Self expression, individuality and celebration: These are some of the reasons people opt for permanent jewelry.
What began as a social media phenomenon has spread; you might see permanent-jewelry popups at the local spin studio, hair salon or farmers market, or at traditional stores.
If you're new to the concept, permanent jewelry isn't as scary as it sounds. A chain is made into a bracelet, anklet, ring or necklace with the ends welded together, no clasp. There’s no pain involved as there is in getting a tattoo. And technically, it’s not permanent since you can cut off the chain.
Marisa Ellman, a 39-year-old small business owner in Boulder, Colorado, was surprised a few months ago when her older sister asked her to meet, along with their mom, at a non-descript garage near the University of Colorado. A sign outside said “Love Saro.”
“My mom and I were like, ‘What are we doing here?’ but it was such a fun surprise,” Ellman said.
It was the first time she had heard of permanent jewelry.
“I love jewelry,” she said. “But I usually take my bracelets off to run or whatever.”
The trio went into the studio for a glass of champagne and a psychic card reading. Then a Love Saro employee presented a display of gold chains in varying designs and price points.
They each left with dainty bracelets fastened snugly around their wrists, and a memory in the bank. It was extra special for Ellman, who had recently lost a bracelet with her boys’ names on it.
And the permanent fixture on her wrist doesn’t bother her when she's exercising.
“They made a whole experience, and it’s a special memory for us,” she said.
Love Saro, operated by Sacha Jarmon, 31, and her mother, Carol Ritter, 64, opened in Boulder in November 2020. Since then, they've been so busy they opened two more locations in the Cherry Creek neighborhood of Denver and on Melrose in Los Angeles.
“It’s a place where you can be you, where you can customize the jewelry to whatever vibe you are,” Jarmon said. Clients choose jewelry, charms or gemstones, and also have the option of bringing in an heirloom piece, or even a broken piece, and have it made into something new.
AN IDEA THAT'S NEW, AND NOT
Jewelry is one of the oldest ways to express sentiment, so it's no surprise that permanent adornments have captured the public's imagination, said Abby Lillethun, a professor of fashion history and human culture and appearance at Montclair State University in New Jersey. Skeletons adorned in jewelry have been found at sites thousands of years old, including pieces made of gold and semiprecious stones. Humans also used shells and nuts strung together on plant fiber and fashioned into necklaces as far back as the Mesolithic period.
As with any fashion, jewelry trends change over time, but what's out often ends up coming back in.
“Jewelry that doesn’t have a clasp is not new, but at this moment, it is new,” Lillethun said.
The trend is about identifying your tribe, connection, rites of passage and commemoration. “It is differentiating from the past and a new way to mark a moment,” she said.
BEING ALIKE, BEING DIFFERENT
“We all have a drive for novelty, but we also want to be like those who you identify with or want to emulate," Lillethun said.
In Boston’s splashy Seaport District, Brave Daughters is a busy and popular permanent-jewelry popup. Owner Erin Myles, who is 41 and from nearby Providence, Rhode Island, went to school for metal smithing and worked in jewelry production for 18 years. She watched trends in custom jewelry and decided to go out on her own.
She opened Brave Daughters in Providence in 2018, and then a location in Boston in 2022. She hopes to move the Boston popup into a brick-and-mortar shop in the same neighborhood. Customers will be able to come in larger groups, and hire a photographer for parties and special occasions, while still getting the customized bling Brave Daughters is known for.
“It’s really a special thing to do together,” Myles said.
Adriana Ballas, 25, a university student, has visited the Brave Daughters popup several times. She has taken friends and her boyfriend there to get permanent jewelry. What draws her to this type of jewelry, she says, is high quality but low maintenance.
“It will last as long as you want it to and it’s kind of like part of you,” she said. “You just have it on all the time and it’s just this pretty, sparkly thing.”