Opinion

3 People in Jewelry Who Have Made Sincere Efforts to Boost the Profiles of African Americans

Heart pendant in 18k gold with black onyx and diamonds, $2,500; available online at Harwell Godfrey

New York City. June 8, 2020. Last week was a nationwide roller coaster of emotions with myriad efforts made to spotlight racial injustices and root out offenders in police brutality. While peaceful protesters call for changes in police policies, including the elimination of the use of knee and choke holds as acceptable practices for police officers, many in the jewelry community aimed to lend support on social media. In response to the #BlackoutTuesday movement started in the music industry, dozens of designers and retailers posted black squares to their social media accounts with the #BlackoutTuesday hashtag.

Undoubtedly, all were well-intentioned, but how many of the posters actually addressed or learned about or supported any of these or related causes before last week? Now, maybe they have done so quietly and behind the scenes, but as I discussed with friends, I just hope the ultimate takeaway from all these high emotions is that being a good person, respecting other cultures and peoples, and living by example is a lifelong commitment; it’s not just posting a black square on a Tuesday. I hope all those black squares will serve as stepping-stones for us to grow and become more empathetic.

Anyway, the following are a trio of individuals in jewelry who immediately made thoughtful and timely moves to make a difference in their own way in the African American community. My respect goes out to them.

Hannah Becker of @diamondoodles on Instagram. Last week, the industry’s beloved artist, illustrator, and gemologist did some homework and developed a list of 70 black-owned jewelry, gem, and crystal industry designers, businesses, and content creators and posted them in three parts on her Instagram account. The goal? To amplify black voices.

According to Becker in her first post, “Steps as simple as liking, commenting, sharing posts, and following these accounts can make a major difference in what content Instagram prioritizes on this platform.” She also noted that “It is not the job or obligation of black people to educate white and nonblack POC about where the holes in our knowledge lay.” Preach, girl!!

Those featured include @johnnynelsonjewelry, @particulieres.nyc, and @shoprubenlovesmejewels.

Find all those featured in Part I, Part II, and Part III by clicking the links.

Hannah Becker's @diamondoodles

Jewelry designer Lauren Harwell Godfrey of Harwell Godfrey/@harwellgodrey on Instagram. On Wednesday, June 3, Harwell Godfrey unveiled a black onyx version of her heart pendant with 100 percent of profits benefitting the @naacp or the organization of your choice that fights for black justice. Overnight, she raised $13,336 for the @naacp, and by Saturday, June 6, she had raised $23,338. By Sunday, that sum jumped to $38,341.

“I am overwhelmed and humbled by the outpouring of support I’ve received in the past few days. Thank you for sharing my story and my work and for following me,” she told followers. “I am hopeful that we won’t just move on to the next issue but will continue to fight this fight and bring about real and lasting change.”

Jewelry designer Lauren Harwell Godfrey of Harwell Godfrey
Heart necklace in 18k gold with black onyx and diamonds, $2,500; available online at Harwell Godfrey

Heart pendant in 18k gold with black onyx and diamonds, $2,500; available online at Harwell Godfrey

Jewelry designer Polly Wales of @pollywales on Instagram. On Thursday, June 4, Polly Wales posted a black square with a clear message: Take Over My Instagram. In a phone interview with Wales on Friday, she explained that she had been inspired by @redskyshop on Instagram to allow black business owners, artists, or brands to post to her platform and 92,300 followers.

Thus far, she has several individuals—including Simone Brewster Jewellery, Valerie Madison Jewelry, Angely Martinez Jewelry, and ceramicist Marissa Y Alexander, among others—eager to take advantage of the exposure.

“We’ve had a lot of interest,” she says. “I may leave it as an open invitation, or do it every week or month, so it becomes ingrained. We need to move forward.”

@pollywales on Instagram
 @valeriemadisonjewelry takes over the @pollywales feed

Editor’s Note: “The Warmth of Other Suns,” a book I purchased last summer, seems super timely for today. It is a masterfully researched tome on the history of the great African American migration from the South to other parts of the U.S. It’s written by African American author Isabel Wilkerson and looks at why 6 million African Americans relocated out of the South from 1915 to 1970. It is an incredible education on why and how we got to where we are today. I encourage you to read it.

“The Warmth of Other Suns" by Isabel Wilkerson

Drop earrings in 14k yellow gold with purple garnets and diamonds, $1,300 at K.Jon’s

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