‘Permanent’ Jewelry in Gold Is Becoming a Classic
When “permanent” jewelry debuted a few years ago, “I didn’t foresee the trend would become a staple of a jewelry wardrobe in 2023, but it has,” one expert said.
By Vivian Morelli
Reporting from Paris
On a recent summer afternoon, the Persée jewelry counter upstairs in the Galeries Lafayette Champs-Élysées was busy, with some shoppers inquiring about piercings, but most waiting to get the brand’s Eternam chain, delicate links of gold that are soldered on — forever.
“It’s like a jeweled tattoo,” said Nawal Laoui, the founder and owner of Persée, a Paris brand specializing in diamonds. “Customers like the idea of having a second-skin bracelet, which can be forgotten for its lightness, but remembered for its uniqueness. It’s a strong symbol of a bond that is welded to you, never to be removed again.”
The chains — available in 18-karat white, yellow or rose gold and with links that are 0.6 millimeter (0.02 inch), 0.8 millimeter and 1.0 millimeter wide — actually could be cut off with pliers, if necessary. But Ms. Laoui, who flies often, stressed that her Eternam bracelets and rings have never caused a problem at airport security. (They likely would have to be removed, however, for an MRI or surgery.)
Such “eternal” jewelry has grown in popularity over the last few years, said JB Jones, co-founder of NYC Jewelry Week.
“In 2019, we hosted a party to kick off NYC Jewelry Week and we had a guest jeweler on site applying permanent bracelets,” she wrote in an email. “Catbird, a Brooklyn-based jewelry company, had also just begun offering permanent bracelets in-store. At that time, I didn’t foresee the trend would become a staple of a jewelry wardrobe in 2023, but it has.”
Ms. Jones said she believed that such permanent jewelry had become popular, at least in part, because it was a status symbol. “Most obviously in the case of the Cartier Love bracelet,” she wrote, referring to the bangle that comes with its own screwdriver. “But also there is simply that undefinable human connection to jewelry: That jewelry is beautiful, it feels good and it means something, often something very important to us — whether it was given by a best friend, a family member or a lover — so we sometimes simply don’t want to take it off.”
Since Persée introduced its version of the style in November 2021, Ms. Laoui said, customers of all ages and genders have purchased them. Prices for bracelets, the most popular item, range from 200 to 360 euros, or $220 to $395. “Customers,” she said, “often mention special events such as weddings, anniversaries or graduation ceremonies.”
The brand now offers the service in Paris; London; New York; Doha, Qatar; Kuwait; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. And it is planning to open a store this fall in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
When Martine de Limburg Stirum and Margaux Faure Ferré met 10 years ago, they found they both had an interest in art and have been friends ever since. Ms. Stirum, 52, lives in Brussels, but her work in the contemporary art industry often brings her to Paris, where Ms. Ferré, 41, owns a fashion and luxury consulting agency.
And the women were together in July for Ms. Ferré’s wedding on the Amalfi Coast of Italy. “Martine was my maid of honor,” Ms. Ferré said. “We decided to get the chain to symbolize our friendship.”
“Physically we see each other less,” Ms. Stirum said, “but this piece of jewelry will allow us to recreate a bond, both through its form and its symbolism, while being an elegant piece of jewelry. It’s elegant and timeless and it has a minimalist feel.”
They had made an appointment through the Persée website and, at the counter, began to discuss the chain weight, the color (“White gold or yellow gold?” Ms. Ferré mused) and how to wear it (“Should it go with my watch or on the other side?” she asked her friend).
In the end, the women selected the thinnest chain, with Ms. Stirum getting it in yellow gold on her right wrist and Ms. Ferré in white gold on her left.
The Persée technician, Leslie Dion, pulled the ends of the selected chains from the large rolls underneath the counter, wrapping each woman’s wrist and then cutting the right length with her pliers.
Ms. Ferré then sat on a plush royal-blue chair next to Ms. Dion, and, facing the welding machine, put her arm under the laser beam point. The laser has low intensity, so neither the welder nor the customer needs to wear safety glasses during the procedure.
“I have to find the two chain links and put them face-to-face,” Ms. Dion explained, using two pairs of tweezers to hold the ends of the chain together as she nudged Ms. Ferré’s wrist to the right angle. “The laser will make the metal melt and solder the links together.”
The customer doesn’t feel anything during the welding, she said, and while each procedure is slightly different, the process takes less than five minutes.
A professional welder who works for Persée trained Ms. Dion to work the machine. “It’s not difficult,” she said, “but you need precision and confidence.”
In addition to bracelets, Persée also offers anklets for €350 — “very popular in the summertime,” Ms. Laoui said — and rings for €90 to €130. Diamond charms, starting at €200, can be added to any chain configuration.
“The material is so delicate, you almost forget it,” Ms. Ferré said after the welding was done. “It’s discreet and elegant, you can wear it day or night, it’s not conspicuous and it blends well with other jewelry or a watch.”
The next customers were Honey Forestier and Peter Schwab, both visiting from New York City, where she works as a freelance illustrator and he produces photo and video shoots, among other activities.
“I’m French, but I moved to New York 10 years ago to study fine arts,” said Ms. Forestier, 31.
“We met eight years ago on the dance floor at a party,” said Mr. Schwab, 32. “It was a classic spontaneous N.Y.C. night.” The two have been close friends ever since.
Without any hesitation, they both settled on white gold. “We’re getting matching ones,” Ms. Forestier said. She got the thinnest chain, while Mr. Schwab, 32, got the thickest (“It’s more masculine,” he said).
He chose to put it on his right wrist, opposite the ’70s steel Rolex he always wears on his left. Ms. Forestier picked her left wrist; she said she didn’t often wear bracelets.
They had booked an online appointment, too. “We came together to Paris for a few weeks, and it’s a French brand and it’s symbolic of our friendship,” Mr. Schwab said.
Ms. Forestier completed his sentence: “And it’s very chic and easy to have that symbol forever.
“I wouldn’t commit to it if it weren’t that brand. You don’t really feel it; it’s so light you almost forget about it.”
Mr. Schwab said he shared the feeling: “I’m not worried at all about the forever aspect.”