A recent spring clean of his loft led to my father deciding the time was right to bestow upon me the custodianship of the jewellery boxes which belonged to my mother and my nana, both long departed and still much missed.
As I opened them and started to explore their contents I was overwhelmed with memories. These precious objects are worth so much more than their simple monetary value. I felt such a deep re-connection with these women who were so essential to my childhood and youth, and a huge sense of responsibility to cherish these wonderful legacies
Since the dawn of time jewellery has been used to reflect and enhance woman's inherent beauty. As a gift it can be evidence of love, gratitude, seduction, apology or respect. Alternatively when chosen by the woman herself it is self-gifted as reward, solace, or keepsake. Its value transcends so much more than financial worth and is intrinsically entangled with memory and emotion.
What mother doesn't treasure a child's first pasta necklace? What woman doesn't smile fondly at frayed and grubby friendship bracelets from their childhood; the accessories which accompanied their goth/indie/clubber/geek teen phase; the bracelet that their first boyfriend saved up for but which turned their wrist ever so slightly green?
My life, loves, relationships, highs and lows can be traced through my jewellery box. From the pair of earrings which pierced my ears at the age of 9 to my prefects badge of power and the pieces given to me by my parents on my 16th, 18th and 21st birthdays. There is my mother's favourite necklace which is now a physical part of me in the form of a small and beautiful tattoo. There are the pieces my husband bought and designed for me upon the birth of each of our babies.
As soon as I received these treasure chests I wanted to record my thoughts. I wanted to describe a moment in time where I can in some small way connect myself and my daughter in the present day with my mother and nana in the past, and so this photo represents four generations of my family by way of those items which we each in turn have cherished and held dear.
My daughter's jewellery box.
She is not yet three years old, but there is nothing she likes better than winding her fairy up, and listening to the music whilst examining her treasures. She has inherited pearls (the finest of fakeries) from her mother, bracelets from her aunt and paternal grandmother and will be able to select something beautiful from her maternal grandmother and great-nana in due course.
My jewellery box.
My mother's jewellery box.
She gave me her engagement ring as a 21st birthday present and after she died (less than a year later) I wore her wedding ring until the day I was married. Since that day I have worn my own wedding ring bought by my husband and I from the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. A new ring with its own special memories. Both my mother's engagement and wedding rings have carefully been returned to her jewellery box. They seem happy there.
My nana's jewellery box.
On opening it I was amazed to discover that it still bears a faint trace of her scent. A tiny bird-like woman who was always impeccably coiffed and groomed. Six o'clock was cocktail hour every night and she made the perfect lemon meringue pie. It was my childish delight to be allowed to dress up in her ropes of beads and pearls, sit with her on the stairs reading Beatrix Potter books and on speacial occasions to join her and my grampy in bed for a breakfast of teasmaid tea and pink wafer biscuits.
These are pieces which I have been given by my last remaining grandparent. My mother's mother. The locket is over a hundred years old and was given to her by her mother-in-law. It contains a lock of my mothers hair. The paste jewellery was paid off on a weekly basis when she was a 16 year old chambermaid working in a 'big house' circa 1934.
These are pieces which I have inherited from my mother-in-law and kindly given to me as special mementos by my sister-in-law.
New memories are important too. Whilst looking through my nana's jewellery box I found this cocktail ring. My five year old son was fascinated by it, and asked if he could have it to give it to the girl he loved so he could marry her. For posterity my son's first love is called Penny. I am told that she is very pretty and has nice hair. I thought it may be a bit big for Penny's finger right now but I have given him my word that I will save this ring for him so in due course he can find the girl whose finger it will fit and who satisfies a possessive old mother than she can love my son for the precious jewel that he is.
And so to end this post with a photo that brings a lump to my throat. My daughter playing with her grandmother's jewellery box. They never met but love still echoes through the generations.