When I was in the midst of a messy divorce, one of the things my lawyer said to do was figure out all of the assets, and a biggie, he explained, was jewelry. I was told to carefully go through what I had, make a list, and figure out an estimated value of its worth.
My wedding ring was a simple gold band, and I hadn’t worn it in so long that I couldn’t even remember where it was. My ex had gotten lucky: I was young and naive when we met, and had not made a big deal about anything, including my own wedding. When he’d discovered his grandmother’s old ring in a junk drawer, and I found it pretty, he was able to use it for our engagement, and did not even bother to have it cleaned or appropriately sized. Even though it was antique and platinum with some tiny diamonds, it was so thin and small that its value was insignificant.
In my bedroom is a wire tree cum jewelry organizer, snagged for two bucks at a church rummage sale, where most of my necklaces hang. Underneath it rests a small wooden captain’s dresser which my mom claims is being “lent” to me until she wants it back (and after fifteen years, I’m hoping she’s forgotten about it). Inside are stored assorted rings, pins, and random personal valuables, including my son’s baby tartan hat and cassette tapes of his infant days.
I discover countless pairs of silver hoop earrings; even during heavy workouts or around grabby babies, I keep them on (just not the really dangly ones). I think my passion for this style started way back in my toddler days. I loved to dress up, and my mom had a pair of large silver clip-on double hoop earrings, which my sisters and I sported whenever we pretended to be gypsies, a popular costume in the early 1970s. Even though I got my ears pierced at six, those were the earrings I loved the most, because they gave me my first taste of glamour.
In middle school, feather earrings and hair clips were all the rage. I don’t see myself as naturally photogenic, and in the pre-contact lens era of braces, there do exist a couple of photos where I actually look good. Credit goes to the feathers, which were a hell of a lot better than those ribbon barrettes, trending the year before.
My thirteenth birthday marked the first gift of jewelry from a boy. We had met at summer camp and though we were “best friends,” he had a bit of a crush which lasted throughout high school. I don’t know how, but at twelve, he managed to save up enough money to get me a sterling silver necklace with a heart pendant: engraved on one side was the number “13,” and on the back, “To Lisa, Love, Josh.” Of course, I still have it. There was guilt in receiving such a meaningful present, as the feelings were not mutual, and it took me awhile to get out of the “bad boys are cool” phase. I did recognize though, even then, the value of his attention and effort.
In high school, my mom gave me a piece from her own collection: a pair of dangling, sterling silver hoop earrings from Mexico, with an inlay of turquoise hearts, and it seemed like whenever I wore them, they brought me good luck. They are now in bad need of a polish, and one or two of the hearts have unfortunately chipped out, but I will keep them always, even if I don’t ever put them on again.
In college, I thought I’d met the love of my life and we took a whirlwind spring break trip to San Francisco, where he purchased a pair of artisan style hoops in a health food co-op. I still remember him coming back from the store, the earrings in a paper bag, and how casual it seemed. Who could have guessed that he would suddenly drown a few years later... and those earrings would be a precious symbol of college romance, idyllic futures, and tragedy.
My current love is the only man who ever asked me my ring size, just weeks into our having met. He wasn’t planning to propose (thank God!), but shortly thereafter gave me the gift of a thick silver ring crafted from an antique spoon. Though so early in our relationship, it signified grand things for him as a future partner: he paid attention to details, and cared enough to get the size just right in a one-of-a-kind piece.
When I taught high school English, one of my favorite beginning of the year assignments for the kids was to have them write a “scar story,” and talk about an accident they’d had which left a permanent mark on their bodies. These were dramatic, always fun, and occasionally nauseating to read. The vivid details of catastrophe were a perfect introduction to their unique personalities.
In the same way, the jewelry we wear all the time can be very revealing about us as individuals. I’ve found that some of the best party conversations begin with a compliment about a bracelet a stranger is wearing, which often leads to intimate details on love affairs, favorite trips, or family secrets.
It’s commonly believed that objects we keep on our bodies for extended periods of time pick up our own energy. I know when I wear something belonging to someone I love, I feel a deep connection, even if that person is no longer around.
My lawyer was surprised that there was no real monetary value to my jewelry collection, nothing to put on the list, and nothing to split. GOOD. Its pieces define priceless moments, people, and periods of my life. And I look forward to sitting down with my own daughter one day and going through the stories with her.
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