Meet the Montreal-Based Brand Behind the Famous Initial Necklace Worn by Meghan Markle
We spoke with designers Randi and Shawna Herlich about the journey they've been on ever since.
Back in 2016, Meghan Markle stepped out in Toronto wearing an initial necklace with the letters ‘H’ and ‘M’ on it – and subsequently sent the world into a meltdown. With no words, just a simple gesture, the then Suits actress confirmed rumours that had been swirling for months – that she and Prince Harry were an item. Naturally, news outlets clamoured for information on the piece and the origins of the necklace were largely misreported across the world. You see, that one necklace that set the royal love story on fire was by a small Montreal-based jewellery company called The Right Hand Gal. And it almost wasn’t made…
“On October 11, 2016, we received an order through email from one of the store’s that we sell to saying, ‘You’ve been commissioned to make a necklace for Meghan Markle from Suits. WHAT, followed by a bunch of question marks,” laughs Randi Herlich, one half of the brand (she runs it with sister Shawna), over the phone. “I can’t say that we were so over-the-top excited because we weren’t as familiar with the show as everyone around us seemed to be. They told us there was a rush [on the piece] and that the order was for an M and an H. It was just at the start of our very busy holiday season and we had so many pre-orders at the time that we were scared we were going to run out of chains so we actually wrote them back and said we’re really sorry but I think we’re going to have to say that we can’t do this order. They wrote back saying, are you out of your mind? You better glue a chain, cut a chain, I don’t care what you do just put the chain together and make this order.”
The pair decline to say who placed the order for the necklace, saying only that it was “Meghan enough” (earlier reports suggest it was Jessica Mulroney who ordered the piece from Toronto’s Ani + Wren boutique).
The sisters – whose passion for their business is palpable during our entire conversation – took heed of the advice and made the necklace in their Montreal studio, and it was hand-delivered to Meghan’s residence in Toronto at the time. In early December, Meghan stepped out wearing the piece and everything fell into place – they finally knew who the H was for. “Never in a million years would we have thought that we would have the honour of a lifetime,” Randi says, adding that that was a big part of the reason why they didn’t make a bigger fuss in the press at the time. “Some media found out it was us and they were so excited but the vast majority of people don’t know it’s us. We didn’t scream it to the magazines – we just figured this was an honour, she didn’t do this so we could sell our jewellery, she did this because she is all about empowerment and empowering women and I take that as the biggest compliment because [our brand] is all about empowerment. We just felt that even though so many people were taking credit that the truth would eventually come out.”
The necklace has been back in the headlines in recent weeks thanks to the release of Finding Freedom. In the book, authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand revealed that Meghan was reportedly scolded by palace aides for wearing the piece. “She was advised that wearing such a necklace only served to encourage the photographers to keep pursuing such images – and new headlines,” the authors wrote. Interestingly, when the best-selling book was first released, the necklace was attributed to another jewellery brand but a few days after it was released, Randi and Shawna received a note from Scobie, Durand the book’s publishers acknowledging the error. “They re-did their due diligence and realized it was The Right Hand Gal,” explains Randi. “They saw the invoice, they saw the PO and said that they were changing it. So if you look in the new version [of both the digital and print editions] it says The Right Hand Gal, it’s us.”
Creating pieces for a celebrity is nothing new for the brand, with Emily Blunt, Olivia Wilde and Susan Sarandon all on their client list. But at the end of the day, the sisters say they “just create extremely gorgeous jewellery” for any woman who wants to wear it. Randi adds, “We created a line of jewellery that was meant for women who wanted to wear real jewellery but may not want to spend a million dollars on it, they want to be able to buy it for themselves,” noting the brand’s tagline, ‘The left hand is reserved for the misters but the right hand is reserved for the sisters’. “So we created a line of real, hand-crafted jewellery all in Canada that you can wear from the gym to the red carpet. We say [it’s] casual diamond jewellery.”
Taking stock of the past few years, Shawna says they’ve been “an amazing ride for us,” noting that the ‘Meghan effect’ has stayed relatively strong across that timeframe. “From the day we announced we made the necklace for her, it never really stopped.” And now that the brand is forever a part of royal history, we suspect it never will.