This story is part of Image issue 22, a meditation on the many definitions of the city’s favorite word: luxury. Read the whole issue here.
It’s in our nature to fall to our knees in praise of shiny objects. For many Angelenos, it’s lowriders, gleaming fronts on our canine and incisor teeth, a purse cast in sterling silver. The white gold nameplate that I got from Patty Q’s Jewelry in the Fox Jewelry Plaza on Hill Street years ago is a daily totem of worship. It’s a 1 1/2-inch custom piece that reads “JUJU” in all caps Olde English; it hasn’t left my body since the moment it was gifted to me on my birthday three years ago. The sparkle that reflects off it when it catches the light feels like a life force.
To say jewelry is precious in L.A. would be an understatement — we have an entire district dedicated to diamonds, rows and rows of gleaming glass cases that we fog up at indoor swap meets. And yet, the pieces are more than new objects to be purchased: Jewelry is about lineage. Donning a piece of gold that had been gifted or passed down is among our earliest encounters with sustainable luxury. In middle and high school, we wore our bestie, boyfriend, girlfriend or mom’s nameplate as our own, as a sign of devotion. Jewelry boxes become shrines to our past and offerings to our future, vessels that protect our precious metal for the next generation. I harbor dreams of passing down my heart-shaped gold bamboo earring that says “Julissa” in loopy, bubble cursive that I wore religiously in 2008 — even if I lost its pair years ago — because it says something about the person I was when I got it: someone who was obsessed with Lauren London’s character in “ATL” and decided that I, too, wanted to clink when I walked. My jewelry announced my presence before I even uttered a word.
It’s not just the specific piece of jewelry that connects us. The metal itself holds us close — anchoring us to the very earth that it came from, to our people. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a silver girlie or a gold girlie. The appeal is more than an aesthetic; it tethers us to our culture and family. “Every time there was a bautizo, a quinceañera, a First Communion, a confirmation, we always got gold: gold pendants, gold rosarios, gold everything,” says model and Watts native Jenn Torres. “Gold is such a multigenerational link. … A link to family or to love. That’s something very beautiful and so golden about gold.”
There’s a reason a piece of jewelry is considered an accessory. It complements what feels essential — not only our clothing but personality. It’s protective like armor, something we reach for daily. How many times do you hear people say they feel “naked” without their favorite bracelet? A beloved piece of jewelry operates as a phantom limb or a dance partner; it’s constantly in conversation with the body through movement. But wear something precious enough and it becomes more than complementary; it becomes part of your aura — it radiates with you. Jewelry helps frame the way you present to the outside world.
These things that people see as supplemental I see as crucial, as baseline. I started collecting vintage Prada accessories years ago, and in addition to my daily rotation of rings, bangles and hoops that have found a home on my body, my Prada pieces are the meat and cheese of every outfit I wear. They’re the snack that becomes the whole meal. When Miuccia Prada joined her family’s luxury goods company in the late ‘70s, it was accessories that were first on her list. That energy was embedded into the leather and nylon; it’s the reason a Prada purse — even when the logo isn’t featured so prominently — is so easy to spot out in the wild. My perfect, buttery ‘90s backpack and my sturdy crescent shoulder bag from the early aughts that perfectly fits a book and a banana have something in common — a truth threaded into Prada’s DNA. From vintage, to Raf and Miuccia’s whimsical women’s show in Milan last month, the appeal of Prada is that it always feels slightly of the future.
It checks out, then, that Prada’s latest offering — the new edition of its Eternal Gold collection — would feature lab-grown diamonds, a rock that is not mined from the earth but forged in a lab. It is Prada again pulling us forward into a place of “innovation.” A hallmark of Prada’s Eternal Gold collection is that it recycles its namesake precious metal, sourced from old jewelry and electronic parts, into something new and beautiful. Originally released in 2022, the Eternal Gold collection touted itself as “the first truly sustainable fine jewelry collection by a global luxury brand” using 100% certified recycled gold in compliance with the Responsible Jewelry Council’s chain of custody. It was made by artisans in Italy, featuring a remix on fine jewelry archetypes like the serpentine and the heart. The latest Eternal Gold edition builds on this legacy, re-creating Eternal Gold silhouettes with one important addition: the brand’s debut of lab-grown white diamonds in what it’s calling the “Prada Cut,” a shape mimicking the fashion house’s iconic triangle. With the addition of the Prada Cut lab-grown diamond, the new edition of Prada’s Eternal Gold collection becomes a balance of innovation but mostly heritage. Reminding you, in case you forgot, that you are indeed wearing the Italian fashion house around your neck or wrist or finger.
(Gianni Gallant / For The Times)
In the same way a Prada Cut lab-grown rock may evoke that triangle-shaped history, the archetypes found in the new edition recall their own symbolism. Take the serpentine, featured in both a ring and bracelet form, with white diamonds at its head and tail. There is a quiet strength and sensuality, maybe even perversion, in wearing a snake wrapped around your neck. It’s biblical in its proximity to danger. Even if you’re not bad, you get to sport a s-s-s-slight edge that has been in style at least since the Victorian era, probably before, so you can pass it off as classic. I held the Eternal Gold white gold snake cuff with gloved hands in a photo studio in DTLA on a cloudy morning. Inspecting it, getting lost in the reflection of its flexed coil, I kept imagining myself wearing it in only one of two ways: with an old knee-length T-shirt and boots — something that goes so far in the opposite direction of the piece’s objective fanciness that it’s almost comical (it’s called balance, OK) — or with the floor-length vintage Jean Paul Gaultier gown I wore to Sadie Hawkins last year because it’s the nicest thing I have in my closet. With a piece like this, an outfit serves either to match its energy or hang back to let it shine.
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A study out of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro cited a claim that “‘the visual appeal of glossiness is innate and stems from the human need for fresh water as a resource.’” Is the collection’s degradé chain necklace as essential as water? No, obviously. But feeling the weight of it in your hands — proof that it’s solid, will presumably last forever — and looking deep into its 40 carats of diamonds in a variety of sizes draped over your clavicle, it becomes clear that its effect as a physical totem of value and luxury is immutable and substantial. Each one of the lab-grown diamonds is made to order per client. While in the past, Prada told the New York Times that it “rejected [lab-grown diamonds] because of the vast amounts of nonrenewable energy ... needed for manufacturing,” it is now committed to using lab-grown diamonds through all of its fine jewelry collections by the end of next year.
As personal as jewelry can be, it’s also about other people — the excitement lies in the flex, the possibility that someone will notice. It’s called a statement piece for a reason. The new edition of Prada’s Eternal Gold collection, which includes eight pieces total, gets its message across — the many carats of Prada Cut diamonds make sure of it. It sports the reaching opulence of the ‘80s — an undeniable extra-ness that does not apologize for being so. The degradé chain necklace is a succession of interlocking gold links in the shape of triangles, accentuated by the lab-grown diamonds, that looks like it could be featured in a Vogue editorial 40 years ago. On the neck, two triangle diamonds the size of almonds sit between the collarbones, mirroring each other. The links jut out like a luxe studded collar that might be worn by a majestic Rottweiler. A puffy heart choker showcases a 5.5 carat Prada Cut diamond at its point, designed in an optical illusion that makes it look like it’s hovering over the gold. That’s what makes these pieces special: each one leans into emphasis, into the dramatic — becoming the main character of a once-in-a-lifetime night out. And because of their lack of plainness, these pieces will surely become heirlooms, recycled gold and lab-grown diamonds worn again and again by generations to come.
Model: Marcos Montoya
Makeup: Carla Sofia Perez
Hair: Tanya Melendez
Location: Roam Studios L.A.