I don’t have a ton of jewelry, at least not compared to many of my co-workers. Amongst the women that I have worked with over the years, an awful lot of their husbands appear to have invested a significant portion of their retirement income into their wives’ jewelry boxes. I guess girls are supposed to be easily won over by sparkly things – I call it "magpie syndrome." Now, I do like nice jewelry, but we haven’t really had the cash for it the past few years. Okay, the past couple of decades. Besides, if you want to spend that much money on me I have this list of books I’d rather have... But of the various bits and pieces, I find that my favorites are all old pieces. Family pieces. I guess it points back to the things I had to say about the stuff of my grandmother’s that I’m going to be getting.
I suppose that an obvious answer to a "favorite jewelry" question for a married woman is the engagement ring. By today’s standards, mine is a small ring. I think someone once told me that the main stone is a quarter karat. But it’s a lovely setting, and I like the fact that it’s low enough profile that I can still wear gloves. The thing that truly makes it special though is that it was my grandmother’s engagement ring. The engraving in the band is "LJH – MB 6-20-36. At one of their milestone anniversaries Grandpa bought her a fancier ring, and she gave it to my mother with the suggestion that she could have the stone reset as a pendant or something. Mom chose to wear it as an engagement ring also (dad hadn’t been able to afford one,) and passed it on to me when I got engaged. As dad says, that ring has some good practice. The jeweler tells me that some day very soon the band is going to snap and need to be replaced. After seventy-three years of wear, there isn’t much of the band left. Ironically, my wedding ring doesn’t make the list. It’s pretty, and it was a real bitch to find a band that would seat properly next to the old setting of the other one but frankly, if something were to happen to it I’d go to Michael’s Jewelers and buy another one. Odd, eh?
The second real treasure in my jewelry box is a diamond heart that also came from my grandmother. Again, by today’s standards it probably isn’t much. But I remember her wearing that heart for all the years of my childhood. It fascinated me as a little girl. I had a tiny rhinestone heart pendant that I would always wear when they were visiting – so that I could be like grandma. I was expecting that it would go to my aunt, but Grandma wanted me to have it. Apparently she was originally going to leave it to me in her will. Then she decided that was no fun, because she wouldn’t be around to enjoy it. Then she was going to give it to me for my eighteenth birthday, but decided that would be no fun, because she wasn’t going to be there to see me open it. So she gave it to me for Christmas my junior year of high school, because we had gone out to Minnesota for the holidays while everyone was still here. It was the last time I saw her.
I wore it (and her ring obviously) for my wedding. Everyone in the family agreed that she would have been thrilled.
There was also a family ring from Bob’s family. Unfortunately when they got divorced, his ex decided to keep his mother’s engagement ring. I think that’s a pretty crappy trick, but it would have been a dilemma for me. I REALLY wanted grandma’s.
But my absolute favorite piece of jewelry is an amethyst lavaliere pendant given to me by my Auntie Blanche. She was the next door neighbor of my grandparents when they lived on Hamlin in St. Paul – no actual blood relationship. Her children were grown and gone and she seldom saw her grandchildren, so when I was visiting, grandma shared hers. I have to admit that I don’t remember her at all. I remember who she was, why I knew her, that I would work in her garden with her, but I don’t remember her. But for my seventh birthday a package came from her in Minnesota, and it was this gorgeous pendant (amethyst is my birthstone.) I was told at the time that it was close to 100 years old. My parents took it to the jewelers and had quite a bit of the chain removed so that I could wear it, but kept those pieces. I had them put back a couple of years ago, with the exception of a few pieces that were so worn that the jeweler deemed them to be a breakage risk. Aside from the fact that it is a very pretty, very unusual piece of jewelry, whenever I wear it I think of the woman who sent such an extravagant gift to another woman’s grandchild. It saddens me that I can’t remember someone I am told adored me, but I think of her many times every year, and someday when I pass it on, I’ll be able to tell Charlotte about her Great-Aunt Blanche who was family in all the ways that really matter.
Come to think of it, I’ve had a lot of family that isn’t really family if you’re picky about definitions. But that’ll be a topic for another post.