Sunday, March 7, 2010
The history behind our love of vintage jewels
I remember those nights as vividly as if I were six years old again. I can picture my Mother standing in front her of dresser mirror, wearing some kind of 1980’s dress, dabbing perfume behind her ears and on her wrists. The final step in this long, anticipated process was deciding which jewelry she was going to wear that night. That was my favorite part, the one that made me bounce up and down on my knees as I sat (now impatiently) on my parent’s bed.
Mom had various jewelry boxes in all different shapes and sizes…her porcelain cloisonné, a bowl that I made for her in art class filled with earrings and the one that played music when you lifted its lid. But I wasn’t waiting for that. It was my Grandmother’s jewelry box, hidden away in her bottom drawer that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. That is where Mom kept her “good” pearls and her diamond earrings and various other pieces handed down from my Grandmother. Mom always chose the expensive pieces, but it was the brightly colored brooches, earrings, and rings that I loved the most. “Costume jewelry,” Mom would say. But it was anything than costume jewelry to me, and they were the only pieces that I was allowed to try on.
I loved the stones that contained every color of the rainbow, and no matter what...they were real to me…rubies, sapphires, diamonds. I would adorn myself from head to toe and watch how they sparkled in the mirror. I looked beautiful and pretended that I was going to that party.
As I grew, I would accompany my Mom to every garage sale that we passed. Sometimes Mom would pick up a piece of furniture that she would take home and cover in another fabric. Sometimes she bought various knick-knacks that sat on our shelves, collecting dust over the years. But I wasn’t interested in furniture and gaudy pictures. It was the antique jewelry that typically sat near the seller’s table that fascinated me the most.
I’m thirty-four years old now and I stop at every garage sale that I pass by. I can’t help it. I especially love the estate sales, remnants left behind after one passes away. I love my vintage belongings and I still love to look at the costume jewelry on the way out.
We now have a business of our own. Many of the accessories that we make are pillow, belts, and bracelets, each with a vintage crystal or bead to give it that old, warm feeling of days gone passed.
I peruse through antique stores in search of these jewels for CarolineAlexander to use in our designs. Brooches, earrings, buttons…anything with a crystal or rhinestone center that can be carefully removed and recycled. That is my contribution to their business, CarolineAlexander, and every time I hit the jackpot, I feel like I am six years old again.
But I can’t help but wonder wear these vintage pieces came from. Who was it that wore that beautiful, crystal brooch? Was it pinned to her coat? Is she still alive? And how did it end up beneath the counter of this antique store? I am intrigued. Who were these women? What is the history behind these jewels? I picture these women living in the mid 1900’s, a debutante, a mother, or a celebrity. They would open their jewelry boxes and carefully pick out which necklace or earrings matched their beautiful party dresses. Where were they going? Were they attending a high school dance, a fancy ball, a dinner party perhaps? Could they have been worn on their wedding day, that tradition of something old or something new? Unfortunately, it will always remain a mystery.
I will never find the answers to all of these questions but I know that one thing is true…there is nothing more beautiful than a piece of jewelry bought or passed down from love. And nothing can embody the personal history behind each and every piece.
I am honored that CarolineAlexander find the beauty in these pieces as well and have been able to preserve the memories behind them. Now they adorn hand-made flower belts and purses and other designs that my family creates for their business…an inspiration to once was, a celebration for someone new. And they will always be something old, something new to me.
To see some of these inspirational designs, please visit www.CarolineAlexander.net
Jillian Walulik & Jenifer Cameron