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Jewelry and Sweet Memories

By Donna Jolly, CSA
Deputy Executive Directory, American Gem Society
This morning, I felt a bit ambitious and decided to dig through a jewelry box that I hadn’t looked at in a while, to see if there were any pieces I wanted to clean or maybe take to my favorite jeweler and repurpose with a new design. The jewelry I keep in this box is more of the memento kind—jewelry passed down that is not really my taste, or jewelry I bought years ago and no longer wear. Much of it is costume jewelry. In fact, I’m not sure any of the jewelry in this box could be considered fine jewelry. Maybe semi-fine at best.
Inside the box is a blue broach that once belonged to my mother. It looks like something that came from a department store in the 50s or 60s. It’s a pretty blue, and having worked around gemologists for a number of years, I know it’s not a real gem as it is a rather odd shade of blue for a precious stone. It’s blue like the sky, late in the afternoon on a cold wintery day. It’s not warm like a sapphire, yet is too deep for an aquamarine. I’ve never worn this broach, but I’ve always liked it. I can imagine my mother wearing it when she was younger, making the perfect accent to whatever pretty dress she might be wearing. In fact, I have a vague memory—so vague it may not be real—of her wearing this with a dark blue dress that was cinched at the waist with a thin belt. I can see the broach on her chest, just above her heart. In my mind, she looks happy and flirty, and this old piece of jewelry, no doubt, has something to do with that.
The item that really brought back memories—very vivid, real ones—was a necklace my parents gave me decades ago when I was in my teens. It was my first piece of “fine” jewelry. I remember unwrapping the gift and feeling completely caught off guard when I saw what my parents had given me. It was a gold necklace with a double heart pendant, and small pearl in the center. It was the epitome of what a “sweet” necklace would look like and very fitting for a southern girl in her early teens.
I loved it instantly. It made me feel a little more grown up than I was, and pretty and feminine, and . . . it made me feel loved. I know. You can’t buy love, but that day, on that cold Christmas morning so long ago I won’t tell you (because then you can figure out my age) I opened a present from her mama and daddy, and for just a second, all in our world was as it should be. Whatever teenage fights I had with my parents back then (YOU WON’T LET ME STAY OUT LATE!) fell away and were forgotten with the amnesia that a perfect gift brings.

At some point, I outgrew this necklace; probably sooner than later. Either me or my mother, though, had the foresight to put it back in its original box and tuck it away, and over the years, despite my numerous moves, from my hometown to San Francisco to Las Vegas, to LA, back to Vegas, I carried that jewelry with me. My parents are both gone now, but if I want to feel the love they had for me, and I for them, I only have to do one thing. Open my jewelry box.