“If you're putting something into the world, make it something different,” says fine jewelry designer Lauren Harwell Godfrey who, from her studio in Corte Madera, is crafting modern gems that tickle our fancy for decorative nostalgia in a way we haven't quite seen before.
Inspired by the symbolism of stones—forest-jade malachite is a guardian for travelers while apple-green chrysoprase encourages forgiveness, for example—Godfrey's eponymous collection sparkles with pieces that feel powerful. It's no wonder then that so many modern power women are wearing them: Among Harwell Godfrey's client-fans are Kamala Harris, Cynthia Erivo, Thandie Newton, and Ayesha Curry.
One could think about donning Harwell Godfrey jewelry like putting on a little bit of armor. Made of precious metals and (often rare) gems sourced from around the world, her pieces are a refreshing departure from the dainty jewelry that's been popular in the last decade. The line is a bold mishmash of the designer's favorite inspirations: the colorful abstract works of Swedish artist and mystical medium Hilma af Klint; the Egyptian revival of the 1920s; the rock and roll decadence of the 1970s. Take for example her Stardust button star earrings, which at once resemble heirlooms of ancient history and glamorous diamond disco balls. This eclectic, femme-with-an-edge aesthetic is reflective of LHG's personal style: Although a lover of glitz, she is most at home in jeans and a T-shirt...with the jewelry piled on.
Lauren Harwell Godfrey's jewelry designs reflect her own personal style: a little bit of glitz, balanced by casual, California cool.(Christopher Stark)
The designer often wears her own rainbow bead necklace—a playful piece that seems reminiscent of a happy childhood but made all grownup with a mix of agate, jasper, jade, mother of pearl, onyx, and more—or one of her bewitching Hexed pendants engraved with archetypes such as The Lover and The Visionary. “I believe in not sticking things in the security box and never touching them—it's all about wearing your things,” she says.
Like her birthstone the garnet, which most people assume is always a deep red but actually comes in a variety of hues (like mandarin, which is said to bring success, enthusiasm, happiness, and power), Godfrey is multifaceted. A graduate of USF with a degree in advertising design and art direction, she spent the first 15 years of her career working in advertising in a straightforward but passionless progression to creative director. Not that she didn't learn a thing or two: "There's a little project manager that lives inside of me and gets all my work done,” she says laughing, crediting her days in advertising for the foundational business skills that would later help her launch her brand.
But first there was a stint in the food world including enrollment in the San Francisco Cooking School and even a plant-based cooking blog. During that time, she became passionate about fighting food insecurity. This cause has found an important donor in Harwell Godfrey, which is perhaps best known for its Charity Hearts pendants dedicated to the causes LHG champions, including World Central Kitchen and the NAACP, which receive 100 percent of the profit on the pendants' sales, to date totaling donations over $200,000.
Harwell Godfrey's Charity Hearts pendents have raised over $200,000 for organizations including Every Mother Counts, Human Rights Campaign, and Futures Without Violence.(Courtesy of @harwellgodfrey)
“One day I was like, I don’t feel like making food today, I feel like making something else,” remembers LHG who, following an instinct, got her start in jewelry by hand-crafting sculptural necklaces out of leather. Then people started buying them. Designing jewelry became her way of testing recipes of texture, playing with a mise en place of metals and stones to create something magical. But making everything by hand was incredibly time consuming, so when she launched Harwell Godfrey in February 2017, she decided to outsource production so she could focus solely on design.
In her new atelier in Corte Madera, where she does custom consults, creates bespoke pieces, and holds occasional trunk shows, her many global and local influences shine. SF's Noz Design helped style the space, filling it with the objects Godfrey loves, like Moroccan textiles and African masks, while local decorative painter Caroline Lizarraga painted the walls a celestial purple with gilded geometric accents. It is both otherworldly yet totally grounded (just like her jewelry) and decidedly West Coast in its casual confidence.
A California native, LHG is a former competitive equestrian and a lover of the outdoors. The natural beauty of her home state has always been a major inspiration for her designs, especially in her two most recent collections. Stardust, which evokes the constellations via diamonds, was designed during her time living in Sonoma: "It’s just so beautiful and the skies are very starry there; I was very inspired by that.” Her Valley of the Moon collection, meanwhile, is full of intricate crescent medallions and was inspired by the birth of her son following the supermoon of November 2016.
As her friend and collaborator April Gargiulo (founder of Vintner's Daughter) puts it, Harwell Godfrey pieces are “beautiful talismans for the wearer, imbued with a kind of healing energy.” And healing is important to Godfrey, who approaches her designs as a way of “finding the answers to the universe.”
“I think there's something in being creative that’s discovering my connection to the universe,” she ponders, but then laughs. “I don’t want to take this so seriously, though! [Jewelry] is a way of elevating the self, you know, of getting to feel a bit extra.”
No doubt LHG is feeling a bit extra these days. She was recently invited to become a member of the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), a high honor in the fashion world. She was also highlighted in Sotheby's exhibition of Black jewelry designers, Brilliant & Black: A Jewelry Renaissance.
Looking ahead, she’s excited for what’s to come in her industry. Despite being historically exclusionary, the world of jewelry is becoming much more diverse and sustainably minded.
// Find Harwell Godfrey jewels atlocal retailers including Hero Shop (Larkspur), Métier (Hayes Valley), and McMullen (Oakland), or schedule an appointment to visit the atelier by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org; harwellgodfrey.com.