From the sacred scarab beetle charms of Ancient Egypt to the crown jewels housed at the Tower of London, different cultures have told stories through jewelry since the beginning of time. This extends to pop culture, too, as jewelry takes on deeper meaning in TV shows, movies, and comic books, like Wonder Woman’s Bracelets of Submission and the Kimoyo beads seen in Black Panther. RockLove Jewelry Founder Allison Cimino has made an entire career out of this type of storytelling, giving fans a way to express themselves through their bling.
As RockLove’s sole jewelry designer, Cimino crafts fandom-forward collections of rings, earrings, bracelets, and necklaces using precious metals; enamel; custom-cut crystals; and fair-trade, genuine gemstones. Cimino takes iconic characters and movie moments and translates them into jewelry infused with personality. Some of her calling cards include 3D sculpts and articulated pieces that move, flip, or reveal in unexpected ways to enhance the world-building magic of various fandoms, like the Pixar X RockLove Up Adventure Book Locket that opens to reveal colorful enamel balloons and an engraved message, the Star Wars X RockLove LOLA Droid Necklace with two hinged wing panels that flap up and down, and the Pokémon X RockLove Pikachu Earrings that make Pikachu look like he’s hanging through your ear lobe with a tail that wiggles back and forth.
“I knew that I had a passion for creating jewelry that could become more than mere adornment — pieces that could hold deep meaning for my customers and become sentimental talismans,” Cimino says.
Whether you want to give your fandoms a subtle wink in an understated way or pile it on with extra pride, Cimino makes sure the attention is in the details. She has created dozens of collections spanning fandoms like Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Studio Ghibli, Star Wars, Star Trek, DC, Dungeons & Dragons, League of Legends, Magic: The Gathering, and Pokémon — and the RockLove collaborations continue to expand.
Cimino’s knack for jewelry design goes back to her childhood. She grew up playing with Lisa Frank plastic bead sets, Bedazzlers, and seed bead looms, and she always received a craft kit for every birthday and holiday gift. She even chose the role of town goldsmith when her third grade class created an interactive Medieval village.
“It wasn’t until college that I seriously considered jewelry design as a full-time career,” Cimino says. “A traumatic allergic reaction to a nose ring inspired me to study abroad, where I learned the intricacies of creating precious metal jewelry from scratch, allowing me to create and wear nickel-free jewelry that I could trust.”
After completing an apprenticeship in traditional jewelry-making techniques in Florence, Italy, Cimino moved to New York City and began working in the Diamond District. In 2007, she founded RockLove, with early collections inspired by gothic Victorian mourning and 1950s pinup imagery like anchors, nautical stars, and ship helms. She began handcrafting jewelry in her home studio and selling it online and at pop-up events, while also collaborating with musicians, authors, charities, and other artists.
“I knew that I had a passion for creating jewelry that could become more than mere adornment — pieces that could hold deep meaning for my customers and become sentimental talismans.”— RockLove Founder Allison Cimino
In the performance world, when two artists across different disciplines are inspired to work together, they earn the nickname “rock loves,” expressing a mutual appreciation for each other’s talents and a desire to create something spectacular as they unite — a fitting inspiration for Cimino’s company name. Cimino’s RockLove projects eventually took on formal licensing deals that grew to include giants like Star Trek and Disney.
“I am particularly drawn to the intricate and fantastical worlds of Star Wars, Star Trek, Middle-earth, and other fantasy and science-fiction franchises,” Cimino says. “These fandoms offer an abundance of visual inspiration, from otherworldly creatures, technologies, languages, and garb, but they also convey greater messages about environmental awareness, inclusivity, unity, and hope. By incorporating elements from these fandoms into my designs, I aim to create pieces that not only appeal to fans of these worlds, but also to people who appreciate the deeper meaning and cultural significance behind the designs.”
Cimino has been a Trekkie since she was 7 years old, when she spent nights staying up late watching reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation with her father. In a twist of fate, CBS contacted Cimino to create a line of Star Trek jewelry in 2014, and RockLove now focuses only on licensed pop culture collections. That 7-year-old girl never would have imagined that she would later create a necklace prop that would appear on Star Trek: Picard.
“That is a total fandom root for her,” says Allison “LuLu” Lazar, RockLove’s chief operations officer and chief experience officer, who has worked with Cimino for the past 10 years. “When she saw the Omega necklace on screen and Sir Patrick Stewart handled it, she was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is the moment. Sir Patrick Stewart has touched my work.’”
Fellow Trekkies can get their own Dahj & Soji Omega Necklace from RockLove, made from the same sculpts as the jewelry made for the TV series. RockLove also has a Women of Star Trek collection featuring earring replicas of some pieces worn by inspiring women from three different Star Trek series; a Klingon collection inspired by the Klingon armor in Star Trek: Discovery; and a Crystal Delta collection featuring Starfleet insignias in garnet red, citrine yellow, and sapphire blue crystals to represent the Starfleet uniform colors.
RockLove’s influence extends from outer space to Wakanda as well. The late actor Chadwick Boseman wore RockLove’s original Kimoyo Bead Bracelet during the Black Panther press tour after Cimino spent a year in collaboration with Marvel Studios for its development. “It is always an exciting and rewarding experience to see celebrities wearing my designs, particularly when they are the actors or creative minds that bring the fandoms we love to life,” Cimino says. “These moments are truly indescribable, and I feel honored to have played a small role in the world of entertainment.”
RockLove first released the Black Panther Kimoyo Bead Bracelet in 2018, and then rereleased it last year with some upgrades: The new version has a Legacy-edition prime bead with a glass core and “Wakanda Forever” engraved glyphs.
“When Chadwick Boseman passed, it was a huge loss,” Lazar says. “Allison said she wasn’t ever going to release the Kimoyo Beads again just because of that direct connection, but in a way of honoring both Chadwick Boseman and the potentials of the future, she donated $25,000 to the United Negro College Fund prior to us releasing the Kimoyo Beads to create a positive sensibility around it, but also hoping that her one impact — RockLove’s impact — will give bright and exciting futures to those who that fund goes out to.”
As an all-women team, RockLove boldly goes where no man has gone before, and Cimino makes it a point to support other women in whatever ways she can. Although the jewelry designs are meant to be unisex, RockLove uses a family-owned, woman-run factory and has several collections supporting strong women. In addition to the Women of Star Trek collection, all of RockLove’s exclusives at D23 Expo 2022 were dedicated to empowering female characters from Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars.
As RockLove approaches its 15th anniversary, there are some exciting collections in the pipeline, including collaborations with video game producers Sony PlayStation, Activision Blizzard, and Bandai Namco. Cimino will continue to use jewelry designing as a medium to tell stories, limelighting the details that create the fabric of a fandom.
This article was originally published in Issue No. 16 of The Pop Insider. Click here to read the full issue!