The Most Precious Accessory

In this time of national grief and tragedy, patriotism has become a steadying hand and a healing force for many across the country. Americans have rediscovered the symbols of America with an intensity that has not been witnessed in more than half a century.

To express support for their country, Americans have turned to the country’s most recognizable symbols—from the bald eagle to the Stars and Stripes. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, people began displaying the American flag not only on flagpoles but also on cars and in windows. And patriotism quickly became the ultimate fashion statement, creating a huge demand for patriotic clothes and accessories. It’s now difficult to find a T-shirt or bandana depicting the flag, and according to jewelers, calls for patriotic fine jewelry have soared.

“Everyone is so sorrowful about what has happened, we all want to say we’re Americans,” says Elizabeth Ferrara, of J&C Ferrara in North Attleboro, Mass. “In this kind of a crisis, people want to show that they’re behind the country.”

The day following the attack, Ferrara said her clients started calling and asking for flag pins. The company responded with several varieties of hand-enameled flag pins and freedom ribbons. Ferrara also is promoting the fact that all of the jewelry is made in the United States. “I pick things up and look to see where they’re made, especially if it’s an American flag and especially now,” she says.

Similarly, designers in the fashion and accessories industries are seeing a call for patriotic designs. On the accessories front, for example, Katherine Baumann is promoting her “Stars and Stripes” and “America the Beautiful” minaudiéres. “Stars and Stripes” is set with red, white, and blue Swarovski crystals and shaped like an American flag; “America the Beautiful” features the American bald eagle.

As efforts continue to raise funds for the families of the thousands of people killed and injured in the attack, several companies have teamed up with relief organizations. The Honolulu Mint, for example, released its American Pride coin and pendant. The coin is available as a sterling silver commemorative or a 24k coin set in 14k gold to hang as a men’s or women’s pendant. A portion of all sales of the piece—depicting the American flag, the eagle with an olive branch, and a circle of hands symbolizing unity—will be donated to relief efforts.

Eggstravaganza, in Atlanta, Ga., is donating to the American Red Cross a portion of its profits from special patriotic pieces and is encouraging its clients to do the same, says Ilya Abelsky. The company, known for its Fabergé-inspired enameled eggs, adapted its American Flag egg pendant into a commemorative piece depicting the New York City skyline. When more than 500 orders flew in for that piece, Abelsky created two new patriotic designs, both which will be sold to profit the Red Cross. “Everyone is asking, ‘What can we do to help?’ and this is an opportunity,” Abelsky says. “We hope to keep this idea going and generating more and more funds.”

Both Imperial Deltah, East Providence, R.I., and the Talisman Company, Grand Rapids, Mich., have created pieces from which a portion of proceeds will be donated to relief funds. Talisman is selling gold-plated flag lapel pins with 30% going to charity, while Imperial Deltah has created two 14k gold pins that depict the American flag—one with epoxy red, white, and blue, and the other with a gold finish. The company is donating 10% of sales to the American Red Cross.

Response so far has been outstanding, says Kathy Grenier, marketing manager for Imperial Deltah. “I think we were surprised at first by the response, because this is not an inexpensive item,” she says. “But people want something precious. It’s as if it’s even more symbolic because it’s so everlasting.”

Sparkle Manufacturing, New York, joined with a team of fashion and entertainment industry executives to create a patriotic line of jewelry in rubies, diamonds, and sapphires with 14k gold. Proceeds will be donated to the victims of Sept. 11, says Nan Fisher, principal of this new partnership.

Fisher and her partner hope to obtain product placement on celebrities to boost exposure, sales, and donations, she said. The line is dubbed “F.L.A.G.”—Freedom, Liberty, And Goodwill.

As the United States begins military action in response to the terrorist attacks, people will always remember the start of the war—Sept. 11—says Ferrara. Jewelry, as always, fills its symbolic and sentimental role. “People will always remember that day, and where they were—like the day Kennedy was assassinated,” she says. “So I don’t think they want a plastic version of a flag, they want something nice that they can keep forever.”