How do you make a charm bracelet cool, modern — and a little edgy?
Jewelry designer Francesca Amfitheatrof answers that challenge in Codebreaker, a sleek silver ladder encircling the wrist into which fits studs and letters she’s dubbed Brix.
The second product volley for her Thief & Heist side gig — her day job is artistic director for jewelry and watches at Louis Vuitton — the unisex bracelet employs a patent-pending mechanism that allows the square Brix to snap in satisfyingly, yet remain loose enough to emit a charming tinkling sound.
“Most jewelry is static and silent,” Amfitheatrof said in an interview. “You swap, you change, you customize — it’s jewelry on the move.…You buy a bracelet and it has a never-ending life because you can constantly change it.
“I also believe silver is going to have a big comeback moment,” she added.
Each bracelet comes with a metal tool to extract the Brix, though a toothpick can do the trick in a pinch.
Sold exclusively at Thiefandheist.co from Sept. 21, the Codebreaker will retail for $289 while each square “charm” costs $38. Amfitheatrof is starting with a silver bangle, the complete alphabet and four kinds of studs. The one she was wearing spelled out “Escape.”
The letters are in relief, set on an angle and in a font reminiscent of propaganda posters from Soviet Russia. Each Brix comes packaged in a bleach-free bamboo paper clamshell set on a chain, which can also be slung on belt loops or handbags to offer as impromptu gifts for other Codebreaker owners.
“For me it’s never ending: We can do symbols, numbers, Chinese characters, star signs — you name it — and then colored stones,” she said. “You have a lot of space to put Brix in it, but it also looks great with empty spaces in it.”
A slightly more delicate version of the bracelet will come in 18-karat gold at a later date.
“I’m not here to create huge collections, but to create ideas that are new,” said Amfitheatrof, who quietly kicked off her brand in 2019 with The Tag, a plastic bracelet affixed with a silver stopper that must be cut off to remove — or the wearer can wait a few years for it to wear out.
She described the Codebreaker as “youthful” and having a strong attitude.
There is winking irony in the brand name, as Thief & Heist also supports causes Amfitheatrof believes in, including Plastic Bank, which is fighting against ocean plastic, for her tag bracelets, and Ace New York for the new Codebreaker. Ace helps homeless people get their lives back on track with education and job programs, while beautifying communities.
The designer noted that donations to Ace are optional at checkout time, while underscoring the Robin Hood mentality of the brand, which melds commerce and causes.
“We want to take it from the people who can afford it and give it to the people who can’t,” she said. “There’s a meaning to Heist and that’s really important to me.”
A globetrotting designer born in Tokyo and trained at Central Saint Martins, Amfitheatrof joined Vuitton in 2018. Before that, she headed the jewelry design team at Tiffany & Co., becoming the first woman to hold that position at the storied American label.
Amfitheatrof broke into the fashion and art world with silver jewelry presented by Jay Jopling of the White Cube gallery in London in 1993. The Italian design firm Alessi still sells a metal bowl bearing her name.