The idea for this post came from chatting on our private loop about jewelry with special meaning for us, and it sounded like a fun blog topic.
Personally, I've never been particularly interested in classic jewelry like diamonds and strings of pearls. I like bright shinys, but the jewelry that interests me most is usually old or ethnic or funky–and the pieces generally come with stories.
I've always loved interwining lines of Celtic art and Viking (and Arabic) art, in illuminated manuscripts or stone memorial crosses or jewelry. I have a number of Celtic pins like the bronze one below, and I wear them on coats, sweaters, jackets, whatever. But the brooch at the right above really grabbed me. In the summer of 2018, several Wenches went to the UK to participate in the RNA conference, Wench Nicola being the president that year. We had a great time, and after, Pat and I and our husbands (the IT Guy and the Mayhem Consultant, respectively <G>) flew north to visit the archipelagos of Orkney and Shetland
In Orkney, I saw a promotional brochure with this brooch on the cover and my antenna shot straight up. Our wonderful guide, Lorna Brown, said the shop was directly opposite St, Magnus' Cathedral in Kirkwall, so after admiring the cathedral, Pat and I crossed the street. I looked in the jewelry case and saw this piece and pulled out my credit card. (I got a discount on the brooch by showing the brochure, which was nice–sterling silver designer jewelry does not come cheap.) The brooch looks goldish in the picture, but it's sterling silver.
The piece is by native Orkney designer Ola Gorie. Her collections incorporate wonderful elements of Orcadian and Scottish history: Viking, Celtic, modern Scottish, and much more.
This Alskog brooch was inspired by an 11th century saddle found on Alskog, Sweden, so it is most wonderfully Viking. It fascinates me. When I look at it, I remember that wonderful visit to Orkney–and think about the book I'm writing now. <G> I could tell stories about lots more pieces I love, but now I let others have their turn!
A few years ago I inherited a bar brooch from my godmother. She had always been very proud of it and referred it as “my ruby brooch” and would tell the story of how her husband had given it to her in the early days of their marriage and bought it at the poshest department store in their local town.
I don’t wear bar brooches but I wanted to keep it as a special memento so I decided to have it made into a ring. (I LOVE rings!) I took it along to a jewellers and told them the story behind it, and also said I doubted it could be a real ruby as it was quite big but I’d never wanted to say that to my godmother. They agreed with me, and said that if it was real I’d need a bodyguard when I wore it because it would be so valuable.
It was no surprise to any of us that when they tested it, it wasn’t a ruby but a piece of red glass! Nevertheless, I decided to go ahead and have it made into a ring as a reminder of my lovely godmother and the story of her “Ruby” brooch, and at least I can wear it without worrying I might lose or damage something expensive!
I love jewelry, but I’ve never inherited any as some of the other wenches have. Instead, I’m always picking up pretty pieces as a souvenir and never remember from where. But I do have one gift piece that is special to me.
When IT Guy and I were very young, we were extremely poor. He’d been drafted and was sitting on an isolated mountain top in Korea, staring at missile heads pointing at him. I had a baby at home and was attempting to get by on a minimum wage job as—get this—a credit manager. We had to give up our apartment and our college education when he was drafted. I had to move back home with my newly divorced mom. We existed on hope and love
But when my birthday rolled around, this beautiful watch arrived. My beloved remembered that I have a tiny wrist and could only wear children’s buckle-type watch bands, which I loathed. (This was before the days of removable links!)
The only watch he could find that would fit was this one with tiny diamond chips in it. He saved every meager penny he had for months to buy this. I wore it with love and pride for decades, until a watch cleaner lost one of the hands and replaced it with one my fading eyes couldn’t read. I eventually had to retire it to my jewelry box and buy a battery operated one, now that bands are easily fitted, but my beautiful diamond watch still runs!
Anne here. It's so interesting to see how many wenches love their Celtic designs — and I'm no exception. Probably my favorite Celtic design brooch is the sterling silver one on the left in this photo, with the orange stone — I think it's a carnelian. The stones in the second, Scottish thistle brooch are cairngorms. Cairngorms are natural smoky quartz crystals, named after an old locality in the Cairngorm Mountains in the Scottish Highlands. Cairngorms were traditionally used as ornamental stones in the handles of knives and daggers, in kilt pins, the tops of snuff boxes, and in Highland brooch designs such as this one.
Both brooches belonged to my mother, bought many years ago when I was a child and we went to live in Scotland for a year. I particularly remember her wearing the carnelian one on her favorite green fuzzy coat that she had to buy the minute we arrived, as it was in the middle of a particularly cold winter and transplanted Aussies weren't used to that kind of cold. She loved her cairngorm brooch, too, and often wore it.
The second brooch photo is of a brooch I wear almost all the time with a favorite black cotton jacket. It's not at all valuable, it isn't even real silver, and I bought it from a street stall for not very much money. But I love the design, and that it's of brolgas dancing. Brolgas are tall, grey Australian cranes, and they're known for the mating dance they perform. When I was a little girl I thought it was a kind of magic. You can see them dancing here in this video:
My engagement ring has a very personal meaning for me. It belonged to my French great-grandmother, who gave me the ring when I was a teenager to use someday (she died when she was 98, years before I was engaged). It's an antique diamond set in rose gold and platinum filigree. The stone sits upright in 19th c. fashion in a pretty cage, and the side filigrees are acanthus leaves. Because the antique setting is high, the prongs are vulnerable, so I take it in now and then for cleaning and tightening.
A jeweler once said "Oh, you're here to pick up the angel ring!" The what? From that day on, I've seen two angels instead of acanthus. I was very close to my great-grandmother, visiting her often when I was young, sitting beside her while she would knit and teach me French, and tell stories of her childhood in 19th century rural France. I wear her ring daily with my wedding ring, a narrow gold band set with tiny diamonds. Every morning when I put them on (I am not of the never-take-them-off camp!), I'm reminded how much these rings mean to me and how much love and kindness they represent in my life.
I have a very special Ring With A Story that is close to my heart. The story actually starts with another ring . . . my mother had a gold signet ring with her family crest that her father had given her on her sixteenth birthday. Even as a kid, I was a history nerd and I love the idea of heraldry and crests (reading too many King Arthur stories!) She used to tell me stories of the origins, so the ring was always special to me. When she passed away, it became mine.
It needed to be resized, and I wasn’t going to entrust to just anyone even though it was a simple job. So I went to a jewelry designer, who I knew she had used for some work—he had a very cool shop featuring artisan pieces, including those he made himself. He listened to me explain how very sentimental the ring was to me and said of course he would do the simple sizing. He got a sales order to take down my info and I gave him my name . . .
He looked up and said, “I remember your mother.” A pause. “She got mad at me.”
I vaguely remembered that she had commissioned something from him, but that it had never happened.
“I didn’t blame her,” he quickly added. "She brought me a design for a ring—she wanted me to copy in silver a ring she had bought in Istanbul. I made the prototype, she picked out the exact stone she wanted, and then I was supposed to finish it.” Another pause. “And then I somehow lost it. She wasn’t happy when I told her, and said ‘forget it’."
"That’s too bad,” I murmured. “It’s sounds like it would have been lovely.”
An odd sort of look came into his eyes. “But I found it last week.” I’m sure the look my face must have been priceless. "Would you like to see it?” he asked.
When I went back the following week to get the re-sized signet ring, I also picked up the finished silver ring that my mother had designed, complete with the stone she had chosen. (And I promise you—this is a true story!)
MJP here: I love these stories! Do you have special pieces of jewelry where the true value is not the cost, but the story? Tell us about them!