This Jewish Designer Makes Jewelry Meant to Be Passed Down

J. Hannah, founded by LA-based designer Jess Hannah, just introduced a Star of David pendant.

Last month, Los Angeles-based jewelry and nail polish brand J. Hannah introduced a Star of David pendant to their core collection. The brand is known for their sleek minimalist pieces and frequent collabs with places like The Met (including a polish line inspired by the recent Tudors exhibit).

Founded by LA local Jess Hannah Revesz, the pieces are designed to be kept and outlive the trends of the moment. Hannah still recalls the sheer reverence with which she would go through her grandmother’s jewelry box, and this desire to create jewelry that reflect a timeless aura and considers the sustainable future means every piece in the J. Hannah collection is not only hand-crafted locally in LA, but cast from recycled diamonds, 14k gold and sterling silver. Her path to designer greatness included the study of graphic design, welding and, of course, the art of the summer camp lanyard bracelet.

Jess chatted with Hey Alma about the new addition, why she designs jewelry meant to be passed down and her own Jewish identity.

This interview has been edited and condensed.  

What inspired the Star of David pendant?

I’d been wanting to make a Star of David for a while, and recently a close friend asked if I’d design one for her, which got me thinking about what a J. Hannah version of this symbol might look like. Once I got going, it took on its own momentum.

This symbol has such a long history. How did you approach the design process?

I went through a few design iterations [before landing] on the fully inflated star. Most Jewish star necklaces are an outline of a star, where you can see the negative space. I was interested in finding a way to make something that felt unique and refined, but was still ultimately a Star of David. I really love the Elsa Peretti for Tiffany Star of David and its organic, intertwined textures; it’s such a singular interpretation of the design. That design was the impetus for me to land on something that felt like a more abstract take on tradition.

Did you wear a Star of David necklace growing up, or did anyone you know?

Definitely. Growing up I went to a Jewish school and also belonged to a Conservative synagogue, so a lot of people I knew wore one. My mom still wears her Star of David necklace daily and my dad has always worn a mezuzah pendant, which was given to him by his mom. Resting close to the chest, there’s just something about a pendant which feels intrinsically personal. While designing, it was impossible to not become wistful for the time of my bat mitzvah, reflecting on both what it was like to be that age and also the simplicity of that specific, pre-social media moment in time. I received a Star of David necklace as a bat mitzvah gift, and the pendant is a homage to the nostalgia-steeped bat mitzvah talisman I once wore, elevated through a lens of timeless refinement, equal parts modernist sophistication and summer camp charm bracelet sentimentality.

As a designer, you’ve talked about your own intrigue with the symbolic significance of jewelry. What do you think the Star of David symbolizes?

Quite simply I think it represents Jewish identity; I love that this symbol in particular is rooted in such storied significance. There is such a rich history imbued in fine jewelry, and I love when a piece of jewelry stands for something.

My connection with the symbol is very much linked with memories of my family and their history. We’re a small family, and all but one of my grandparents are Holocaust survivors. I don’t have any cousins or much extended family, so memories and stories of my grandparents and their family are very much cherished.

We often work with clients who are purchasing a piece of jewelry as a way to commemorate a major life event, and we’re always so grateful that we can play a small role in creating a way to represent these moments. In this case, it’s perhaps a symbol of identity, a marker of memory, or a reminder of belonging, values or home. Ultimately, I believe a piece can represent whatever meaning the wearer places on it — meant to take on its own life.

How do you think about your own Jewish identity?

My parents raised me to think about Judaism as a set of principles to live by. They never tried to get me to believe the teachings quite so literally as truth, but more as tools for living or lessons to help direct a moral compass.

As I mentioned, my grandparents were Holocaust survivors and my parents were kicked out of their home country, my father escaping Communist-occupied Hungary at 9, and my mother leaving with her respective family as a toddler. Despite not meeting until decades later in Canada (through a Jewish dating service), their backgrounds are coincidentally synchronous. Hungary was not kind to them, not a place to lovingly look back on — and all that to say, they chose to hold onto Judaism as their culture. Rather than Hungary as their mother country, they consider Judaism and its traditions to be a sense of home. This sentiment, cultural practices, stories, holidays, food, et al. have become the layers that make up my own Jewish identity, and while it’s not particularly religious, it still rings true and is an important part of my life.

Are your parents proud you’ve added a Star of David necklace to your collection?

Yes, when this interview gets published, they are the first people I will send it to!

Shira Telushkin

Shira Telushkin (she/her) lives in Brooklyn, where she writes on religion, fashion and culture for a variety of publications. She is currently finishing a book on monastic intrigue in modern America.

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