I have liked jewelry as long as I can remember. My grandfather used to call me “Little Gypsy.” In my First Holy Communion picture, taken at a professional photographer’s studio, I have on a ring that I got in a gumball machine—an adjustable, tarnished silver metal band with a painted black clover. I suppose it’s actually a club, like on a playing card. I don’t remember my parents asking me to take it off, nor do I remember having a tantrum to keep it on; I just know that it’s there, on the hand on which my rosaries are draped while I hold my prayer book with a devilish grin.
In middle school, in the seventies, I did the silver and turquoise and coral thing. And tiger’s eye and abalone. Multiple rings on multiple fingers. If it didn’t make me laugh when I think back, I’d cringe.
In high school, I thought I might try out gold, although I didn’t have much. I suppose I thought it was more sophisticated and mature (it certainly was more expensive!) and I would alternate silver and gold depending on my outfit. By the time I graduated I had a few pieces of gold jewelry that I treasured, including a birthstone ring I had gotten for my sixteenth birthday, which had two tiny emerald chips and two even tinier diamond chips. My other favorite piece was a charm for my necklace that said Polish Princess. Again, if I weren’t laughing, I’d probably be cringing. Or crying in embarrassment.
In college I was among real princesses, who had more jewelry than I would or will ever amass. I remember this one princess (I can’t remember her name or where specifically she was from, but I believe she was Middle Eastern) who had matching gemstone sets--in emerald and sapphire and ruby. A different gem for every outfit, with matching rings and bracelets, earrings and a necklace—all set in heavy gold. (She had a safe in her room.) Woah. They were gorgeous!
And boy did I feel inadequate. I could not, would not, go back to tiger eye and abalone, so I kept wearing my pauper’s gold and discovered costume jewelry. Now we were in the eighties so big, colorful pieces were in—enamel coated metal earrings the size of a half dollar. Hideous.
Finally, I was in graduate school, and I happened upon what I considered some really beautiful silver jewelry at the Harvard Medical Coop near Simmons. I bought the earrings (still big; it was the late 80s) with one check, and an interesting ring with another, and thus began my love for silver. My love for bold, beautiful, interesting jewelry has not faltered and my collection has grown. Of course it probably doesn’t have much monetary value, it is only silver after all, but the sentimental value of the pieces, and the history they keep for me, makes it priceless.
My baubles tell stories. They remind me of places I’ve been where I’ve opted for jewelry instead of t-shirts: my blue topaz from Portland and the set of three cabochon rings I bought in London. And they take me back to times in my life, like the rings I have from the “silver vendor,” as I called her, on Boylston Street in front of the Arlington Street Church or the bracelet my friends Mandy and Jodi gave my on my fortieth birthday. And some pieces just put me in a good mood, or the right frame of mind, like the gift I gave to myself a few years ago when I was focused on loving and accepting myself, a ring with a quote from Shakespeare engraved in it...
This above all, to thine own self be true.