My mother rarely wore jewelry. It was kept for special occasions. She didn’t have many pieces, and most of them were decades old, but treasured, and stored in a satin-lined wooden box not dissimilar to a box I once owned, which contained a stainless steel carving set.
I am unsure whether it was in fact a jewelry box and it wasn’t kept on display. I suppose it wasn’t grand enough to be a display item, but it housed those jewelry pieces for all of my life. The jewelry box was stored in my mother’s top dresser drawer which we weren’t allowed to open. Dresser drawers were out of bounds to children, in the fifties and sixties.
But occasionally, when she was in her bedroom, I would ask to look at her jewelry and my mother would bring out the jewelry box and place it on the bed. I then lifted the lid and my eyes feasted on the jewelry inside.
One of my favourite pieces in my mother’s jewelry collection was her marquesite earrings and necklace set. It appeared to be silver with lilac coloured stones. I never saw her wear this set but she told me stories about times, before she was married, when she would go out dancing several nights a week. For a time, she taught dancing. Ballroom was her favourite style. She told me about the beautiful dresses she wore which she and her mother made on their old treadle sewing machine. In my imagination, I could see a much younger woman wafting around the dance floor in those dresses, wearing her marquesite earrings and necklace. In my mind’s eye, I couldn’t see who she was dancing with. But I knew he must have been handsome and wore a dark suit with shiny leather shoes.
I would lift out the string of pearls, and the matching earrings, which I’d seen her wear on special occasions. The pearls were old, but hadn’t lost any of their gleam. They suited my mother and I wish she’d had more opportunities to wear them.
There were other items, earrings, brooches and necklaces. I can’t remember seeing any bracelets in that box. The jewelry pieces all had one thing in common: they were elegant.
I didn’t have jewelry, as a child. Few children did. There wasn’t the money to spare for children’s necklaces and bracelets in the average family in those days. But I am buying my three grandaughters a jewelry box for Christmas and inside it will be a couple of pairs of new earrings and a bracelet. I can picture them inside, along with little pieces I have already given them: a pair of children's silver heart stud earrings with a cz diamond in the middle, a children's lady-bug bracelet, a gold children's ID bracelet, some cute penguin earrings and little red studs, suitable for my eldest grandaughter to wear to school.
I hope they’ll still be in their jewelry boxes when they become adults, something to fascinate their own little ones, when they peruse their mother’s jewelry box.