With Pride Month swiftly approaching, a common topic of discussion is a concept that the LGBTQ+ community pejoratively refers to as “rainbow capitalism.” The colloquialism describes the phenomenon of major corporations making shallow gestures of acceptance towards the affected group while neglecting them for the rest of the year. The extent of these companies’ displays of solidarity typically consists of printing rainbows on their logo and products, rarely, if ever, making substantial contributions to a demographic that continues to face marginalization in the current day. While corporations’ attempts at profiting from the LGBTQ+ community is a significant improvement above shunning them entirely, patronizing queer-owned businesses is the most direct means of support towards gender and sexuality minorities.
Queer-owned jewelry is a niche subset within the already overlooked category of LGBTQ+ businesses, making it all the more imperative to highlight and frequent them. Receiving even fewer representation are businesses owned by queer people of color, despite the fact that Black and Brown queer people have historically effected the greatest change in LGBTQ civil rights. In addition to purchasing these fledgling brands’ products and promoting them on social media, directly donating money and resources to them is vital for uplifting these small, independent labels.
Automic Gold was born from the intersection of race and gender, as its designer is the nonbinary, indigenous AL Sandimirova. Succeeding in the jewelry industry since 2009, Sandimirova seamlessly blends masculinity and femininity into their intricate remolding of old, used stones into a new phase of wearability. As its name indicates, Automic Gold offers an array of gold rings, wedding bands, pendants, and earrings with simplistic but polished appeal. The Opal Ring is a stunning item that comprises an orb of Australian opal affixed to a hoop of gold. Other rings of note include the bee-shaped Bee Ring, the serpentine Wave Ring, and the chain-linked Butch Ring, all of which are solid gold. Automic Gold is not only inclusive of all races and genders, but it is also dedicated to delivering products that are sustainable and affordable.
Black Queer Magic’s intersectionality is evidenced by its very name, as well as its primary goal of amplifying Black LGBTQ+ voices. Self-taught jeweler Vanessa Miller’s expert metal smithing and inspired jewelry design are crucial components of the creative process that generates her Afrocentric masterpieces. Cowries adorn items like sterling silver rings and brass bangles, and the Lapis Lazuli 3-Finger Ring is coarsely bound in metal wire. Furthermore, a generous share of Miller's profits are donated to programs that care for the mental and emotional welfare of Black LGBTQ+ people. Miller’s cultural self-expression and righteous anger at racial injustice are integral to her art, and she hopes to spread this intrinsic fulfillment with other Black people through her online jewelry-making classes.
Rosey West prides itself on being owned and operated by several members of the LGBTQ+ community, chief among them founder Michael Dougherty. Smoothly transitioning from his background in evening and wedding wear to retailing and designing jewelry, Dougherty encourages consumers of all genders to freely express themselves through Rosey West’s radiant diamond rings and earrings. Aware that the fight for LGBTQ+ civil rights is ongoing, the acceptance espoused by the brand’s mission statement remains pertinent as ever.
In addition to the burgeoning amount of queer-owned jewelers, there are queer-owned fashion labels that also feature jewelry. Unisex clothing brand Telfar offers stud and T-shaped hoop earrings that come in gold or silver, as well as necklaces that each have the company logo as a pendant. Telfar Clemens, who founded the brand in 2005, uses a portion of his sales to bail hundreds of (disproportionately black) youth out of imprisonment on the infamous Rikers Island. Show & Tell Concept Shop, famous for its vibrant, colorful fashions, is the brainchild of a Black queer woman named Alyah. Founder Alyah makes minimal but creative use of gold with her triangle earrings and her Gold Wrap Statement Necklace, which connects monochromatic fabric with a gold-plated link. Like the previously discussed intersectional brands, Show & Tell Concept Shop is a strong proponent of racial harmony and acceptance of all sexual and gender identities.
Supporting jewelry created and sold by actual LGBTQ+ people appears to be the antidote for “rainbow capitalism,” as they are the originators of liberating fashion jewelry from heteronormativity and stringent gender roles. Most of all, now that marriage equality is the law of the land, queer-owned jewelers are best suited to provide wedding rings for a group of various peoples that fought so bravely for matrimonial rights.