Women’s History Month (March).
“I wanted honor these strong, intelligent icons of history especially, because, unfortunately, women get forgotten sometimes,” Nelson tells JCK. “These women were beacons of light and catalysts for change. What better way than to [honor] them Mount Rushmore style?”
Nelson, who was born in London but grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., adds, “My culture is important to me, especially because all of the things we go through and I’ve been through as a minority. I made something for us. It also allows me to teach history through a piece of jewelry that was a staple in hip-hop culture.”
The grouping of Tubman, Chisholm, Truth, and Wells, “captures leadership, equality, freedom, blackness, change, passion, compassion, awareness, and strength,” the designer says. “All of these women were the first to do something. They put in the work, regardless of any roadblocks that were in the way.”
Nelson says he designed the first Mount Rushmore ring to “make something that was recognizable.” But the versions that followed were far more personal: “They’re odes to the culture that I’m a part of and that I’m passionate about—hip-hop and blackness.”
Top: Her Freedom ring by Johnny Nelson Jewelry (all images courtesy of Johnny Nelson Jewelry)