For someone who owns a lot of jewelry, I wear pathetically little of it. I stalk it, I buy it, I swoon over it, I take it on a little honeymoon, and then I go on to the next infatuation. If I behaved the same way with men, I would be one tired and jaded woman.
But I’m not jaded, except for actual jade. I still love jewelry. I look at other women’s pieces the way I might, if I were more normal, look at their children, with equal parts appraisal and approval (or disapproval). And though I buy much less jewelry than I used to, I do still buy it. Jewelry shopping seems to have taken the place of clothes shopping: I wear the same basic outfits pretty much all the time, in the same color palette (black, white, and gray, with occasional wild forays into navy). Only the jewelry changes.
But while I’m ruthless about getting rid of clothes I no longer wear, I find it harder to do the same with jewelry. I’m still in love with the Mexican silver designed by Matilde Poulat, who signed her pieces ‘Matl’ (and whom I wrote about here). I own a number of her pieces with palomas (doves), a signature folkloric motif, including the necklace and earrings above.
Frida Kahlo, who draped herself in Mexican silver, would probably have worn both these pieces and piled on more besides. It’s said that you could hear her approaching by the sound of her jewelry; she wore it brilliantly. But I’m not Frida Kahlo. If I wear the Palomas necklace, I don’t wear the earrings. And I rarely wear the earrings. They’re too much.
Which raises a question: Should I be collecting such things, even for love, if I’m not likely to wear them? I own some spectacular Matl—lacy silver confections set with amethysts, turquoise and coral. At first glance they seem dressy and fancy and strictly for evening, but their genius is that they can be worn simply and in the daytime. Except that most days I don’t feel I can carry them off. And this is where the jewelry collector parts company with the jewelry wearer.
At some point, I will sell these beautiful ornate pieces, much as I adore them. This may represent a failure of nerve, or simply the fact that I no longer go to an office where I can amuse myself and my colleagues with my jewelry. (You have no idea how many tiresome days this got us through.) But I own other large Mexican silver pieces that somehow work for my Upper West Side life, and those are the ones I’ll keep. The Palomas necklace is one. The necklace below and at the top of this post is another.
I don’t usually show my face in this blog. It doesn’t seem quite decent. But I want to show you how an ornate, hand-hammered silver necklace can look light-hearted and casual. This early Matl Moth necklace is quite rare; I had to wait years for it to come on the market. But it’s an everyday piece for an everyday life—one I don’t have to think twice about wearing. And as long as I’m feeling exhibitionistic, I’ll show you a couple of others.
These silver ‘pearls’ were a revelation to me. They’re by William Spratling, who started the Mexican Silver renaissance (and whom I wrote about here). He most likely took his cue from similar silver beads made by the Navajo. They’re pretty old; if I were a better reader of hallmarks I could tell you exactly how old. Their brushed surface just glows. Spratling silver has a higher silver content than sterling—980 parts per thousand, as opposed to 925. It develops a beautiful patina with time. So you don’t polish these.
This necklace is also by Spratling, and also in his trademark 980 silver. Substantial as it looks, it’s incredibly lightweight and easy to wear. The beauty of all these necklaces is what they do for a black v-neck shirt. They make it look—not dressy, but dressed. They were sold to me by Kathi Jo Ackerman, the absolute doyenne of Mexican silver. (Here’s a link to her website.)
Kathi Jo also sold me a bracelet to match the necklace. My instinct would normally be to avoid wearing them at the same time, but strangely, it doesn’t feel too ‘matchy-matchy’ if I do. This stuff is just wearable.
The Spratling set was part of a ‘look box’ Kathi Jo sent me about a year and a half ago, full of pieces to try on with no obligation to buy. And indeed, I sent almost everything right back to her. But once I put these on, I knew I had to keep them. You have to hold this jewelry in your hands to understand it.
Above, some of the contents of the latest ‘look box’ Kathi Jo sent at my request. I was mightily tempted by the amethyst-studded Hector Aguilar cuff at lower left, but it wasn’t snug enough. I’ve finally learned not to buy cuffs that slide down my wrist. There was also a Matl necklace I wanted to love but knew I’d never wear, below, and some other necklaces that were too similar to pieces I already owned. So it all went back to her, every piece. Aha, I thought. I’ve finally developed some resistance to Mexican silver.
And then she told me she had a Matl Moth necklace for sale.