If you’ve been on the receiving end of a heart-shaped bauble and cringingly accepted with an “aww” and a grimace on your face, then you’re more than understanding of how uninspired some heart-shaped jewelry can be. But it’s not all bad or, worse, cheesy. The universal symbol of love has transformed as of late thanks to jewelry designers who experiment with abstract and sculptural silhouettes or the use of negative space and color that reimagine the heart with an empowering freshness.
Fine jewelry designer Nak Armstrong, for example, who specializes in fiercely original gemstone combinations and architectural configurations, added an assortment of hearts to his repertoire as part of his contemporary-priced line, Nakard. “Designing [this] jewelry is tricky. I’ve always shied away from literal symbols as they can feel like gimmicks,” the designer tells TZR. When contemplating how to present the shape in a modern way, Armstrong drew inspiration from pop art and relished the idea of pairing saturated stones with enamel bezels to either enhance or starkly contrast their color. “Whimsy is inherent to the idea of hearts, so I wanted mine to be fun, not serious,” he explains.
Rather than offer occasion pieces deemed only worthy of a celebration or date night, Armstrong set out to create everyday iterations that could easily be layered and mixed in with other staples in a person’s jewelry collection. “Hearts in jewelry are very ubiquitous but either tend to be super precious or creatively over the top,” he explains. “I wanted to develop pieces that are modern and simple yet colorful with a pop art sensibility.” Since launching the Nakard heart collection, Armstrong says the response has been overwhelming. “We’ve had a hard time keeping them in stock,” he shares. “While most clients have a positive response to hearts, many are reluctant to invest in heart fine jewelry. The affordability of the Nakard collection makes them irresistible.”
Designer Colette Steckel similarly avoids heart designs with an overly saccharine look in her namesake line, Colette. “It’s a bit ironic because the first collection I designed with hearts is called Azucar, [meaning] sugar in Spanish. Those designs were very edgy — black and white diamonds set in blackened gold, and often with swords or arrows crossing through them,” she tells TZR. “Over the years, the inspiration for newer heart designs has changed as I incorporate influences from my French-Mexican heritage and my travels, but my pieces are always created with the modern woman in mind.”
Some of Steckel’s recent designs include chunky silhouettes combining hard stones and diamonds, like her heart-shaped Penacho ring with sides angling toward the heart’s center via a three-dimensional feel. “[It] feels like a signet ring — a style that’s very classic, but also of the moment,” she says. Adding, “It’s also slightly misshapen, giving it a perfectly imperfect feel, a metaphor for how love is not always faultless.”
Steckel and Armstrong both agree that a movement among women has spurred when it comes to fine jewelry in general, but specifically heart-shaped pieces, too. The verdict: more often, women are empowered to shop for themselves and embrace the motif as a symbol of self-love, acceptance, or empowerment, rather than exclusively tying the shape to romance.
“I love that women have reclaimed a symbol that’s usually thought of as a sign of devotion in a relationship, purchasing them instead as a reminder that we must love ourselves first,” Steckel shares. “Hearts are as much about telling our stories as any other motif in jewelry. Some women purchase them to commemorate a milestone or [to celebrate] getting out of a relationship that wasn’t working. Being able to choose [this design] that not only suits [her] personal style but also the occasion gives her the ability to illustrate the story that’s most true to herself.”
Armstrong says the broader trend of women shopping for themselves has opened them to modern interpretations of the symbol. “They’re open to heart jewelry that is more expressive, less traditional, and driven by trends in fashion and color,” he explains.
According to Steckel, the rise of talismanic jewelry has also led to the recent popularity of heart-shaped jewelry. “Love is a sentiment that everyone wants to experience and share with others, so hearts are a go-to addition for many women’s arsenal of talismans,” the designer explains. “The charms in my Santos y Cielos collection have been best-sellers for this reason, especially because they have a vintage-inspired look that makes them that heirloom-like feel, like a special amulet.”
Ahead, scroll on to discover 10 pieces of heart-shaped necklaces, earrings, bracelets, rings, and charms. Trust that each modern design boasts style and innovation with none of the cheese.
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