Ever since Jaime over at Angloyankophile wrote this piece about jewellery with meaning, I’ve been thinking about it.
Maybe its one reason why I find myself on the bus so often, headed towards the V&A on an idle weekend. Heaps of items with meaning lie in those halls… and I go to just stare at everything.
Staring is maybe the wrong word… I gaze with curiosity (and laugh at myself for the mushiness of that last sentence…) But its true – sometimes I’m surprised at how my imagination kicks into gear in places like that.
I think I’m fascinated with the V&A because I know that behind every gorgeous item, there is a story. Someone’s life is behind every object. Its why I was fascinated by Jessie Burton’s book The Miniaturist. Burton came up with the idea for the story after seeing an intricate doll’s house in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. I’m fascinated by the stories behind things people make.
Jaime’s post resonated with me so much because the most precious item I own is a ring my family created for me after my grandmother passed away. Jewels, passed down through the generations, were some of the items she left behind and in particular, one necklace with three large stones. The necklace, while gorgeous in the 1920s, would probably be hard to find an occasion to wear these days and so my family had the stones cut down and fitted into two rings for my cousin and I.
We didn’t know anything about them until we found them in little tiny boxes under the Christmas tree one year. Mine is silver and hers is gold. I love to think that she’s always wearing hers in San Francisco as I wear mine in London. I haven’t taken it off for any extended period of time since the day I put it on.
At first, I stared at it constantly. I mean, this thing was SHINY. But with time, it has become a constant companion. Which doesn’t make it any less special. It is a portable memory I carry with me everywhere. It reminds me of their house in New Jersey, which I thought was the most magical place on earth as a child. It had perfectly manicured lawns and deer that would mysteriously eat my grandmother’s roses in the night. Lightening bugs would light up the trees in the evening and we were given sparklers on the 4th of July. We drew with chalk on the driveway and I would sneak up to my Dad’s old room and read the messages his friends had written on the walls. We’d sneak into the giant climbing tree in the front yard even though we knew we weren’t supposed to. We’d eat half a grapefruit every morning, without fail. We played Pass the Pigs for hours on end.
These days, its such a part of my everyday that it was nice to really think about it a bit more deeply again. The ring was with me as I drove my cats across the Channel to a new life in London and it was with me on safari in South Africa. It signed my visa application and my last two employment contracts. It swipes my Oyster card on the Tube everyday. It makes my coffee. It sits on my right hand as I type these posts – well… as I try to type these posts with a cat laying on my arm. Its been there for my most important decisions of the last few years. It accompanied me on my latest trip to Paris: my grandmother’s favorite city. Though it has yet to go on a “oh, you wouldn’t believe it, bateau mouche at sunset sailing in front of Notre Dame…” trip – an experience my grandmother couldn’t help but gush about to anyone who happened to mention France.
Thanks to Jaime for her inspiration and I would love to hear about pieces that mean something in your life.