For someone that encounters jewellery often - surrounded by some of the most talented jewellery designers in the space - I surprisingly don’t have a high turnover of jewels. Something new has to nestle closely with what’s already found a home on my fingers, ears or neck. And that’s because I’m sentimentality personified - attaching meaning to everything.
In fact, it was Roxanne kindly inviting me to write this piece that made me reflect on why I wear the jewellery I do, what sentiments each piece represents and how sometimes I’ve had to part ways with beautiful jewellery in order to move on.
I realised sentimentality is not only joy and happiness, but also pain and anguish, hopelessness and grief. My jewellery choices represent seminal moments in my life - and I don’t necessarily mean those traditional milestones that society impresses upon us, particularly as woman.
So much of modern jewellery marketing can make you feel you’re not achieving enough - if you’re not engaged, married, expecting a baby or a BFF, you’re not eligible for a number of the traditional pieces on offer. But what if your heart’s been broken, you just got a cat, or you just secured that amazing job? Why can’t those milestones be celebrated with jewellery?
Jewellery - most notably yellow and rose gold, with a sprinkle of rose cut diamonds - has been a part of my bejewelled being since my first year on this earth. A trip to the Dagenham jewellers that decorated our local High Street at the age of 11 months sealed my fate as a gold-adorned magpie - my first ear piercing, so that relatives’ gifts of gold earrings wouldn’t go to waste. Oh the pain!
I credit my mother for my love of jewellery, she who (pre-the days of Maria Tash multiple piercings) wore hoop after hoop in her ears - the result of her surreptitious school toilets piercing service for fellow classmates in her rebellious youth!
So it was written into my history (and my sister’s) that we would adorn every part of ourselves with jewels. But it took me years to realise to what extent I invested meaning and sentiments into those jewels - and along with that sentimentality, energy.
It made me think about my relationship to jewellery after my divorce. I clung onto my engagement and wedding rings as I felt they stood for so much, yet in a world as a single woman trying to rebuild life, they held little value. I moved my wedding band instead to another finger. But it was upon meeting a spiritual character on a trip that I was forced to question myself as to why I chose to continue wearing it. I took it off on that trip and asked my mum to look after the ring. Within months. I met my now partner which has been a positive turning point in my life. I truly believe I was carrying negative energy around with me by wearing that ring.
Wedding ring aside, I have often been a jewellery self-gifter. And it’s not just me buying jewels for myself - over 50% of jewellery purchased now can be classed as self-gifting. And it’s now a core facet of marketing for brands who for so long had to find ways to appeal to men in order to sell jewellery. Ask me the story behind each piece I wear now, and I’ll regale you with tales of ill-fated love, achieving First Class Honours at university, a ring to get over said ill-fated love, commemorating my late grandma with a special purchase - and so many more.
But what if we took jewellery marketing one step further - bringing the emotional connection and sentimentality to the fore with multifaceted honesty. Why can’t we promote those lesser celebrated milestones? Desacralise diamonds, democratise the buying process, debunk the myth that partners must buy you these special pieces.
I wonder if we could look to a movement in jewellery marketing where we take a human approach to sentimentality - capturing the full spectrum of emotions and sentiments - happy or sad - and translating those into pieces we will treasure, pass down, and that might be reinterpreted in so many different ways by their future wearers. Mourning jewellery had its heyday in the Victorian period, yet today is rather overlooked. Maybe now is its time, as we experience a global health pandemic that has made us face all manner of truths and sentiments.
As we move into heightened times of awareness and conscious consumerism, sentimental jewellery holds an even more important place - I look forward to each and every piece I add to my collection, and the sentiments that piece will carry with it.”