A designer’s intricate lockets conceal intimate details.
More than 20 years ago, Monica Rich Kosann embarked upon a career chronicling her clients’ families, memories, and histories. Her method of storytelling relies not on pen and paper but on her gifted eye and the lens of her camera: Her black-and-white photographic portraits poignantly preserve moments to be passed from one generation to the next. To further personalize these mementos, she began to search for unique ways of safeguarding and displaying her pictures, often trawling antique shows and flea markets for vintage frames and image cases; in the course of these quests, she amassed an impressive collection of lockets. These acquisitions eventually led to another line of business, as her growing number of clients began to request elaborate bespoke lockets decorated with diamond-studded monograms and important gemstones to house her work. Her creations have since transformed the time-honored locket from a quaint family keepsake into a vibrant, contemporary statement.
“We have debunked the notion that a locket is for old people,” Kosann says. “I sell lockets to all ages and approach them like a beautiful piece of jewelry. Lockets are sexy. It’s jewelry with a secret inside, and it empowers women. We have so few private moments today, and the contents of a locket are very personal and private.”
Her bespoke commissions typically begin with a search for the client’s favorite stone, around which the piece will be built. Kosann, for example, recently tracked down a fine aquamarine for a customer who wanted an art-deco-style locket set with diamonds to hold two images. For another piece, Kosann placed a pink spinel carved in the shape of a snake’s head and designed its body, accented by diamonds and purple sapphires, to wrap around the case. Prices range from hundreds of dollars for a simple gold locket to more than $200,000 for one adorned with precious gems.
Although Kosann’s remarkable receptacles should be prized and appreciated in their own right as jeweled works of art, for many—including the photographer and designer herself—their true beauty lies beneath their glittering surfaces. The lockets that Kosann wears conceal a variety of personal totems; one such example holds pictures of her two daughters along with the inscription, “Carpe diem,” her personal motto. “They should hold whatever sentiment turns you on,” she says, “and it’s your choice if you want to share it.”