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

The Pearl Story

The e-mail’s subject line was: “Do you love pearls?” The sender, D., a magazine crony of mine from way back, wanted to know if I’d be interested in writing a story about pearls for the Wall Street Journal’s Style section. (Yes, the business paper of record has a Style section.) I was not—am not—looking for freelance writing assignments.… Continue reading The Pearl Story

Jaded

If you think I’m an expert on jade, you’re barking up the wrong tree. I covet it. I own it. But I will never claim to have anything more than an amateur’s eye for it. My husband once asked a gemologist to advise him on jade, and the gemologist said: “I’ve spent my entire life… Continue reading Jaded

In Praise of Glass

I’m a sucker for the real thing, and sometimes the real thing is glass. Though it’s manmade, glass is as ‘natural’ as any other gem, being based on silica (silicon dioxide, or quartz), the main component of sand. Melting sand into glass, and adding traces of other minerals to produce various colors, is not only advanced technology, it’s high art. What… Continue reading In Praise of Glass

Girls with Snakes

I do like real ones, provided they’re not venomous. Snakes, I’ve always thought, have nice smiles. And they’re not the least bit slimy—they’re sleek and dry, and go about their business quietly. Snake jewelry, however, is something I never aspired to own until I started collecting old Mexican silver and saw the playful, powerful snake designs… Continue reading Girls with Snakes

The Hamster Host

Some years ago I was trying to describe my latest purchase to my friend Iris, who deeply understands my jewelry addiction, being similarly afflicted. “Well,” I said, “it’s a tiny gold pendant, set with diamonds you can hardly see except for the sparkle. I’d say it’s about the size of…a communion wafer for a hamster.”… Continue reading The Hamster Host