Badge of Honor
by Hannah Waters
If you are looking for a bespoke touch for your beloved spokes, wheel over to Jewelers’ Row in Center City Philadelphia. There, jeweler Jen Green masterfully crafts custom headbadges, which adorn a bike’s front tube like the carved figurehead on a ship. She’s been at it for 15 years, and she is one of the only people in the world who make custom headbadges.
Each badge is made of several layers of cut metal soldered together. “It’s miniature sculpture, and takes molding, cutting, soldering and finishing,” Green says. On one September afternoon, she used a jeweler’s saw to cut an owl from a six-inch square of sheet metal with precision and ease. Next, she solders it onto a second metal sheet—this customer chose rose colored copper and silver colored nickel to add some color—before bending it to fit around a head tube.
Some badges are simple, but others feature several layers of intricately cut metal for a complex design. Recent orders Green filled include a hand cut piece that looks like an etching of a beloved dog and a naughty garden gnome crafted as a gift for a friend. Many of her customers are framebuilders themselves; Green crafts the logos that adorn each of the bikes they make, and some order frequently enough that she keeps a mold in the studio to cast as many are needed. “I’m surprised at how many custom framebuilders there are,” she says. “It’s unbelievable.”
One of those framebuilders, Colorado's Black Sheep Bikes, made her a custom bike in exchange for her headbadges. Of course, she made a headbadge for that bike: an idyllic scene of a field of sheep, with a bike cog for a sun rising in the distance. Surely it helps her stand out from the herd.