My jewelry collection includes beach stones, spirit-filled levels, seaglass, arrowheads, washers and nuts from the hardware store, but not very much gold. I like gold jewelry, but I tend to lose things, and losing a gold bracelet is not a position I want to find myself in. The most valuable pieces I own are the least worn, out of fear. The most loved pieces I wear with pleasure. Since losing them would cause me more unhappiness than a losing costly piece, this is a bit difficult to explain.
I have tried various ways to manage my continually growing necklace collection. When I was ten, I had a pink box with a ballerina that popped up when I opened it, spinning to the tinny notes of the music box. Little one-inch square depressions covered in pink fuzz held my gold-plated Plymouth Rock, a tiny vial filled with mustard seeds, and a silver ballerina. All were suspended from delicate chains. The sturdier pieces were coiled and arranged in the larger area below the removable shelf of pink fuzzy squares. Fresh water pearls, a strand of silver beads, and a souvenir choker of small conch shells started out nestled side by side, but ended tangled and intertwined.
As I grew older, the boxes got bigger. At some point I graduated to multiple boxes. The dyed cocoa bean strands I liked in high school took up a lot of space. The three tiny brass bells on a leather strap were worn daily for almost two years before they disappeared from my locker. Finding a nicely divided box was not easy, and far too often I casually tossed my pieces into their box only to spend frantic minutes untangling them when I wanted to wear one.
As a young adult I had been given an amazing box of costume jewelry that my uncle Freddie won at bingo. A cigar smoking, beer drinking, concert pianist bachelor, he did not consider this a cherished prize. There were green plastic shells trimmed in brass and encrusted with purple glass and fake pearls, a three-inch circle of turquoise and cream colored something and a golden Cleopatra neck ring. I was astounded and grateful my older sisters passed on them.
Between the pieces from Uncle Freddie, and my own flea market acquisitions, the boxes were just not big enough. I bought tie holders at yard sales and mounted them on my wall. My necklaces hung visible, untangled and glistening. This was satisfactory for many years. I just kept buying more tie racks. These are often given as gifts to men who have one or two ties, and so are not unusual cast offs at yard sales. I choose only the all wood ones. The ones with hinged brass holders tended to fall apart.
When I moved to the old farmhouse I renovated in Otter Creek, my tie racks and necklaces came with me. My future husband eyed them. He had a lot of ties, and had never had a tie rack. I had been feeling my tie racks were inadequate.
“Those would be great for my ties,” he said. “You can have them if you help me make a necklace box,“ was my reply. “Of course,” he answered, and before his words had faded away I was unscrewing the tie racks and setting my necklaces on the bureau.
I drew up plans for a hinged box with pegs for necklaces. We mounted the tie rack and hung his ties. My jewelry languished. I put the jewelry boxes on Christmas lists, birthday lists, asked his contractor friend to help, and finally put my necklaces in a plastic bin. They were at least in ziplock bags so they did not get tangled, but I could never find the one I wanted. And ziplock bags in a plastic bin is not a way to celebrate my corals and tourmalines, chunky amber from Mexico, Brazilian topaz and Larimar from the Dominican Republic.
This Christmas a treasured gift was a pair of glistening, glittering gold boxes with pegs, built to the sketches I had made years ago. What delight to free my pieces from plastic and hang them. Many had been buried in that bin for years. Some I had not seen in years.
The plastic tub now stores off-season clothing in the attic, a big tote of used ziplock bags is out in the shed, and every morning I open a jewelry box door and look at them all. I stand still, admiring, until one calls, “Me, me, wear me today.”
I select a necklace to work with my outfit, and look at the mass of bracelets, and bowls of earrings. They are next.