Jewelry Designers Use Nostalgia to Appeal to the Kid Inside Us


Jewelry serves its owners in a variety of ways: As a status symbol, as wearable art, as self-expression. But it also does something else that organizer Marie Kondo says so well in that it sparks joy in the person who  wears it as well as shares it.

Perhaps that is why jewelry is having a moment with nostalgia. No matter what generation you’re in, be it boomer or Gen Z, you’ve got images and characters that center you back in your childlike state or reminds you of home.

Part of this resurgence of whimsy relates to the pandemic and the extreme stress it caused. But part of it also feels like a desire to celebrate, to honor life, to look at the world through those proverbial rose-colored glasses. And who can blame us as jewelry lovers or jewelers as creative forces for wanting a spark of joy.

“In such challenging times in our world, I feel creating jewelry that is personal or nostalgic on some level touches people. It can remind one of cherished memories or bring them back to their inner self. It can help one connect with their heart and with love,” says jewelry designer Serena Van Rensselaer.

“In a society that is so busy, one in which we are all quite tied to technology, something about holding and wearing a piece of jewelry inspired by a book or an era from the past feels soulful,” Van Rensselaer adds. “It feels like it helps us connect with ourselves.”

Here are four pieces that are giving this Gen X kid at heart lots of happiness—something that jewelry as high art and as mundane wearable playfulness does so well.

Serena Van Rensselaer Jewelry elephant
Jewelry designer Serena Van Rensselaer created an elephant pendant ($450) as tribute to the character from Le Petit Prince; the back has a message that says, “What is essential is invisible to the eye” (photo courtesy of Serena Van Rensselaer).

Serena Van Rensselaer Jewelry

For more than two decades, Van Rensselaer dreamed of making jewelry inspired by Le Petit Prince, one of her favorite childhood stories. A year ago, that wish came true as the designer debuted her collection based on the book that is one of the best-selling tomes of all time; this is a licensed collaboration between the designer and the author’s estate.

Van Rensselaer recently updated her pieces to include the Enchantment charms and a delightful charm bracelet. The bracelet features seven sculptural charms, each one inspired by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s drawings. She also added two new pendants with the book’s quotes on the back: One of the elephant and one of a rose.

“I have learned how deeply the story of Le Petit Prince touches people and how much it resonates with them. It is an honor to design and create this collection,” Van Rensselaer says. “It is a personal journey, and, like myself, people have been emotionally connected with the book for almost 80 years.”

Mood ring
This Soulboost x Dannijo mood ring with chic crystal detailing ($98) will change color based on whatever you’re feeling, giving you another reason to mood dress this holiday season (photo courtesy of Dannijo). 

Soulboost x Dannijo Mood Ring

Any teen can tell you: Those years between 13 and 19 are full of emotion—and what piece of jewelry can be better suited to helping you through those turbulent times than a mood ring?

With its limited-edition mood ring, cult-favorite fashion brand Dannijo and sparking water beverage brand Soulboost have re-created everyone’s favorite ring. The Soulboost x Dannijo mood ring changes colors by “reading your mood” through its thermogenic crystals. Best of all, the partnership is donating 100% of its proceeds to Project Healthy Minds, a nonprofit dedicated to mental health.

“We’ve always been obsessed with ’90s nostalgia, and it was our era as kids. So, it brings back a lot of incredible memories,” says Jodie Snyder Morel, who along with Danielle Snyder cofounded Dannijo. “We loved the concept of a mood ring because it really connects with mental health awareness.… Accessories are playful and meant to be mixed and matched and passed on to future generations. And they always get better with age.”

Fossil slap band watch
Fossil’s joyous Slap Band watches come in candy colors, like this vibrant yellow ($130). If you can handle the pain of putting it on, you’re sure to get plenty of compliments (photo courtesy of Fossil).

Fossil’s Rock Candy Slap Watches

It started as an April Fool’s Day joke—Fossil shared the idea of a slap-band watch on its social media channels as a potential product. Hundreds of comments later, the brand decided it was something that needed to be a reality.

The Rock Candy Slap watch is inspired by the 1990s as well, the brand says, and it functions just like a classic slap bracelet would. You hold it threateningly over your wrist or arm—or someone else’s if you dare—and then slap it down to enclose around the wearer. It comes in four candy colors with polished metal accents and a three-hand day-date movement.

“There is definitely a sense of relief from stressful surroundings when it comes to someone’s clothing and accessories. Think about a time when you had on your favorite or most comfortable outfit, your mood probably reflected that feeling of positivity making your day brighter and more joyful,” Fossil tells JCK. “We hope this playful watch does just that for the consumer with its unique novelty aesthetic and dash of childhood memories.”

Atari Misfit watch
As a tribute to its 50th anniversary, Atari partnered with Misfit and artist JK5 (Joseph Ari Aloi) to create a limited-edition watch ($85) that celebrates all of its classic icons and the gaming brand (photo courtesy of Misfit).

Atari x Misfit Watch

To celebrate Atari’s 50th anniversary, Misfit teamed up with the iconic entertainment brand and artist JK5—also known as Joseph Ari Aloi—to create gaming collectibles and a one-of-a-kind watch that honors the hours we all shared while playing Atari.

The limited-edition capsule collection highlights classic games such as Adventure, Baseball, and Asteroids. The Misfit JK500 watch features JK5’s original artwork, an Atari watch display stand inspired by its legendary joystick controller, a semitranslucent ombré-gradient case that honors vintage gaming aesthetics, and a commemorative Atari 50th case.

“We are both known as disruptors in our categories, from the get-go it was a natural fit for Misfit and Atari to collaborate on celebrating time,” says TJ McKnight, global brand director for Fossil.

“When we approached artist JK5, it was like he was reliving Christmas morning getting his first Atari,” McKnight says. “Together with the Misfit creative team, the watch pulls inspiration from retro vintage Atari cartridges and the journey each game takes you on, getting lost in those moments and the memories it creates.”

Top: Jewelry designer Serena Van Rensselaer recently expanded her Le Petit Prince universe to include a charm bracelet ($900) that highlights all of the beloved characters from this children’s book, including the prince himself (photo courtesy of Serena Van Rensselaer). 

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Karen Dybis

By: Karen Dybis

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