Poetry hand-engraved onto precious metals is how San Francisco-based jewelry designer Jeanine Payer creates her collections of emotionally engaging yet subtle jewelry. There are few things as intimate as wearing poetry against your skin, as many of her clients can attest. Her international following includes Jessica Lange, Susan Sarandon, Mick Jagger and Johnny Depp. Payer has also worked closely to design custom pieces for Meg Ryan, Seal, Sheryl Crow, and Debra Messing.
Growing up in Southern California, Payer was surrounded by an artistic family who encouraged her to pursue creative expression in all its forms, whether it was keeping journals or studying sculpture and drawing. “I believe in pieces having a wonder about them. I like making things that are at once both powerful and private,” says Payer.
One of Payer’s first creations was designed as a gift: a tiny book engraved with a beloved poem by Rainer Maria Rilke that only the wearer knew was there. Today, Payer’s designs continue to be graced with the words of both contemporary and ancient voices such as Emily Dickinson, Rumi, Lao Tzu, Jane Hirshfield, and Ovid. “Each person brings their own particular meaning to the jewelry, therefore each piece becomes highly endowed,” says the designer. “These pieces become talismanic as they are chosen to mark emotional and philosophical moments in each person’s life.”
Payer and her highly-skilled team of fifteen metalsmiths craft three collections a year in a bustling atelier in the historic Phelan Building, San Francisco’s original jewelry center. Payer is in her 19th year of business, with her jewelry on display in her retail store, located just a few floors below the workshop, as well as in over 250 specialty stores worldwide including Fred Segal in Los Angeles, Barneys New York and Japan.