NEW YORK. Heart shapes inevitably inspire a wide range of emotions, from groan-and-eye-roll combinations among those opposed to the syrupy sweet symbol to happily surprised exclamations from those who like kitsch. And since hearts have been steadily making appearances in the collections of some of jewelry’s toniest artists (think Irene Neuwirth), I decided to find out why.
Deirdre Featherstone, a longtime platinumsmith with a penchant for motorcycles and big diamonds, didn’t really consider the shape as one to use until her daughter was born. “I always thought hearts were overly sentimental,” she explains. “It’s not a shape I would have used until I met my own child.”
So, with those feelings in mind, when she visited the Coober Pedy opal mine in Australia in 2014 and spied an opal cut into a heart shape, she was instantly smitten. She purchased it, later spotting two other opal shapes at a different mine that combined to form an exclamation mark; these, too, she purchased. She brought them home and let them sit in her safe for months—as designers tend to do with gemmy acquisitions—until inspiration struck. She would make a graffiti-esque homage to her daughter. With a fat black Sharpie, she inked “I” and “CEM” (her daughter’s initials) on paper, then tracing and cutting them from sheet metal to make playful platinum cursive letters with diamond pavé and “milgrain defining and dividing the letters,” she notes. She sandwiched the opal heart (bezel-set into a platinum and diamond frame) between the letters with the opal exclamation mark capping off the wearable sentence. The piece commands so much attention that she snagged a custom order for a similar style from a client at Bergdorf Goodman over the weekend.
For Kimberly McDonald—the designer who put framed geodes on the map—the heart also has an understated place among her offerings. After all, it has limited appeal, but when found in an unusual material (like the crystal opal in her personal collection), they are fun. “You get a different play of color and a different reflection of light when you have different angles and curves,” she explains about heart-shape opals.
Meanwhile, for Lauren Kessler of Lauren K., hearts have appeal for their classic nature. “There will always be women who adore hearts and men who enjoy presenting heart jewelry to the ones they love,” she says.
One of her favorite styles are opal and diamond heart-shape stud earrings. “They are the perfect size, are easy to throw on, and mix with well with all types of fine and fashion jewelry,” she adds. They are also so popular that they’re often out of stock; luckily, the pair below is available now.
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