Sam and I had a Quality Moment a few nights ago. Those are pretty awesome, right?
We were talking about how I make the gold I use to create my jewelry. I explained how I mix pure 24 karat gold with pure silver and copper to make it 22 karat. We talked about the different qualities of alloyed gold and I wanted to show him the color difference of pure 24k to 22k gold and then compare those to 20k and 18k. I had to go digging into my safe to find samples of these lower alloys. Of course he immediately lost interest just as I was getting into it. But, I found the pouch I was looking for and I wasn’t about to pass up a Moment with him. So I said to him,
“You might want to see these pieces. These are yours.”
Ears perked. Head tilt.
First were the silver keyhole limpet shell earrings that I helped his Grandfather Beh order for all four of the Beh women many years ago. Bud loved finding them on the beach in North Eleuthera in the Bahamas; the family’s beloved vacation spot since Sam’s grandparents honeymooned in there in the 1950’s. I had to piece together the story behind the earrings for Sam, but he was clearly engaged and was eager to hear more.
“Grandfather Beh loved those little shells – I recall he even loved saying the name ‘key-hole limp-it.’ Remember the trip the whole family took to Harbour Island when you were little?”
I told him we had all gone there another time when I was just a few months pregnant with him. I recalled the flight back to Miami in a puddle jumper; losing my breakfast while we circled for what felt like hours in the hot sun waiting to land.
Darrien Segal helped create those pretty keyhole limpet earrings. I met Darrien in 1998 at the very first wholesale show I attended to stock my jewelry gallery. Turns out we both went to RISD, too. Sam’s grandfather passed away in 2013.
My engagement ring and wedding band from my marriage to Sam’s dad were next. I would never, ever take apart those rings and reset the diamonds. They were made by my mentors Reinstein/Ross in New York. I had worked for Susan and Brian right after college and enjoyed every minute of it. I loved, loved, loved those rings. Sam looked at them and asked,
“Why are they for me?” slipping them on his little finger, “I’m not going to wear them,” clearly responding from his fourteen year old boy brain.
I told him the rings were his to do with them what he wished. I went on,
”Your dad and I have, and will continue to have, a lifelong relationship, Sam. Part of it, we were married. You were made when we were married and you embody the very best of Dad and me together. Now we are in a different phase, and although we are no longer married, you will always be the shining star of us. That’s why these are yours.”
My upgrade engagement ring. While I had my Magazine Street gallery Sam’s dad and I purchased a new (bigger!) diamond and had it set by one of my favorite jewelers. Michelle Valiante was not only a great friend and colleague, but she was a classmate of mine when I was at RISD and also worked for Reinstein/Ross when we both lived in NYC.
“Sam, this ring came about because of my gallery.” Sam loved my gallery.
He’d ride his trike all over inside, weaving in and around the cases. Hell, I bet most of you remember him in his bouncy seat on the back counter when he was a baby! I felt so fabulous sporting that sparkler. I loved the experience from start to finish from picking out the diamond with my friend Keith Miller to squealing when it was finally done. That ring was Sam’s too.
My locket necklace. This one is priceless. I took it out of the little bag and Sam said,
“OH! I remember that necklace! “
Smiling, he quickly took it from me and opened up the locket. Inside is a favorite pic of him in wearing my orange sunglasses. He must have been 2 years old.
- This locket is exquisite.
- It is perfectly crafted in gold with little orange sapphires on the front.
- Even the clasp on the chain is divine.
I used to wear it frequently since it went with my entire wardrobe – it being all orange as well. When Sam was little, he would always say, “You’re wearing my locket!” He‘d asked to see it and would carefully open it up, smiling so sweetly seeing his own picture and knowing he was so important to me. So important that Mommy put a picture of HIM in it. The significance of that didn’t go unnoticed – even when he was little.
Then were the two stack rings from his dad to celebrate Sam’s birth. Do you all remember the stacks of rings I used to wear? God those were fun. I had a bunch to play with but there were two Barbara Heinrich rings that were always in the mix. It’s a little taupe square sapphire ring and a little peach oval sapphire ring.
My Sammy rings. Magically, they went with everything.
The last piece was the very first gold ring I ever made. It was a HUGE deal to make something in gold when I was studying jewelry and metalsmithing at RISD. Silver was usually as precious as we’d go, however the ring I had designed for some Seussical-esque assignment needed to be made in gold. I set an usually cut orange citrine as the face of a three dimensional house resting simply on top of the band. The ring was about “home.” I had bought the citrine while working for Jean Sample in Des Moines during an internship. I think it was the first gemstone I had every bought as well.
Those few minutes Sam and I shared looking at his keepsake jewelry were themselves precious. I love that he got it; that he reacted and was touched.
I love that HE felt loved and valued. I love that I have these pieces to share with him and that he knows how important that is to me. I love that these pieces were made by artists I know and have a relationship with, that we connected when I worked with them while they were being made. I love the stories I have about them, the why, the when, the how, where and who.
These pieces are unique, original designs. They are beautifully conceived and crafted – each tiny little works of art. They are worthy of the memories and celebrations I assigned to them. They had a deep presence even before they became mine and I added my personal stories to them. They are absolutely worth my priceless memories.
Jewelry that lacked individuality or originally simply would not have cut it.
Cookie cutter, mass produced, predictable, off the rack, seen it on everyone, Tiffany’s, Yurman, I could go on - those jewels have never interested me. They look like Levi’s and a white t-shirt. They do the job. Everybody has them. Everybody wears them. Everyplace sells them.
You know how crazy I am about jewelry. I love everything about it. I am fascinated how we endow objects with meaning. I am in awe of jewelry's inherent value above and beyond the precious materials and high price tags.
The infinite emotion, meaning and symbolism infused in jewelry - I know of no comparable art and craft.
Not to mention, we humans have been at this for over 5000 years.
That being said, I also believe when we honor our unique celebrations with jewelry, those pieces must be as equally fine, distinct and lasting. These pieces bring us so much joy, we should be wearing them every day! They should reflect your style and personality and become the treasured heirlooms they are supposed to be.