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Uncovering the Cultural History of the Nameplate Necklace

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Uncovering the Cultural History of the Nameplate Necklace

Postby Davidgraet8 » Thu May 24, 2018 12:28 am

Marcel Rosa-Salas has been enamored with nameplate jewelry—typically gold necklaces that announce the wearer’s name in elaborate script—for as long as she can remember. In the predominantly Puerto-Rican and Italian Brooklyn neighborhood where she grew up, there was a jewelry store across the street from her home, and every day, she’d pass a case of nameplate necklaces in the window. "There was just something about the flourish of them, the shine, the fact that they were pieces of jewelry that proclaimed your presence to the world," she tells Broadly.

She finally received her first nameplate as a young teen when she wrote her mother a letter explaining that her high test scores showed she was responsible enough to own the $200 piece of Swarovski jewelry, and that it would mark a coming-of-age moment in her life. It worked, and she’s been collecting nameplate jewelry ever since—including pieces featuring other identity markers beyond her name, such as a ring that reads "INFJ" (her Myers-Briggs personality type) and bamboo-style hoop earrings that say "pensive," her favorite word. "I love the cognitive dissonance that it evokes to have a bamboo earring that some may call 'ostentatious' or 'tacky' as an insult but to have it be paired with a word that is ostensibly its opposite—and kind of embrace that contradiction," she says. "That encapsulates who I am."

For nameplate owners like Rosa-Salas, the pieces of jewelry are often so much more than just that; and the way they function socially as a tie to a specific culture and assertion of individuality is richly complex. But, as Rosa-Salas and frequent collaborator Isabel Flower will tell you, a search for the history of nameplate jewelry won’t turn up many stories like Rosa-Salas’ that contextualize its significance and genealogy. Instead, it mostly turns up references to Sarah Jessica Parker’s Sex and the City character, Carrie Bradshaw, who famously wore a Swarovski swan necklace on the show after Parker’s stylist saw "kids in the neighborhood" around her New York City shop sporting the style and decided to put one the iconic white TV character.
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