For some, the name Susan Lucci will conjure memories of a very specific time and place. Maybe, like quite a few people I know, you raced home every day to watch the actress’ wickedly compelling, wildly glamorous character Erica Kane light up the screen on All My Children. It was a role she played from 1970, when the soap opera first aired, until 2011, when ABC retired the program. In 1999 she won a Daytime Emmy for her performance after 18 nominations without a win (for anyone who cares to relive that memorable moment, it’s thankfully right here on YouTube and stick a pin in those pearl earrings—let’s just say Lucci’s a pearl girl).
Lucci has worn many hats throughout her career and is currently focused on her fitness brand. If you’ve ever seen her in interviews or on the home-shopping networks that sell her products, she’s vivacious and genuinely warm and well-meaning. These qualities make her a natural fit to be an American Heart Association ambassador.
But there’s more to it than that. In 2018 Lucci underwent emergency heart surgery due to two blocked arteries. Recognizing the signs of an impending heart attack saved her life; a second incident in 2022 also resulted in surgery. Today she’s committed to raising awareness about cardiovascular health, especially among women, even lobbying on Capitol Hill for congressional support of policies that could address the disease, which remains the leading cause of death the U.S
Now, as part of her ongoing heart health activism, she’s partnered with Tiary, an online jewelry brand specializing in custom fine jewelry, on a series of design projects, the first of which launched this month in honor of Women’s Heart Health Month. The two pendants are pictured below; 25% of the purchase price will help fund the American Heart Association’s education and research efforts.
“I designed the necklace out of a desire to shine a new light on fundraising for the American Heart Association because of all they do,” Lucci tells JCK. “That was on my mind during this collaboration because AHA gave me the opportunity to get my message out and to tell my story in the hopes that even just one woman might hear it and get to the doctor if they had symptoms.
“I think the Empower Your Heart necklace is certainly appropriate for Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day or a gift from you to someone you love, like your mom or your best friend. And it also can be a gift to celebrate your wins, it can be a gift of self-love, there are many different ways to look at it. And I just think that this first necklace really is appropriate for all of those occasions, because at its core it’s about love in all its forms.”
Lucci confirmed that the Tiary collaboration will include future pieces but couldn’t reveal the specifics just yet. What she did reveal: her great love of fine jewelry and some favorite pieces she’s acquired over the years, plus some tidbits from her time on All My Children. Our conversation, ahead.
The Tiary collaboration is not your first foray into jewelry design. If I remember correctly, you had a collection on HSN.
Yes, the jewelry line was something I was doing on HSN for several years. That was a different kind of collaboration, where I really had a chance to explore the world of faux and costume jewelry, which was great. We ran the gamut, offering everything from glamorous to everyday pieces, and that was really a great a learning experience for me. A lot of that jewelry was being manufactured in Rhode Island at the time, and I was very happy about that as well. The jewelry was definitely a reference to the Erica Kane character, and that made it fun for me and fun for the audience. But also, truly, Erica and I had very similar taste. The only difference was that Erica would wear the Dolce & Gabbana and fabulous going-out earrings just answering the door during the day at her house or going into a business meeting or going on an airplane.
Would you describe yourself as a “jewelry person”?
I did not begin as a jewelry person, I evolved into a jewelry person. I think maybe I inherited this from my mother, who was very much a jewelry person. Not that we’re talking about any enormously expensive pieces, but my mother had great taste. And if we were walking on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach—where you cannot take two steps without seeing some of the best jewelry in the world—we could not possibly pass a jewelry store without her stopping to look and tell me her opinions. It was basically a lot of oohing and aaahing. I have a couple of her pieces that make me so happy. I have a beautiful pearl necklace from her—pearls on a wire, not her ordinary pearls but more of a design-forward element of her jewelry wardrobe—and there are matching earrings. I just discovered that I have them, and I can’t wait to wear them.
Besides these wonderful pearls, what are some other treasured items in your personal collection?
