Power Adornments by Harwell Godfrey

There’s basic bling. And then there’s the queen-worthy finery of San Francisco jewelry artist Harwell Godfrey. She is the recipient of the 2022 Gem Award for Jewelry  Design and was a 2022 nominee for the Council of Fashion Designers (CFDA) American Emerging Designer of the Year, and the 2022 CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund Finalist. Lauren is part of Brilliant & Black, a groundbreaking exhibition at Sotheby’s featuring work from the world’s leading Black jewelry designers.

In a word, it’s elevated. In this 18-karat jewelry line, familiar cultural references like scarabs, crescents, crosses, and tribal textile patterns of the African Diaspora ascend to a level of refinement worthy of Nefertiti, Nefertari (we don’t include Cleopatra because she wasn’t Egyptian, she was Greek, you know?), not to mention the modern fashionista with a love of artistic luxury.

The designer brings heightened consciousness to even the most traditional motifs. Of her “Crux Pearl Tipped Pendant”she writes that she designed this piece “…right at the time when Roe vs. Wade was overturned. I was thinking a lot about my rights as a woman and the violation of having them so brutally eroded and wanted to create something that really embodied the notion of protection.” She goes on to explain that an equal-sized cross, often called the Maltese Cross, is balanced and peaceful and symbolizes the union of Earth, Air, Fire and Water, and the four directions. She also references an Adinkra symbol named Mmusuyidee, which literally means “that which removes bad luck.”

Why 18-karat gold? Isn’t 14-karat good enough? Nah, because here’s the thing. Pure gold is highly sensitive stuff. It’s malleable, meaning that it can be hammered into petal-thin sheets, and ductile, meaning that it can be drawn into strands finer than a human hair.  Pure gold is taffy-soft, too soft to wear, so alloys, meaning base metals, are added to make the metal more durable, especially for a wedding ring or other item that you never take off. The higher the karat, the softer the gold, and softer gold can hold finer, subtler detail. In fact, sturdier 18 karat is something of a compromise. For instance, the wedding jewelry of India is traditionally bright yellow 22-karat, which is ideal for jewelry a woman would wear once, or perhaps a few times, max (formal events), then pass on to a lucky daughter.

Precious jewelry of the past typically contained sharp contrasts of cold colors: “jewel”-tones of ruby, emerald-green, and blue sapphire, offset with the icy fire of diamonds. Godfrey’s warmer modern palette is more in the range of tropical blossoms, melting island sunsets and tongue-pleasing pastel sherbets. Gemstones and enamel in candy-pinks and tender lavenders, coral, balmy turquoise, and spring greens flatter melanated skin, making these baubles you’ll want to wear with everything. After all, her “Caviar” (made with brown and champagne diamonds) pendants, complete with mother-of-pearl spoon, and her “Tequila Lovers 3 Charm Set” (her husband is a tequila distiller!) with gleaming peridot “lime” slice, are perfect for girls’ night out or Sunday brunch! We say, great jewelry deserves to be worn with your early-morning sweatpants as well as your steppin’-out silks and satins.

And, since Women’s History Month is upon us, don’t wait for someone else to gift you. Celebrate, treasure, and pleasure yourself with the feel of gold and gems on your skin every day!

P.S. Gold has great resale value, so it would double as an investment!


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