Melissa Joy Manning takes us on a sentimental journey through her jewelry box
Anyone familiar with Melissa Joy Manning is aware of her commitment to an ethical standard and environmental sustainability, recycled and upcycled materials and responsibly sourced stones. Since the inception of her jewelry company in 1997, she’s recognized for pushing the perception of what’s considered precious in the world of fine jewelry as well as her Certified Green practices, which have paved the way for her design aesthetic: bohemian luxury, impeccable crafted organic forms and a hip approach to heirloom jewelry. What some of you might not know is that Melissa also views jewelry as sentimental and loves wearing her own designs combined with those passed down from her mom, her grandmother and antique and vintage finds. It is not surprising that Melissa whose “idea of play was making friendship bracelets as a young girl” would also mix in pieces by other talented independent designers who she considers friends and some whose careers she has helped launch.
“I am fascinated by the energy and history of objects,” says Melissa. When I wear antique jewelry I think about the previous owner. I like to imagine their lives and stories. This thought process also affects my own creations.’ Explains Melissa. “I often think about the life it will lead; where it will go, the hands that it will pass through. As a jewelry designer, this is incredibly inspirational. Pieces I design will one day become heirlooms with memories of special moments for others, similar to the way all of my pieces handed down and collected have such meaning for me.”
The day I sat down to chat with Melissa about the sentiment and significance of the pieces in her jewelry box, she was accessorized in her own bracelet designs combined with one from her mother and another from her grandmother and a talisman necklace with an antique locket given to her by her partner which holds a photo of her son.
Can we talk about some of the bracelets you are wearing?
“I received the gold and diamond half tennis bracelet from my mom. It was from the ‘80s when tennis bracelets were really big but my mother could not afford one with diamonds all around. I actually love that this bracelet is half diamonds and half gold—it’s more unusual in its design and the way in which it’s joined together. The gold is also buttery soft and so comfortable to wear. The bangle is from my grandmother— I actually inherited two from her but I am only wearing one today. It’s also lightweight and comfortable –I think these pieces mixed with some of my own designs offers a more loved, worn and lived in feeling and for me, gives all of the jewelry deeper relevance. This holds true for any woman who wears modern and handed down pieces together.”
What does talisman necklace consist of ?
“I collect vintage tribal jewels from various civilizations and cultures—my most recent and cherished piece that I added was a gift from my partner, an antique locket that holds a photo of my son.”
What about your earrings?
“My mom always wore a pair of little gold sand dollar studs when I was young. She gave them to me after I got my ears pierced. But then one of my earlobes was ripped by a dog and I had to get my ears re-pierced again when I was 11. I still own and wear the sand dollar studs but I have multiple piercings and I wear two and a half pair of studs in my second and third hold (my best friends wear the other halves) and I usually wear one or more of my ‘hug’ hoops, which are a staple for me and my customers. In my main holes I tend to wear more dangles and larger hoops.”
What are some of your other favorite heirlooms?
“My grandmother’s charm bracelets. I used sit in her lap and play with the charms as she told me each of their stories. She had a few of charm bracelets which recalled her life, her children and her grandchildren, her hobbies and memories. My favorite was a gold bracelet that jingled with trinkets that represented her travels. I would dream about her, in exotic outfits, visiting Turkey or Europe and collecting the gold talisman. I think it was then that jewelry became more than a fascination and would figure into my future.”
Can you talk about some of the antique and period pieces you’ve collected or were gift over the years?
“These are the pieces that speak to me on a whole different level—those that I can imagine the wearer and the lives they might have lived. There is so much history and romance of the past in these pieces.
Some that I own which I can think of off the top of my head include:
-A Victorian snake ring that I wear on my pinky
-Antique prayer pins that were pinned on my diapers
– An antique stickpin that my partner gave to me
-A somewhat crazy looking reto pearl ring that I also wear on my pinky
-Edwardian seed pearl rings
– 1930s channel set eternity bands
-men’s vintage watches which I love including a few Rolexes and a tacky gold one which I really am crazy about.”
What are some of your friends’ jewelry you own?
“It’s so wonderful to wear jewelry made by other designers who you respect. It’s even more meaningful when you have relationships with these people and love what they do and want to support and commemorate each others work.
I have a Lucifer Vir Honestus cuff, various pieces from Lauren Wolf, and Jeanine Payer. I have Kayln Hertel earrings. She is a true talent and worked as a artisan for me in my studio while launching her own collection. I also have a piece that Austin Ice made for me—a friend who has worked with me for a very long time.
I also own one of Pamela Love’s arrowhead designs, which marked her evolution from silver into gold and one of Polly Wales’ earlier rings. I wear each of these pieces as mementos of our friendship but also as a celebration of their work at various times in their lives and careers.”
Is there a particular way you mix it all up?
“A little bit of everything-old, new, handed-down and gifted. There are pieces I almost never take off but for the most part, it’s fun changing pieces around and seeing that something you never imagined—work together. All of the jewelry I wear has deeper meaning so there is a sentimental and symbolic nature to whatever combination I choose.”