Geist

‘Geist’ is the German word for spirit, as in holy spirit. It also means ghost. It means soul. Some jewelry has Geist—an echo of the spirit of its maker or its past wearers. And some jewelry is soulless. The more soulless it is, quite often, the more it costs, as though paying more for a piece… Continue reading Geist

I Wear the Chain I Forged in Life

This is a story of swag, of jewelry acquired through sanctioned graft. It’s the story of a heavy silver bracelet, hotly desired and cunningly won—though now, decades later, it seems as clanky and cumbersome as the chain of my title, the one that got dragged around by Marley’s ghost in A Christmas Carol. The bracelet, shown at right and at the top of this… Continue reading I Wear the Chain I Forged in Life

Fussy, Fussy

I had a cameo that needed a gold setting, back in the olden days when the price of gold didn’t make me clutch my chest. I brought it to my jeweler friend Blanche Hess. “The Victorians used to surround cameos with seed pearls,” she said. “I’d love to try that.” I thought this was a fine idea and told her… Continue reading Fussy, Fussy

Pale Fire

The first time I saw a moonstone, it set off a tiny lust-storm. It was in a silver ring worn by a classmate—we were college sophomores in a drama program where I didn’t belong, because introverts make lousy actors. The stone had a blue flash that made me want it, and a name that made me want it… Continue reading Pale Fire

A Lurid Tale

These things always begin innocently, at a crafts fair. This particular fair was at Lincoln Center, where I normally wouldn’t think of buying pearls. But there was a vendor with pearls in colors I’d never seen before: iridescent purples, pinks, bronzes. I hated them. And then I loved them. “Those colors are so—so lurid!” I said, meaning it as a… Continue reading A Lurid Tale

Ambabeads

I was ten. Not even. My mother had unearthed from somewhere a strand of reddish faceted beads with a broken clasp. They were translucent and lightweight and sparkled in all directions. They were the prettiest things I’d ever seen. I asked what they were. “Ambabeads,” said my mother. They belonged to her sister Leanore and… Continue reading Ambabeads

Dirty Diamonds

Yes, I know all about the 4Cs of diamonds—Color, Clarity, Cut, Carat weight—the things you’re supposed to care about when you’re shopping for a stone. The best diamonds are whiter than white and clearer than clear, with a cut that brings out their inner fire, yada yada yada. But I’m here to sing the praises of… Continue reading Dirty Diamonds

Stop Me Before I Shop Again

A couple of posts ago I was crowing about how I’d resisted buying jewelry in Santa Fe this summer. My self-restraint went to hell near the end of the trip, when I snapped up a passel of pieces as blithely as if I’d been a buyer for a jewelry store. All turquoise, most of it rare, or at least rareish. After… Continue reading Stop Me Before I Shop Again

The Pearl Cape

The photo above, taken sometime between 1902 and 1904, is of the Empress Dowager Cixi of China. Holding her hand is Sarah Pike Conger, wife of the American ambassador to the Qing court. The photo is extraordinary for a number of reasons, but first, let’s talk about those pearls. Cixi is wearing the famous pearl cape of her… Continue reading The Pearl Cape

The Spoils of Santa Fe

It needs to be said: We go to Santa Fe to see the opera and not to buy jewelry. We’ve been going for the past nine years, during which time I have bought an absolute shitload of jewelry. Something comes over me in that rarefied air and preternaturally clear light: I become a woman possessed by turquoise, as though I… Continue reading The Spoils of Santa Fe