The Magic of a Talisman


Jewelry has been worn throughout the ages for reasons ranging from superficial -- like displaying social status -- to superstitious -- like warding off evil. What is common, however, is that certain metals and gemstones have healing properties that affect the life of the wearer.

Rebecca Li first recognized such "powers" from a talisman her mother gave her. Until she was six years old, her family lived in a 129 square foot home with no bath, but she was untouched by notions of poverty because her state of mind was one of unadulterated happiness.

The talisman she received then was a reminder of this -- the purity of love, the power of mindfulness -- and holds that memory for her to this day, in spite of how her life has changed.

"Once our mind is in that good feeling place, we can make magic happen," she explained to UWM. "It's essentially us who create our own reality, but [the] talisman is a physical reminder or 'permission slip' to let us realize our own super power."

Rebecca now operates a jewelry design studio, creating talismans from crystals based on intentions like health, wealth, and creativity; and custom crafts based on consultations with the wearer (or gift giver) and even their own "magical" gemstones -- family heirlooms, perhaps, in need of repair.

Her pieces are as delicate and brilliant as her six-year-old self. She wraps topaz in a minimalist, signature rose gold caging, for example, and may add a black diamond or ruby seal to its circumference.

She sat with UWM to tell us more, including all about that one time she made a talisman for a mystery buyer.




UWM: What is your definition of talisman?

Rebecca Li:  My mom was a professor of geology. I remember when I was about 5 or 6-years-old, she used to take me with her to remote and fossil rich areas to conduct geological survey. No one was babysitting me at that time, and I was free to explore when all the adults were busy doing their work on site.

I remember to be always seeking for my “magic rocks,” and I actually found some interesting crystals and shell fossils during those trips. Those artifacts became my earliest form of talisman collection. Think about it, any crystal or fossil that we see today were created billions of years ago. That was pretty magical to me.

Over the years, my mom and I kept adding pieces into our collection. I always believed talismans are magical, and I was always wearing one ever since I was little. Strangely enough, I am the kind of person who happens to have those seemingly random coincidences that shaped the course of my life.

I used to think those unexplainable events are luck, but now I understand it was never random. I created them.

I had a revelation one day and finally can explain the mystery: We create whatever our mind conceives and believes. I think the magic is in every single one of us, but we've forgotten that. Somehow those physical objects in our life such as talismans or charms kept reminding us that magic exists, and allowed us to seek for magic, put us in a positive state of mind, and as a result, we created magic for ourselves. I think talisman is an effective tool or permission slip to allow us to make magic.


I know what you mean. I sometimes get a similar feeling of magic from music, too. Do you listen to music while you create the pieces, if yes, what's your favorite song right now?

I love the feeling of making art while listening to music, but I don't always listen to music while I am creating. Sometimes I need to focus in a complete silence, but once I have a clear vision of how a design goes, I will start to play background music when executing my idea. My favorite music category is soft rock instrumental, such as music by an indie band The XX.




Oh, we love The XX! Favorite place for inspiration?

I grew up in Yunnan, China. It's a far southwest region of the country, and the literal translation is "south of the clouds." It is the most diverse region in China culturally.

The north side of my home State is bordering Tibet. That region is called Shangri-La because it's believed to be the place a British author James Hilton visited and got inspired for his most famous novel Lost Horizon published in 1933. In his book, Shangri-La was a mystical, harmonious valley, a permanently happy land isolated from the world. I think my home State always evokes such feeling in me and it is so far my favorite place for inspiration. I live in Los Angeles now, and looking back at my childhood from a different perspective gives me really interesting design ideas.


Do you have a favorite custom piece that you created? May you share the story behind it?

My favorite custom piece is one I made for a mysterious high profile lady. Her assistant contacted me and kept communicating with me about a special crystal talisman. It is based on one of my best sellers, but she didn't want any diamond or gemstone pave on it.

After I delivered the piece, I asked her assistant why she doesn't want any diamond on it. I got an answer that I never even thought of. She said the reason is she doesn't wear diamonds under 15 carat. We all know a 15 carat diamond is extremely rare. It's like half a million dollars worth of diamond. My jewelry is not quite at that level yet, but I think it must speak to her deeply.

This story encourages me to keep creating. I know people like my creation. Maybe there is something really magical going on in my pieces that is above and beyond all those exclusive large diamonds. 'Til today, her identity still remains a mystery to me, and I think that's the most magical part. Life is always filled with magic.




That's so cool. Sometimes less is definitely more. Now that you're a mom too, have you made talismans for your daughters? If yes, did you create them based on their personalities or a certain lesson/memory of yours you want them to hold dear?

Being a mom made me think a lot. Kids learn from parents, and I wanted to find out what the most important thing is that I should teach them, so I know when they grow up they will have the best chances to lead a happy and successful life.

It took me a while to figure out it's not any of those skills that we think are important. It is the way their mind works. As a mom, I can not control circumstances, I can not predict what they will face in the future, but if I know no matter what happens they will choose to see the bright side and find a way to be happy, I am sure their life will be fantastic.

Believe it or not, this is how I realized that talisman is a brilliant way to pass down this “secret” to generations. Ancient people knew it, but we forgot. Kids believe in magic. I believed in my talismans from my mom, and my kids believed in mine. I think they don't know it's their own magic yet, but eventually they will.

My daughters want whatever I'm wearing, so I share everything with them. My 10-year-old's favorite talisman right now is a duck shaped pendant. We have a pet duck, and my daughter wears her lucky ducky everyday. My 7-year-old still loves everything rainbow and unicorn. I am in the process of making one crystal rainbow unicorn for her.

I think all my jewelry will eventually become theirs, and I wish those objects will remind them of the feeling of being with me.