Designers / Gold / Industry

Whimsy Meets Family Legacy in Thistle & Bess Crest Collection


Family crests typically are symbols of status or nobility, but Thistle & Bess’ Diana Marsh wanted to adapt that symbolism to give her customers jewelry that allows them to establish their own personal mottos and legacy.

Thistle & Bess‘ new Crest collection is based on Scottish family crests and mottos, Marsh says, but with her sense of humor and jewelry sensibilities added in to make the pieces modern. They offer wearers gentle reminders that are intended to make their lives a bit better in the moment, she says.

The Hand Holding Rose pendant, for example, is engraved on the underside with “Roses plucked give sweet smell,” the motto of the Aiton family, whose crest inspired the three-dimensional hand with rose that’s depicted on the pendant. Marsh says the phrase is meant to motivate the wearer to take action and seek out what they desire most in life.

Crest motto
The motto on back of the Crest collection’s popular bee pendant ($375) 

The swan pendant, based on the Campbell of Cawdor family crest, is engraved on back with the words “Be mindful,” encouraging the wearer to slow down and be present—something busy people might need to consider.

Marsh says she frequently traveled abroad to research jewelry and purchase pieces for her Ann Arbor, Mich., store. On one trip she acquired a signet ring with an engraved cat on it. That animal imagery drew her in, but the inscription inside the ring intrigued her. It said, “Touch not a cat but a glove.”

“The engraving seemed hand-done and very simple, and the cat was just a sketch. But it was the coolest ring,” Marsh says. “I posted a picture of it on Instagram in a story.”

One of Marsh’s regular customers reached out after viewing the post and purchased the ring from her. Marsh says she is always sentimental about jewelry that “got away” from her too early and often thought about the ring. So when she started thinking of a new Thistle & Bess collection, this piece came to mind.

Cat crest
Because a cat crest she noticed while traveling inspired the new collection, Diana Marsh included a feline on a pendant ($375). 

Marsh researched the cat crest and its motto and learned it came from the McPherson family—it was meant as a kind of warning to others not to mess with them, she says. She discovered other crests in her online sleuthing, did some mixing and matching based on her own preferences, and the Crest collection was born.

“We picked the ones that I found inspiring,” Marsh says. “I liked the idea of a signet ring or family crest because it is something that’s passed down or a sign of status. Instead, our crests flip that on its head, allowing someone to choose a piece based on its message or its image and how it connects to them. It takes the status out of it.… Now it’s a lovely daily reminder on a piece of jewelry that makes you feel good whenever you put it on.”

The Crest collection features pendants and signet rings, all done in 14k gold. Prices are $375 for the pendants and $1,200 for the rings. Thistle & Bess jewelry line also includes the Diana ring, pansy necklace in Marsh’s floral mini collection, and Bess opal earrings.

Top: Thistle & Bess’ new Crest collection of pendants and rings is based on historical Scottish family crests, adapted with owner Diana Marsh’s modern influence. (Photos courtesy of Thistle & Bess)

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Karen Dybis

By: Karen Dybis

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