What did your first piece of name jewelry mean to you, and how did it hold significance in your life at the time?
Marcel: I grew up in Brooklyn, right across the street from a jewelry store owned by an Italian American man named Casale. It didn’t matter if I was on my way to school or to the corner bodega, I always stopped to marvel at the rows of glimmering nameplate pendants on display in the shop’s window. One of them, in particular, caught my eye: It was a double-plated necklace that spelled out the name “Maria” in a bubbly, diamond-encrusted script. I recall it being one of the first things I consciously remember observing was beautiful. I am also a twin and have spent much of my life being called by the wrong name, so having a nameplate has always had a dual function for me—both decadent and deeply practical. I got my first nameplate at age 10, after convincing my mom that I deserved one when I did well on the citywide tests. It was a style I associated with coming-of-age events as well, whether birthdays, communions, graduations, or other achievements. Many of my Puerto Rican, Black, Italian, and Middle Eastern peers had one, too.
Isabel: Though my father received a nameplate baby bracelet at birth and nameplates were something I was aware of all my life, my fascination with the style and desire to own one myself is actually much more a product of the time and place where I was raised. I grew up in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the ’90s through the mid-2000s, a peak time in the popularity of nameplates, due in part to the growing influence of hip-hop on the mainstream. Neither of my parents was from the East Coast, and we moved around often for their work. Nameplates were one of the most consistently popular aesthetics among the places I lived and went to school, and were also an accessory that transcended a lot of other differences. As I grappled with my own identity formation and sense of rootlessness, I loved that nameplates carried a sense of community and a shared visual language. The aisles of my local malls were lined with kiosks where you could order a nameplate to pick up that same day. My first nameplate was made from base metal, and in the summer, it turned my neck green.