Badges of Honor

Local law enforcement officers find a fitting symbol for their sterling reputation.
Photos by Jeremy Sykes
Tiffany & Co. “badges,” which are hand-engraved, can be placed on various silver and gold items, from the Return to Tiffany heart pendants to the round tag charms. $250-$800 each.

As the wife of a Roseville police officer, Michelle DeFreece had long wanted to find a way to keep her husband close to her heart while he was away on duty. And in August 2009, the then-sales professional at Tiffany & Co.’s Roseville store finally found it. Watching a master engraver at work during a team training trip in New York, “I had a lightbulb moment. I think I actually yelled it: ‘Badges!’ ” she says of the idea to feature an image of her husband’s Roseville Police Department badge on a silver Tiffany heart pendant. “I came home so jazzed to do it.”

Soon, DeFreece started working closely with the company’s engravers in Manhattan, sending photo-graphs and sketches back and forth, to create the first-of-its-kind piece. “They did that until it was perfect. The bear on the Seal of California even has a smile—it’s incredible,” she says. “This was exactly the piece that I’d been waiting for. It felt great [to put it on]. I didn’t want to take it off. I was bouncing around the house.”

Then DeFreece started wearing her badge necklace in public—and the rest is jewelry history. “It went off like wildfire,” she says. Within just weeks, customers were asking for the hand-engraved badges to honor their own loved ones in various law enforcement agencies, from the Roseville and Rocklin police departments to the Sacramento County sheriff’s office and CHP (dozens have been sold thus far). News “just started spreading through the community,” adds Roseville store director Margie Quattrochi, who reports that since then, Tiffany boutiques in other cities, like San Francisco and Walnut Creek, have also fielded requests. “These [pieces] are sentimental. Usually there are tears and a lot of emotion.”

That’s especially true, given the fact that the badges are not only created for special occasions, like anniversaries and birthdays, but also in memory of fallen or deceased officers. DeFreece recalls the story of a young Nevada police officer who died from an aggressive form of cancer and whose captain called to ask if a badge could be made within two weeks [instead of the usual four] in time for it to be presented to the officer’s widow at the funeral. “We got it there just in time,” she says. “It was really sad, but also magical.”

Her own Tiffany badges—she now possesses three pieces of varying shapes and sizes—hold special meaning as well. “It is dangerous,” DeFreece says of her husband’s job. “So if you have something close to your heart, you can look down and remember why they go out and what they stand for. It’s the perfect storm of romance and pride.”