When Janet Hill Talbert began her first career as an editor at Doubleday, an air of glamour swirled in her workplace, thanks in part to her colleague at the publishing house, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Talbert’s career skyrocketed, eventually landing her in the position of executive editor and vice president at both Doubleday and Harlem Moon, an African-American book imprint she launched in 2002. But she always held fast to a passion she and Jackie O shared: jewelry.
Today, with On This Rock, her line of sterling silver and gold-plated jewelry, Talbert continues her love affair with words. Most pieces in the New York–based designer’s collection are inscribed with quotes from Scripture. Aretha Franklin, Whoopi Goldberg, CeCe Winans, and Natalie Cole are just a few of the women who have proudly worn her jewelry since the line debuted in 2008.
“My grandmother gave me costume jewelry [when I was] a kid, and I’ve always been interested in doing things with my hands,” says Talbert. But it wasn’t until 1999 that she found herself truly inspired. “I attended a wedding in Nantucket and I didn’t have a date, so I went for a walk by myself on the beach. I picked up stones and had a strange thought: I’m going to make jewelry out of this.” The next week, she found herself staying up beading until two o’clock in the morning.
In 2000, she took a weeklong intensive course at the Jewelry Arts Institute in Manhattan. There, she learned the art of silversmithing. “I was hooked,” says Talbert. She began wearing her designs, and friends and coworkers started asking where she got them.
After a trip to Israel that same year, Talbert began exploring the Old Testament: “It really started to speak to me in a new way, and I began getting ideas for jewelry.” The result was a beautiful collection of pieces infused with a bit of spirituality.
For the next eight years, Talbert juggled a demanding career in publishing with her newfound calling. In 2008 she finally walked away from Doubleday, her professional home for 22 years. “All those years as a book editor, I was helping people achieve their creative goals, but I found I needed something to express myself,” she says.
Her second act has flourished as successfully as her first: Last year, Kathie Lee Gifford called Talbert’s 23rd Psalm Cuff her “favorite thing” on Today with Kathie Lee and Hoda. “My goal for this business is to inspire people through the word of God,” says Talbert. “Wearing these pieces is comforting and empowering and gives us a sense of God’s love. It’s funny. I’ve always loved words, and the Word, so it’s been a natural progression for me.”
By Dimitri Ehrlich
Photography by Rayon Richards