Mary Wallace discovered an old war trunk belonging to her father shortly after his death, and what she found inside was an array of antique war medals and watch fobs which sparked her creativity to launch a jewelry line like no other.
Inspired by a love of everything Parisian, European architecture, and by her beloved father’s stories of travel while stationed in France during World War II, Mary created a unique line that resonates a classic, timeless yet fashion-forward style appealing to women of all ages.
The antique war medals Wallace uses for the underlying current of her jewelry, dictate what the finished piece will look like. For example, the Italian medals are coppery which determines the color of pearls she selects to match.
“The embellishments to my pieces are completely dictated by the integrity of the medal. You want to enhance the medal, not degrade the value or story behind it.”
Mary uses precious stones like labradorite, pearls, chrysoprase, Peruvian opal, coral, turquoise, lapis and carnelian, all set in gold fill and sterling silver. Each antique is spun into a work of art that becomes an heirloom to be worn daily as well as passed down to generations.
Wallace recommends layering the pieces, and has clients wearing her designs with a casual white sundress, or with cocktail dresses and business attire.
Her ideas come to her at all hours of the night, and her sister and niece assist her with assembling and hunting the precious stones and medals from India to the Netherlands.
Mary takes great pride in researching the medals and fobs so that she can tell the story through the design.
Some pieces are one of a kind, if not one of a rare few, and represent military tributes; Victorian sports medals, antique watch fobs and European traditions such as the “Mother and Daughter” medals. After WWI, France lost so many men that medals were commissioned and awarded to women who had multiple children to regenerate the country. Mary takes these medals and pairs them with pearls and other antique relics.
After WWI, all of the allied countries commissioned a victory medal. The instruction to the artists was to use an angel to depict the victory. Each artist had a different interpretation of the angel. These medals are among some of the most popular in the Mary James line, and only increase in value with time.
The name of the company is a tribute to Mary’s father, James, for his inspiration and encouragement.