It’s funny because my husband [Helmut Huber, who died in 2022, after 52 years of marriage] also had wonderful taste, and I am very, very lucky to have such beautiful pieces from him. One is a double strand of opera-length pearls with a diamond clasp. And what was really very special about not only the necklace, and the thought and love that went into giving it to me, was the sense of joy he put into the presentation. It was Valentine’s Day. I had mentioned to him earlier that I was looking at some pearls, and that I love pearls, and he didn’t seem very interested. And then we were sitting at breakfast on Valentine’s Day morning and out from under the table, he just pulled out this double strand of opera-length pearls. It just took my breath away. He was someone who had a big presence; he was very fun and very funny, so this was very him. And actually these pearls meant so much to us that at one point we had an interior decorator and a painter come and do some trompe l’oeil work in the foyer of our house—by the window on the landing of the staircase, she painted a bird flying with a double strand of pearls in its beak. And it’s still there.
There’s another piece that comes to mind. As I said, my husband was very generous to me and would often take me to Fred Leighton for special occasions. This one year we were in Fred Leighton and we were looking at different things. I knew how lucky I was, but I didn’t really know what I would want to have. And this particular time, Mr. Leighton brought out what is still one of my most beautiful and cherished pieces of jewelry: a diamond pendant with a ruby in the center, from the 1930s and from Paris. And the marquise diamonds are en tremblant so they have movement. It’s delicate, and it’s on a very delicate chain that also has little diamonds interspersed. It’s very beautiful, and that whole memory is very special to me.
What pieces do you wear every day?
I wear a Cartier Tank Française and a beautiful rose gold link bracelet from the Tiffany HardWear collection. It was a Valentine’s Day gift I received two years ago, again from my husband. I’ve purchased things for myself over the years, but nothing means more to me than the jewels my husband gave me.
What jewelry designers do you collect and covet?
I’ve learned over the course of time that the pieces that hold the most value are the pieces that are signed. I happen to love Van Cleef—who wouldn’t?—and Cartier.
Has your jewelry style evolved over the years?
Oh, for sure. And certainly this was the case with Erica Kane. I mean, in the 1980s I could not get enough jewelry on me or enough stuff, bells and whistles of all kinds. I don’t know how they got it all in one frame. The earrings could not be big enough or long enough. I remember the 1970s being very “back to the earth”—suede cords and beads—and then the 1980s, it was so just so big. I did a cover of TV Guide and those earrings are so big and so long that you hardly see the person! The 1990s got very, very delicate, and I think that was the road back to refinement. But there was also an absence of jewelry, and I remember thinking, “Oh, women are going to get really fed up with this pretty quickly. You’re going to want to wear your jewelry!”
Is there a big Erica Kane jewelry moment that you can still recall from your many years of playing her?
No, I don’t remember anything like that. But what I will tell you is that I started playing Erica as a 15-year-old high school girl [in 1970], when Erica was going to New York and wanting to be a model and all of that. And of course her character is very willful and self-involved, so I understand why the costume designer wanted to put all this jewelry on her. But I remember saying, “Please don’t make her all about jewelry. This is a character who is really self-indulgent, but she’s not a poodle. She’s really spunky and capable, and let’s focus on those aspects of her rather than the jewelry.” And jewelry is fabulous. But it is meant to make you feel good and maybe make you feel more beautiful. But when it was excessive, it just looked silly to me. And I didn’t want that for my character.
All of my friends and family are going to be so jealous that I just spent my morning talking to you about jewelry.
Thank you. Say hi to them for me, will you?
Top: Susan Lucci during her appearance on Good Day New York earlier this month as part of a publicity campaign to help raise awareness for Women’s Heart Health Month. In addition to the Tiary pendant she co-designed with the brand, she wears the Cartier Tank Française watch and Tiffany & Co. bracelet that are mentioned in the interview. (Photo: Michael Simon)
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