For jeweler Jeanine Payer, there is beauty in the written word. By Rabia Ahmad
Rilke. Rumi. Walt Whitman, Goethe, and William Carlos Williams. Wise words from a famous scribe no longer have to be memorized (or even taped in your agenda). San Francisco-based jeweler Jeanine Payer has crafted her own way of keeping the words close at heart. "I've always had a strange knack for making impossibly small things," the designer said.
And, in some cases, small things could be considered an understatement. Payer has made her mark, literally, by engraving smooth pieces of silver and gold with exceedingly small words and phrases that pack meaning. Her first piece being a baby gift—a tiny book of silver pages—became her earliest canvas for Rilke's poem, "I am Too Much Alone." Combining her life-long love of prose and jewelry, Payer's work is unique and sentimental in all the right ways. Intertwining matte-finished gold and silver with shimmering diamonds or gemstones, Payer creates a collection that ranges from subtle and feminine keepsakes to heavier cuff bracelets and bands, all creating the mirrored backdrop for the wearer's own personal mantra.
An art-school student in the '80s, Payer began experimenting with jewelry making, but it wasn't until the Bay Area's pivotal Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, when the designer was safely confined to her home, that her creative mission began to take its current form. Already selling her earliest pieces to local boutiques, Payer acquired an engraving tool to autograph her work, which then naturally lead to engraving other words, too, plucking chosen verses from footnote philosophers, poets, and activists. Today, Kate Hudson is a fan, and Mick Jagger has even commissioned a piece donning his own lyrics.
In addition to the simplest ID-style bracelet, Payer's slinky chain necklaces with silver engraved discs and timeless charm bracelets embellished with smoky topaz stones and vibrant garnets are among the designer's most sought-after pieces. But despite Payer's designs being beautiful to look at, it's the words that make them collectible. Like a cherished book of Auden poems, these pieces will never lose their luster.
For jeweler Jeanine Payer, there is beauty in the written word.