I have a very special piece of jewelry to show you today. my darlings: The Gem Corps’ Sweet Chairiot, a cleverly designed social justice talisman that has already made a huge impression on the jewelry lovers of Instagram.
The Gem Corps’ Sweet Chairiot is a tribute to Black history, resistance, and remembrance.
Sweet Chairiot is many things: an adorable itty-bitty folding chair, an impressively engineered piece of fine jewelry, a chic addition to any neck stack. But the most important thing about this tiny chair is the countless years of perseverance and bravery it represents.
It is my honor to help spread the word about this remarkable design, but as a white woman, the story behind Sweet Chairiot is not mine to tell.
The Gem Corps’ husband & wife team, Nia Tahani & Leroy Wilkes III, describe the origin of Sweet Chairiot, in their own words:
Continuing in the designers’ own words:
The name, SWEET CHAIRIOT, is a play on the associations that were made between the Negro spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” by black Choctaw freedman Wallace Willis, and the symbol that the folding chair has become since Shirley Chisholm’s famous quote and last summer’s “Montgomery Melee.” It has expanded into the realm of social justice memorabilia for those who are saying, “Not on our watch.”
[The folding chair is] a symbol of resistance and remembrance for the black lives – entire communities – lost to senseless racism from the Middle Passage to today.”– Nia Tahani & Leroy Wilkes III
Available in 14K gold, 18K gold, or sterling silver, with or without a gemstone, Sweet Chairiot comes in two versions: “Rest Mode” and “Resist Mode” (copyright pending). Rest mode is the fully articulated version, capable of opening and closing, while Resist mode is fixed in the closed position.
Each Sweet Chairiot features an eight-pointed “Freedom Star” on its seat, set with an optional diamond in the center, and a Victorian-inspired ancestral hand holding the handle of the backrest. When worn on a chain, the chair will naturally fall into Resist Mode (closed).
The Gem Corps wanted Sweet Chairiot to help the world tangibly as well as symbolically, so they are donating 10% of the design’s pre-launch sales to Alabama Arise, a non-profit that works to “strengthen voting rights, expand health coverage, and advance racial and economic justice across [Alabama],” according to the organization’s founder, Robyn Hyden.
This exquisite golden chair is a perfect example of what I love most about jewelry. It’s objectively beautiful, with its tiny legs, its shining diamond, its carefully-sculpted Victorian-inspired hand bale, but this talisman’s appearance is the least important thing about it.
Sweet Chairiot is everything it represents: it is years of perseverance, it is hope and joy after immeasurable pain, it is the triumph of every generation that never gave up, it is a promise to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves, and it is the hope for a better future, all forged into a wearable moment of beauty fully envisioned and created by Black artists.
And in case you missed it in the quote up above, The Gem Corps said Sweet Chairiot is the beginning of a collection! So we’ll have to keep an eye out for what’s coming next from them.
If you love Sweet Chairiot but it’s not in your jewelry budget right now – or if you just like cozy clothes with cool designs – you can always rock a Sweet Chairiot hoodie.
Images c/o Gem Corps.