Family Jewels: Grandma’s Flamboyant Turquoise Pendant

As Valentine’s Day approaches, there seem to be jewelry ads everywhere: newspapers, tv , radio. They all emphasize the value of a brand new piece for your sweetheart. I’ll save my thoughts on the holiday for another time; for now I want to share my family jewels.

As most of my friends could tell you, I love jewelry. In fact, I feel naked without a pair of earrings or a ring on my finger. However, I do not have an expensive collection. The pieces range from $10 earrings up to $2,000 rings, but most fall in the $25- $200 range. Nothing is worth enough to not wear for fear of losing it. My favorite color is blue, which explains my attraction to my birthstone, sapphire;  I also have a large percentage of turquoise jewelry.

My attraction to jewelry goes back to my childhood. One of the first sets I remember receiving was a matching necklace, bracelet and ring. To my recollection the necklace was a gold chain with a red coral bead, encased in a golden heart. The matching bracelet had 3-4 of the same red beads evenly spaced around the chain and the ring was a solitary bead inside a flower-shaped setting. It seemed very fancy to a six or seven year old. I was only allowed to wear it for special occasions, such as church or parties, which is probably why it remained intact long enough to pass on to my daughter.

I remember my Tante who gave it to me fairly well. She was an endearing older woman who spoke very little English but with whom I could communicate through smiles and the few German or English words we each knew. I probably only met her half a dozen times in my life, but the post cards she sent regularly which my mother would translate, reinforced the warm feelings she had for me. Thus the jewelry set reminded me of her and made me feel very special. I tried to convey this connection to my daughter, but I think she was too young to understand its symbolic value. I am not sure to where the set has vanished.

Fortunately not all is lost, as most of the jewelry I have in my collection has a story and/or a person connected to it. Over the next few posts I hope you will bear with me as I describe the meaning of my family jewels. I will begin with:

Grandma’s Flamboyant Turquoise Pendant

Costume jewelry became very popular in the 1920’s. People saw it as an artistic expression rather than a show of wealth. After the Second World War, penny-pinching women who still wanted to dress up collected colorful brooches, necklaces and clip-on earrings. They could still look fancy without spending a fortune. Both of my grandmothers fell into this economic class. They collected their Betty Crocker points in exchange for cutlery, they would not allow food to go to waste, often canning or freezing extras and, when they could afford it, they bought or received a new piece of costume jewelry.

By the time I was born, they each had an eclectic collection of pins, pendants and chains. When I was a girl, I loved to sit at my grandmother’s vanity and look through her jewelry box. Sometimes she would let me try pieces on. I would parade in front of the mirror admiring how I looked in what I thought was the fanciest jewelry in the world.

One piece in particular caught my eye. It had a bright turquoise stone in the center, bordered by a gold collar inlaid with a ring of colorful stones. I do not know how or where she acquired the necklace, but somehow I imagine it could have been given to her by my grandfather when they celebrated their anniversary in Hawaii. The pendant cries for attention, “Take me dancing, with a lei around your neck!” It gives me a picture of my grandmother as a younger, more outgoing woman with a lot of confidence in herself.

It is totally fun to wear any day, even with a sweater and jeans. A simple outfit can make a statement with this flamboyant necklace dangling across my chest. I especially love to pair it with a turquoise bracelet and earrings. When I wear it, everyone notices. If it is the first time they have seen it, I always receive a compliment. I thank them and proudly tell them it once belonged to my grandmother.  As a piece of costume jewelry it is not worth much, but to me it is a priceless piece of my family.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Carol
    Feb 10, 2012 @ 13:03:31

    I love Grandma’s flamboyant turquoise pendant! I have recently started to make some jewelry, because I have recently started to feel a need to wear it more often. Earrings, maybe a necklace, often a bracelet. I am becoming, I think, a flamboyant Grandma.

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    • themiddlegeneration
      Feb 10, 2012 @ 21:08:19

      I have some friends who make jewelry. It seems like a great way to be creative and have something usable to show for it. A you can gather, I love wearing jewelry, not just for how it looks but for what my connection to it is. Now you’ll have something personal you made with your own hands- something to wear proudly!

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