I enjoy jewelry. I wear rings, thin neck chains, cufflinks, and watches. I appreciate vintage jewelry. Most significant are pieces which have emotional connection, history and have a dimension beyond being merely adornment.
Aside from jewelry I have inherited, and my wedding band, some of my favorite pieces are designed by my talented and gracious friend Mary Jo Pane. MJP’s aptly named collection, Miracle Icons by Mary Jo Pane, uses antique and vintage religious icons to create one of kind necklaces and bracelets.
The founding and evolution of Miracle Icons is a story in itself. On a cold November evening in 2001, MJP went to visit a friend, who had been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. She visited her friend and then walked home. Upon reaching her apartment, she realized she had mistakenly picked up her friends keys. MJP called her friend and said she was on my way back to return the keys.
On the cold walk back MJP reflected on her friend’s illness and the scope of what we had all been through in New York. At 23rd Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, near the Golden Crispy Jamaican Patty place, MJP had a vision clear as a bell and decided to take the medals she wore as a child in Catholic School and turn them into cool jewelry people would want to wear. MJP has said this type of crystal clear vision had never happened to her before and has not happened since, but on that cold night in November on a dark stretch of 23rd street, the stars aligned properly.
Mary Jo retrieved her keys and walked back home not feeling the cold and by the time arriving home knew she wanted to call the jewelry Miracle Icons. The next day she began to trademark that name and for the next year through trial and error taught herself to make jewelry. After many trials and errors, in early December of 2002 she shipped her first order.
Mary Jo has an enthusiastic and supportive personality and that positivity comes through in her work. Her experiences with her clientele are at times funny, heart warming and spiritually uplifting. From adjusting Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s necklace while he was clad “juste une serviette”, to a Jewish customer having a moment of buyers dilemma on a necklace featuring a Virgin Mary medallion, but loving it so much to declare…”Well, Mary WAS a Jew…” or the 10 year old girl with a list of Saints for a necklace for her Mother, recently diagnosed with cancer. Happily, her Mother returned a year later to buy bracelets for both her daughters.
Sixteen years later Mary Jo is still making her beautiful pieces, by hand, out of her 475 sq ft. studio. She sources her medallions from an antique dealer in Belgium who scours Flea Markets throughout Belgium and France. Mary Jo says her favorite ones are those in which almost no “relief” remains, due to the metal being held and touched over time by the wearer. Both Mary Jo and I were raised Catholic, (she practicing, myself not). However, I do not directly tie religion to the pieces. Rather, I appreciate the uniqueness of each piece and the skill, inventiveness and love which goes into her work.
Mary Jo mentioned a client who is an Art Historian at The Metropolitan Museum, working mostly in The Met Cloisters, whom declared Miracle Icons made him feel connected to something he had not been connected to for many years. I feel this way when I wear one of her pieces. Most recently Mary Jo was kind enough to create a piece for me specifically with a Saint Paul medallion (MJP’s suggestion, since he is the patron of journalist’s and writers.) Perhaps it is a sign. After all, the miracle Mary Jo was looking for on that cold November night sixteen years ago happened because her friend is still here and doing just fine.
Today Miracle Icons by Mary Jo Pane is carried by retailers such as Barneys, Borsheims, and Gorsuch. Mary Jo’s pieces are favorite’s with celebrities as diverse as Bruce Springsteen, Ricky Martin, Matthew McConaughey, Hillary Clinton and of course, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, “juste une serviette”.