When I was a kid, I broke everything I came into contact with. I haven’t grown much more graceful as I have gotten older, but I like to think there’s been some serious, measurable improvement. My mother still brings up the pair of diamond earrings she bought me when I got my ears pierced for the first time in the midst of a sweltering summer mall… and I’m twenty-two now. Talk about having a reputation follow you around. As a result of my youthful clumsiness, my family quickly learned not to trust me with anything that cost more than, say, twelve dollars. This held true for earrings, necklaces, and all other kinds of beauty accessories – hair ties and barrettes included. I started to become more responsible as I entered my teen years, but I had years and years behind me that carried a brutal reputation. It got to the point where I was excused from helping bring the dishware in and out of the dining room during Thanksgiving dinners, but I wouldn’t complain.
Needless to say, prom was the first occasion I can remember where jewelry became very important to me. I wasn’t expecting it to, to be quite honest. I’d floated through my teens only vaguely aware of my fashion sense. But I learned that night that jewelry can be so much more than just an accessory statement. My grandmother eagerly gave me her mother’s string of pearls to wear just moments before I left home to join my friends. The gravity of the gesture still touches me to this day. There was a huge amount of trust extended in that moment, and an acknowledgement of the transition I was making from careless child to aware adult.
Of course, by itself, the piece was beautiful; it was a family heirloom outside of the gesture, surviving years of care and wear. I haven’t worn real pearls since, but I have always appreciated them as a result because they were part of the lesson my grandmother taught me that night. Gemstones, chains, pearls, diamonds… they can mean so much. The right piece can reach beyond traditional expectations and assumptions. I’m looking forward to the day that the string of pearls passed down the line, to my mother and then to myself, and beyond to my children and their children. A string of pearls can be a legacy of love and trust throughout the generations, telling a story each time it’s packed away or gingerly taken out for special occasion to wear.