Blogs: On Your Market / Designers

My New Custom Charm Necklace (and 3 Things Retailers Should Know)


Very early last year, I shared the story of my engagement ring redesign, and the lessons I had learned from the experience and wanted to share with the industry. Today, I have added a new entry to my roster of All Time Important Jewelry, a necklace that marks only my third-ever custom project.

I share this, yes, because from I’m very excited to do so from one jewelry lover to another. But to a retailer, I want to convey the following points that I learned: 1) How greatly I have been underestimating the importance and potential of something as simple as a chain, and 2) even small projects can have greater impact than you might expect (great retailers no doubt already know this). And, bonus, 3) I am very bad at taking photos of jewelry (though I think I already knew that).

A couple of months back, I posted a query to my friends on Instagram about an annoying issue I was having with the necklaces I wore on a daily basis.

Like anyone who has layered their necklaces has probably experienced, I kept getting the two tangled up, constantly having to untwine them and move the clasps to the back. I was tiring of the routine, and fast.

But removing them wasn’t really an option. The first necklace, a medallion inscribed with the letter E, for my daughter Eloise, had been clasped around my neck by my husband on the day of our baby shower and had not been removed since. I had no plans to change that.

The second, a tiny floating diamond from Sophie Ratner (it was actually a Britt’s Pick last year), was bought in honor of Eloise’s second birthday—diamond is her birthstone—and again, once it was put on, it wasn’t coming off. Both pendants were on bails too small to slip over their clasps and combine into one piece on my own.

Friends and colleagues shared some great advice, and many offered to help me figure something out in terms of a new design or solution. The most popular bit I couldn’t begin to digest: “Take them off at night!” Quelle horreur!

Here’s the thing: I know enough about jewelry to understand what the smart, practical thing to do is—that doesn’t mean I’m going to do it. Like many other customers searching for something special, I’m busy. I’m tired. I’m even just sort of lazy, to be honest. I don’t want the maintenance of taking off a piece I love and putting it back on all the time, especially one with a clasp—and in this case, two pieces with clasps. I don’t change my jewelry often, and when it came to these necklaces, I wasn’t changing them at all.

But the current situation just wasn’t working for me anymore. Plus, I was looking to get a third pendant, in honor of the daughter we’re expecting this summer, and sporting three separate necklaces sans maintenance would be enough to drive anyone insane, because I’m pretty sure that’s impossible.

So I synced up with the incomparable Sara Freedenfeld of Amáli Jewelry, whose work I have coveted since I was introduced to her brand through JCK years ago. That the artisan and I have become friends, bonding over motherhood and other similar interests over the years, was the key to my knowing I would be in the right hands emotionally and, obviously, aesthetically.

Britt custom charm necklace
In which I attempt to take a scenic photograph of my new treasure (someone please help me)

Charm necklaces (and bracelets, dating back even further) have been massively popular for years, and ever more so over the last few. As you may have noticed, not only are there a heck of a lot of stellar charm and pendant options on the market, there are also countless ways in which to style them.

You can group them all on a simple (or any style) chain. You can hang them static along a chain, so each charm gets a full view at all times. You can use a charm catcher—a ring of sorts (with all manner of decorative properties) that sort of corrals the charms into a separate entity that is then hung from a chain. You can dangle some from an anklet, something that I actually recently did (marking my second-ever custom piece, big year for me). When it comes to styling your charms, in addition to collecting them all in the first place, you certainly have your options. Best not to be indecisive.

I am indecisive, but one thing was hugely obvious: If Freedenfeld was going to create my special piece, it wasn’t going to be any plain necklace, and her fingerprint had better be all over it.

The Amáli signature is a beautifully recognizable one. Delicately textured chain detail marks each piece in some form, whether it borders the shape of an (always) alluring gemstone or drapes across it like a sparkling sash. My favorite iteration is the woven gemstones, mixing tapestry with jewel. Amáli offers it in many forms, from a small but prudent detail on a pair of earrings to an entire bracelet interwoven with colorful gemstones and gold. While I ogled for too long over a rainbow of tourmaline woven into a textile bracelet, I found the perfect element for me.

A row of multicolor stones would be just what I needed to make my piece ideally suited to represent my family, which was really what this necklace was all about. I opted for just a smidgen of that brilliant row of tourmaline, a line of color to represent my rainbow babies (a term for children born after a pregnancy loss). The detail wouldn’t overwhelm, but it would make the necklace different from any other, with a (literally) personalized touch from the designer that was just for me. It would be the perfect anchor to my small but growing collection of pendants and charms, a group that I intend to add to with each special birthday or occasion.

We toyed with the perfect orientation for the charms. Stick them each to one spot along the chain, or put them on a separate ring? In the end, we opted to just let them group together freely, and it works perfectly. The three pieces are arranged purposefully, though one will occasionally sneak in front of another as if to catch its own moment in the spotlight. It feels fitting, as these pieces represent children who will no doubt jockey for attention regularly but will be loved and enjoyed equally.

It really is the perfect piece for me. No more untangling chains, no more rotating the clasps. A beautiful, custom creation that’s more than just a necklace, containing meaning not just for the tokens it holds but because it was helmed by the hands of a friend.

I’ve spent so much time here on JCK writing about and spotlighting charms and pendants, with the idea that customers are demanding these meaningful pieces to add to their collections. What hadn’t resonated with me as strongly until now was the fact that the vessel in which these charms are held can be just as meaningful as those pieces we collect—another layer to the endlessly personalized treasures we seek to curate for ourselves.

So as jewelers continue to see success with personal, meaningful pieces like charms in their sales, they should also consider a way to create a wholly custom centerpiece for customers to place those charms on—the ribbon that ties the whole package together and keeps customers coming back to add more as the years go on.

I’m so grateful to have gained that knowledge on a personal level. And to now have this forever jewel to carry all that meaning for me, every day, is a spectacular privilege (and seriously, I’m not taking it off).

Top: Necklace in 18k yellow gold with tourmaline by Amáli; diamond pendant in 14k yellow gold by Sophie Ratner; Engraved round charm in 14k yellow gold by Starling; L initial pendant in 14k yellow gold by Marlo Laz

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By: Brittany Siminitz

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