My Charmed Life: How Annoushka Interpreted My Experiences in Drawings of Seven Charms
Storytelling in jewelry has been around for centuries. Think of poesy (which translates into poetry) rings with their mottos and messages of love or acrostic jewelry with the first letter of the stones spelling out a term of endearment. Charm bracelets have been chronicling a women’s life, hopes, dreams and special moments from the 19th through the 21st century. Savvy innovative designers continued to find new ways of creating their own versions that align with what was happening in jewelry while distinguishing themselves and their pieces from the past. This still holds true today. When I found out about Annoushka’s “My Life In Seven Charms’ bespoke program, I was intrigued and wound up writing about the concept. The story for Forbes online discussed the first bracelet which was the one she designed for herself and those she designed as bespoke pieces that were specific and significant to the lives of her clients. As the one-time co-owner with her husband of Links of London, Annoushka is no stranger to charms.
And, this type of jewelry was right up my alley. In 2012 I had chronicled my own life by penning a memoir (My Charmed Life: Rocky Romances, Precious Family Connections And Searching For A Band Of Gold, Penguin ) in which each chapter in the book revolved around a piece of jewelry that acted as a metaphor for that chapter of my life, from age five through 50. Jewelry, whether it be the pieces you received from your six-year-old niece or the pieces you wear to remember your loved ones, are all filled with emotions and connected to a larger event in your life. So when Annoushka said that she wanted to sketch out a bracelet based on different aspects of my journey so far, I thought it would be perfect to get the inside scoop. It would be more than a journalistic view but a personal take on how she works. The bracelet would not be executed in precious metals and gems, but I would have a beautiful sketch and go through the steps with Annoushka of creating seven charms that would represent different memories and moments of my life.
I went through the same process as her clients and learned firsthand how she works, which is extremely detailed.
I was given a paper to fill out for which I was to answer the following: Charm, Name, Story, Color or Stones and Moving Parts.
This is what I wrote and here is how she interpreted my ‘chapters’ into a jewel,. I let Annoushka choose the moving parts. Many of my pieces lent themselves to certain stones and she executed them exactly how I would have seen them:
Royal Taste: When I was five, my appendix almost burst, and I was rushed to the hospital and straight into surgery. I was obsessed with the scar that was the exact size and shape as the one on Frankenstein’s head. “It will fade,” my mother said as convincingly as possible but I could not stop looking at it with disbelief. She took me shopping to find something to make me feel pretty, “maybe a new dress for school, pair of shoes or daisy pendant,” she had offered. But, as we passed through the accessories department, I saw a tiara sitting in a glass class in the 59th Street and Lexington Avenue Bloomingdales.
It was all twinkly and sprinkled with glittering rhinestones and Swarovski crystals, dripping off of the sides and decorating the top. I knew that it had to be mine. Many years later I would learn that it was what my mother called “a monstrosity, rivaling only Cher’s most ostentatious headdress.” But in the store, she knew she had to get me out without a tantrum and sat me down in a chair and explained: “There is only one and they are holding it for a very important duchess from some faraway land. Amazingly, you chose this one. But let’s see if we can find something else worthy of your style and beauty.” The sales associates were in awe of how she handled the situation and got into their roles, two of them bringing me a tray of more toned down tiara-like headbands, more befitting a five-year-old. When I was adorned in one that had just a few seed pearls with a tiny floral design and one single tiny diamante teardrop surrounded by a delicate scroll on top, my mother held up a mirror and told me it was me. I do believe that style is inherited and that I developed her knack to choose pieces that would allow me to wear my jewelry rather than have it wear me. And I will always be grateful to her for allowing me to believe I had royal taste.
Dog Story: For the charm, I thought something about my dog would be appropriate. I waited six years after having dogs all my life, all who lived until an old age but never long enough, and then I finally found my sweet, cuddly pup, a very small Shih Tzu with a pink nose and lips instead of the usual black nose. I love sentimental jewelry of Georgian and Victorian time and the language of flowers. So when I saw her for the first time at eight weeks old, it was pretty immediate. I named her Calla since calla lilies mean magnificent beauty and that she is! She’s friendly and smart too!
Hopeless Romantic: This charm would incorporate my superstitions and my hope for finding true love again. Moonstones for magic, rubies for passion and cupids for being shot with the arrow of love into another symbol-two hearts which represents two hearts together as one.
Fear of Flying: After enduring an emergency landing when I was 12 years-old with just my two younger brothers on the plane out to visit my dad in Los Angeles after my parents got divorced, I became petrified to fly. I remember telling my mom something would happen to the plane. I had such a strong feeling, yet I had flown many times before. My grandparents had a condo in Puerto Rico and I went on a plane to visit them alone when I was 10 and we took yearly trips to Florida before my parents got divorced. My mom said I was scared to be away from her. But sometimes you just have to go with your gut. Something did happen to the plane and it took me 8 years to get back on a plane again alone without having to travel with anyone and now I have flown to Europe over 30 times and throughout the country more times than I can count so, I thought a diamond plane charm would represent my strength to get over my fears.
Dancing Diva: I quit smoking cigarettes 15 years ago, which was my one vice besides drinking sugary drinks. But ever since I was five, I loved to dance. I would dance alone in my room, dance in the middle of the street when I heard a song I liked and throughout the late disco era I went out dancing almost every night. I never stopped dancing around the house or going to places where I can still dance. Even at the gym, my cardio classes all revolved around dance-based classes. It’s the time I am free from thought, worry, deadlines and any type of sadness or anxiety. I am utterly and completely happy and uninhibited, so much so that strangers will start dancing with me because I believe that abandon is infectious and authentic. My favorite music to dance to is Motown classics and I wish I was around when they used to have the Motown Revues and the groups would go together on the road and everyone would dance together.
Familial Love: There is this photograph of my great grandmother, my grandmother, mother and I, which I cherish. To have four generations on the maternal side of my family all together at one time is so special. In the photo you could see how different we all were when it came to our hair, fashion, jewelry yet we all had big feet and huge ears. My great grandmother was shy and beautiful. She came here from Russia. My grandmother was outgoing and charitable and made everything fun We would stay up late and drink ginger-ale out of champagne glasses as we watched old movies and dressed up in my grandmother’s jewelry. My mom was beautiful, a one-time studying actress/runway model turned wife, turned feminist in the 70s when she and my father divorced. She had to raise three kids and worked her way up the corporate ladder. We would dance around the house, sing off-key and tell each other all of our secrets. I am a mix of all of them. And I was able to write about all of us in my memoir My Charmed Life (Penguin 2012) for which jewelry was a metaphor for each chapter of the book. These all could be separate stories but I think about that photo and how having them all in my life created the foundation of who I am today.
Over The Rainbow: My favorite movie growing up was and I have to admit, still is The Wizard of Oz. I watched it every year of my life and still do. Watching that movie began my love of rainbows and of good friends who will help us along the way and show up in different ways in our lives. It also taught me that no matter where you are or who you are with, there really is “no place like home” and home is the people that love and care for you. It also fueled my ruby passion and my fear of tornados, wicked witches and people who don’t like dogs.”
I only wish I could own this bracelet, but alas my budget won’t allow. Yet working with Annoushka and going through the process was instrumental in writing my Forbes article and seeing her sketches for my life’s moments and experiences prove how her originality, instincts and ability to look deeply into the narrative distinguishes her as one of the leading designers of bespoke and collection jewelry today.