IN SEEKING the divine, we turn to the best of what the earth has to offer. Jewelry is never too far from religion: we remember the Breastplate of Judgment in the Bible, made of 12 precious stones; and the numerous rosaries, reliquaries, and other religious items made of precious stones and metals that adorn Catholics and their ceremonies.
Amen, an Italian jewelry brand, arrived at the Philippines earlier this year, and it urges one to wear their faith. The line consists of bracelets and necklaces that could function as rosaries, made of silver and crystals. Other items include earrings in the shape of four-leaf clovers, and crucifix pendants studded with crystals, in sterling silver.
Another item is the Prayer bracelet, made of Italian leather stamped with either the words of the “Our Father” prayer or the “Hail Mary.” There’s also the Vita Cristi et Maria line, which shows highlights from the life of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary.
The brand’s website says, “Amen comes from the desire to give words of faith in order to be close to their loved ones because they feel protected, loved, never alone.” Meanwhile, its founder, Giovanni Licastro, who once designed jewelry for an Italian luxury brand, said in a release, “At the heart of this project, there is faith and love and a deep willingness to share words and meaningful symbols through jewelry with the loved ones so that they can feel protected. Amen means wearing a feeling, an emotion that rises almost casually but that stands by choice and brings us every day wherever we want to be with the people we want to share our deepest values with.”
Dawn Dacanay, Director of Amen Philippines and the person who brought the brand here, talked about how she discovered it. “On a business trip, a friend saw my scapular around my neck and he immediately said that he knows of a brand that would just be perfect for us,” she told BusinessWorld in an e-mail. “He did not lose time in patching us up with Giovanni Licastro, the founder of Amen, whom we met in the flagship store in Florence.
“The message, the collections, and the designs are what appealed to me personally and I was confident that it will resonate with my fellow Filipinos. The brand’s message ‘Wear Your Faith’ meant that I could wear uniquely designed jewelry pieces that carried a personal touch of something I am proud to live by,” said Ms. Dacanay. “To share such a powerful emotion in a fashionable accessory is something I knew Filipinos would appreciate as well and would share with everyone.”
The Filipino is no stranger to religious jewelry: frequently, a Filipino’s first piece is a gold cross, and we remember Maria Clara’s locket/reliquary in Noli me Tangere (that would play a role as well in its sequel, El Filibusterismo), made of emeralds and diamonds and (supposedly) carried a piece of the True Cross.
Ms. Dacanay said, “The Philippines is strong in both faith and fashion. We see them in everyday life with rosaries hanging from the rearview mirror of cars, to crosses accenting the outfits of fashionistas. There is a natural connection between faith and fashion for Filipinos.”
Ms. Dacanay as well points to the brand’s Italian origins, citing that the country is one of the world’s capitals for design — but also religion. “Historically, Italy, or Rome… was once the center of the world and later on became the center of Christianity. Given how naturally inclined Italians are for fashion and design and combined with a strong history rooted in Christianity, it comes as no surprise how Amen is able to stylishly blend design, fashion, and faith,” she said. She quotes Mr. Licastro, saying, “Faith and fashion need not clash.”
She points to her own experience of wearing Amen: “I wear my leather prayer bracelets by Amen every day and I mix and match the colors depending on my outfit,” she said. Discussing the prayer stamped on it, she said, “It is this subtle yet powerful detail that constantly reassures me when I am anxious or reminds me to be thankful of everything that happens in my day.”
Amen comes at a price: the prayer bracelets cost about P2,800, while a sterling silver and multicolored jade rosary/necklace costs P7,000.
Matthew 6:19-21 says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” How does one then reconcile an expensive expression of faith with what the bible says about luxury?
“The word ‘celebrate’ is mostly associated with faith and coincidentally, with fashion as well. Faith and fashion go hand-in-hand and to do it in a trendy way is to get the best of both worlds while celebrating one’s individuality in both faith and fashion,” said Ms. Dacanay. “This is what Amen brings to the forefront – fashionable jewelry pieces that serve as a reminder of something greater, an affirmation of our own style, and a stylish way to intimately celebrate and share what we personally believe in.”
Amen’s first kiosk location is in Alabang Town Center, and one can shop through their website at amenshop.asia. — Joseph L. Garcia