Jewels to Celebrate the Women who Inspired My Life
This is the final installment in our four part Mother’s Day series. We hope you enjoyed reading and that you were inspired by the stories that were shared and that the gifts given or received by those we interviewed give you ideas for this year.
My own story isn’t traditional—It starts out similarly to other young girls who loved making jewelry out of anything they could get their hands on as gifts for their moms. I glued sparkles to paper necklaces and crafted sequin tiaras for my mom who would wear them with pride and allow me to believe I had designed her dream jewel.
Fast forward from age five to age twelve. During a summer in sleep-away camp—while everyone in Arts & Crafts was making ashtrays with their cracked glass cubes in a rainbow of colors—I decided to go against the pact and create a pendant. It was a huge mosaic circle of colors that would have weighed down Mr. T. My mother put it on it in front of me, although I finally figured out she would take it off whenever she left the house. If not she might have gone into traction.
The last gift of jewelry I remember giving my mom for Mother’s Day was an antique onyx and rose diamond locket brooch. Unlike the ashtray necklace, this piece became one she truly loved and wore almost everyday. A few months later in July of that year, she passed away unexpectedly. She was 55 and I was 32.
Having never been a mom myself — and since I lost my mine, who was also my closest friend – Mother’s Day became a holiday that was difficult on two levels for me. This was until I realized that I was lucky and blessed to have my biggest cheerleader—my maternal grandmother, until she was 97, my favorite aunt on the paternal side of my family (still) and my niece, now 21, who was born four years after my mom passed away. I came to terms with my feelings of loss and stopped thinking of Mother’s Day as a holiday in which I had no way to participate when I learned to honor/celebrate all of the women who had or were still shaping my life, every day of the year.
My niece, whose known my phone number since she was three and who shared confidences with me ever since she could talk reminds me that each generation stays alive inside of us. I have showered her with gifts of jewelry for almost every occasion and she has accepted them excitedly, with no qualms about asking for another bracelet to pile or ring to stack. She is not shy when it comes to the fine art of manipulating another piece for such ‘memorable ’ events as “it’s a really big party for the end of finals’ week or “my neck seems a little bare. I think I need another pendant to layer.” She’s a lot like me in her love for shiny, sparkly things.
In addition to the pieces I purchase for my niece, I began buying gifts for myself on Mother’s Day, most likely to self-soothe, but then again, I also buy pieces for almost every occasion I can justify (“oh look, it’s a snow day!”). But the past several years were different. As a collector of antique and period jewelry I began finding tokens that would keep my mom and my grandmother close to my heart and celebrate my relationship with my niece. I have found pieces at antique fairs and flea markets that are truly sentimental and uncanny in reference to different aspects of the women in my life. Some of these pieces consist of an engraved platinum band with the month and day of my niece’s birth and the year–exactly 100 years earlier, inscribed on the inside. I added one old mine cut and one rose-cut diamond to create a moi et toi ring it and will give it to her to for her graduation from college next year. I have also purchased date rings with the years that my mom and my grandmother were born and rings in hard stones such as carnelian, sardonyx and bloodstone with my mom’s and niece’s first initial; they both share the same one, an S. My most treasured find was a recent signet ring that had an SB, which signifies both my mom’s and niece’s first and last names.
In the same vein I have found pendants with my mother’s and grandmother’s first initials entwined on the front of a gold English coin—a love token from the Victorian era. I have also found a Georgian fob with my mother’s full first name and both a ring and a spinner with the word Joy on it, which my mother gave me as a middle name because that’s what she said she felt when I was born.
I stumbled onto a beautiful pendant with a message of love in French on the front and when I turned it over it had grandmother’s date of birth and initials on the back—it gave me chills and I immediately purchased it.
I will wear them all for a while and eventually pass them down to my niece with devotion, support and the unconditional love that was handed down to me by all the women in my family.
For the three previous installments in the series