Grief is not spoken about much in our society. But grief is something that touches us all.
For Stacey Fay, 37, a jewelry designer, it became a wellspring for creativity. The Narberth resident lost her sister in a car accident and then later her mother, Elaine Kennelly, passed away at 68 from the side effects of a stroke.
She designed and wears a slim, attractive memory ring that reminds her every day of her sister, Donna Keannely, Fay said. It is engraved with the lyrics “There is a light that never goes out” from a song from her sister’s favorite band, The Smiths.
“It’s a good reminder of her,” Fay said about the ring. “I think she’d really love it. My goal was to have it subtle [and she] can layer it. It’s not in your face.”
Fay started making jewelry when she was a student at Rutgers and was “pretty successful” but stopped after she lost her 31-year-old sister to a car accident when she was in her mid-20s.
“I stopped doing it for nearly a decade,” said Fay. “Then I started doing it again a couple years ago around the time my mom died. I feel like grief sometimes shuts you down and sometimes opens you up. A decade ago it kind of shut down the jewelry, and I wasn’t able to do it. And a few years ago, going through that grief, losing my mom, kind of opened it back up. It was the right time to bring it back to life.”
While she’d been thinking about the remembrance ring for her late sister for a while, it was only about six months ago that she made the blue engraved ring with the help of a Jeweler’s Row artisan.
“When I saw it, I burst out crying,” said Fay. “I really believe that jewelry can be powerful that way.”
With a client who went through a difficult divorce and is a single mother, Fay designed a ring that would speak to that experience. The ring has a star on the front and a horse engraved inside.
“When she as going through the divorce, somebody said that she was the horse they would bet on because she was so strong,” said Fay. “The horse is engraved on the inside of the ring so only she knows it’s there. And the star is the North Star or guiding star and represents her son.”
While this divorce ring was designed for one client, it is available on Fay’s website for others who might resonate with it.
And a recent design that Fay was wearing when interviewed is a silver teardrop-shaped necklace with a blooming rose and rosebud that symbolize the loss of a baby. Fay said that she has had miscarriages before she became a mother in January to her son, Julian.
“It’s very, very common,” she said. There are more than 1 million miscarriages in the U.S. annually and a quarter of all pregnancies end in a miscarriage, she said. The design is subtle so that no one but the wearer need know the meaning unless she wants to share it.
“It doesn’t scream child loss,” she said.
While Fay makes jewelry to help people recover from a loss, she is quick to add, “I make happy jewelry, too.”
“All of our stories are important, not just the happy ones,” said Fay. “There are a lot of stories in our lives, and I hope to be able to tell them throughout our lives.”
Using the lost wax casting technique, Fay makes necklaces with images from antique wax seals from the 1800s. Those symbolize friendship, love and life.
One depicts a ship on the sea, with the phrase “Such is Life” in English or French, which was a popular saying in those times, she said.
“I’m in my studio making these all the time,” she said.
Along with newly designed jewelry, Fay sells vintage and antique jewelry that an Etsy online store. She buys pieces and refurbishes them and also tries to find out the stories of the jewelry, who made it and who owned it.
Fay grew up in Cinnaminson, N.J., the youngest of four sisters, with Chrissy and Kerry still living.
As well as her jewelry business, she is currently on maternity leave from a nonprofit, Green Faith, whose mission is to teach churches, synagogues and mosques how to be environmentally friendly.
Along with her website, Fay sells her jewelry at Sweet Mabel, a folk art store in Narberth, and also at local craft shows. Pieces run from $65 to $500, depending on whether they are made from silver or gold and if they have gemstones. She will meet local residents at Sweet Mabel if they see something online that interests them and want to look at it in person, she said.
She and her husband, Dan Fay, moved to Narberth about six years ago. A real estate agent suggested Narberth or Media when she said that she was looking for a small town with a strong sense of community.
“We moved in and fell in love with the area. I’m a rabid Narberthian,” said Fay. She said she likes it that she knows so many people and that there are parades and festivals for kids.
“It’s a great place to raise kids,” said Fay. “And it’s a 15-minute train ride to Philadelphia.”
She studied ecology and environmental policy at Rutgers and later took jewelry making courses at the Wayne Art Center and the University of the Arts but considers her jewelry making self-taught. As for her remembrance jewelry, she called the pieces “little badges of courage. Our culture is one where we don’t talk about grief a lot and we don’t talk about difficult experiences. … Jewelry can really be a powerful tool for healing if you allow it to be.”