Thursday, 15 January 2009


I love fine jewelry, the more expensive the better, although I have never been one to wear a great deal at any time. I remember reading an article about an elegant society woman, whose preference was to wear only one exceptional piece at a time. If it was earrings, that was it, no necklace, bracelet, brooch. Just a single focus point, pure and simple. I began adopting that model for many years. Other than a requisite watch, I would wear only a single item. My other habit was to avoid costume jewelry. Much too tacky, I thought. It had to be gold, silver, diamonds or nothing. Just as well that I had chosen to decorate myself sparingly.

Over the years, (another benefit of time perhaps) the generous men in my life have gifted me with many beautiful pieces, so that after almost fifty years, I have assembled quite a collection. Recently I have begun surveying my jewelry boxes. I have even discussed “who gets what” with both of my daughters. Fortunately they chose differently, so no lottery required.

In more recent years, I have also begun to develop an appreciation for costume jewelry. Thanks to the collections of a few family members now deceased, I have an array of glistening and gaudy, grand and tawdry. My grandchildren delight in choosing from the collection to play dressup when they visit. Sometimes I let them each choose one piece to take home. And now that jewelry making, (repurposing new out of old) has become an au courant hobby, I am looking at the various semi-precious pieces with grander plans.

But here’s the curious thing. Recently, I have begun to actually wear more jewelry, more often. Even on days when I know I will be home, at the computer, in front of the stove or sink, I will adorn myself with earrings, necklace and sometimes even a bracelet. Almost garish, my mother would say.

My mother also tells me that her paternal grandmother wore earrings every day of her adult life, big, flashy, jeweled earrings. They were the first thing she attached to her body each morning. Whether gardening or baking the seven pies that she prepared each week for her husband and six sons, the earrings were the hallmark of her style.

The other day I put on a pair of large, round, sterling silver earrings that I have not worn for decades. It staggered me to realize that they were fifty years old, a gift from my first love, when I was eighteen. And they shone as if brand new. One of the beauties of jewelry, I suddenly realized, is that they contain memories. Clothing eventually wears out or shrinks. (That has happened to a lot of my clothing over the past few years.) But jewelry is eternal. The pharaohs had their jewels buried with them in their tombs, still intact to this day.

Now, when I put on a particular piece of jewelry, I feel I am connecting very viscerally with memories, my own history of past loves and generosities. And as I approach seventy, I am discovering that my natural inclination is to live a layered life, with past, present, and future comingling.

So I take new pictures of family at every opportunity and add them to the family archives. I pick up a ski sweater, that I will probably never wear again, from the bottom drawer of my bureau, and briefly hold it to my chest, reliving the swish of the skis, and the sun in my face. I replace it carefully, because, maybe just one more time, I might wear it. And I adorn myself in jewelry old and new, everyday, as if to wrap myself, in the most tangible way, with all the golden moments and brilliant people of my life. I love them all. This habit is becoming one of the most powerful urgings of my golden years.


Wisewebwoman said...

Odd this Marylou, I find as I get older jewellery means less and less to me. I wear one ring that I bought myself twenty years ago and cheap earrings, mainly becuase I always lose the diamonds and emeralds but never the cheap zircons.
What stirs me up is writing, people from my past swirl out of the mists and the clarity of my memory brings them into focus, their words, the way they walked, the way they laughed. Extraordinary.
But I love how your jewellery does this for you.
Lovely post.

Tessa said...

Marylou, you have such a gift for raising the spirits of events and people past from such artifacts. So very different from me, I'm afraid.

I almost never wear jewelry, rarely if ever buy or ask for any, and I'm not even sure where my wedding ring is. And I feel trapped when I look at drawers bursting with sweaters and tops from years back. I know I should fill a great big basket and have them all hauled away to Goodwill or something. In fact, since New Years, I've been on a cupboard clearing crusade, rampaging through cabinets and ruthlessly chucking everything that I have not used for twelve months. I know I should start on closets next, but the very thought wearies me. I think it's because I was so used to sharing clothes with my sisters and swapping stuff around, rather than chucking it. Now I have nobody to swap with, so it accumulates and stifles me.

Marylou said...

Yes, WWW, your response is more the norm, I think, which is why I was eager to explore, in words, my new found approach and attitude towards jewelry (jewellery)...
Thank you for your thoughts and appreciation.

Marylou said...

Hey, what are friends for!!! that you have realigned your body, so successfully, (and I have not!!!)...I would be happy to help you dispose of some of your larger items...(how discouraging, for me, if they are too I suspect they might be...)...
But, as for the jewelry, I have seen some lovely items on from TFH...and didn't I see you wearing earrings one time last year?...I have an idea...when you come for lunch next month, just deck yourself out for the heck of it...and we'll take pictures...I want to add to my ever accumulating memories with friends, events, and even more me greedy or needy...but there it is...

Starzz said...

I admire ladies who wear co-ordinated can make a simple outfit look smashing.
But..I seem to just stick to simple gold hoop earrings and a gold chain which I seldom change.
I don't have the patience to fiddle with changing them all the time..and yet I think "I have all the time in the world now that I am retired"..
I wonder what will become of all the jewelry that I have been gifted with over my life..many rings that don't fit anymore..some fancy dinner rings that belonged to my mother that don't have a place to go with an owner who doesn't care to press them into service.
Seems a shame...
Cheers give us all thoughts to ponder. I so enjoy reading your blog.

Marylou said...

Thank you Carol. With all your granddaughters I wonder if they would value a piece of jewelry that has been updated, as a birthday gift, say for an 18th, or 21st...It would probably cost thess than the other gifts we buy to please our kids...and a bit of heritage for them...I know that is what I am planning to do, remounting some rings, taking an old brooch and redesigning on a simple gold or silver chain. I'll bet there is a goldsmith in your area who could help you (Just dont go to Birk's!!!, they will charge big dollars...Let me know what you decide to do...xo, ML...