Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Treasure, Trinkets and the Occasional Diamond

When I think of jewellery, I think of family: of the big green, glittery necklace passed down to me from my paternal grandmother; the strings of faux-pearls and dangling pendants from my late maternal great-grandma; the various brooches from distant cousins and Great-Aunts: all cameos and flowers and sparkly paste echoes of diamonds; the rings from my late maternal grandma. The latter remain especially significant, having been the ones my mum’s mum had made for her - after the end of a particularly awful relationship, she took jewellery from that period to be melted down and the stones re-set in newly designed beautiful silver rings. I wear them all the time now, the loops and whorls of metal contrasting with moonstones and turquoise. I have other rings too, like the two gold bows, one of which belonged to my Great-Aunt Eva – who died of leukemia aged nineteen (read more here). I relish these stories, as I do with all family garments and cast-offs.

I’ve always viewed jewellery as a part of dress-up, to a certain extent – badges and lengths of beads infiltrating childhood play from an early age. My brother and I used to play something called ‘the treasure game’, involving a motley array of trinkets, often broken or rescued from being discarded. We’d pretend to be pirates divvying up our wares, carefully choosing them, one at a time, from a pile in the middle until we each had our stash. Then the bargains began. Was that iridescent bracelet with the broken clasp worth giving up in exchange for a mother of pearl pendant and a hat-pin? What would it take to secure the single mushroom-sized, multi-coloured clip-on earring with its red, purple, green and blue stones?

At secondary school I went through a big Claire’s Accessories phase – buying the kinds of cheap stuff that left your skin green beneath the metal. The goody bags were the best, an unknown pic n’mix delight of possibilities for a fiver – no idea what you’d find when you dug into the plastic. It was all about the small details then – the ear studs you could get away with in school that somehow might still convey some tiny aspect of personality, along with a carefully chosen bag (mine was a Roxy backpack).

I’ve since taken my ‘treasure game’ a little more seriously though, securing plenty of the desirable jewellery, some of it from that early 'pirate' hoard. I mainly wear necklaces and rings (though am planning to get my ears re-pierced soon so that all sorts of marvelous things can then dangle from them once more). Currently I have a line of cocktail glasses in my room, all spilling over with my spoils, nothing new among them other than a charm bracelet from my mum (charms choicely including books, a coffee cup and a champagne bucket) and a few beautiful Bill Skinner items that I got in return for some modeling. Even the old stuff that didn’t belong to family members is also second-hand. One of my most-complimented pendants, usually worn on a silver torc, was from the local charity shop for 50p. Bar one or two precious things (including a very special locket) the collection is not worth much - but imbued with so many resonances and stories and places. 

Usually I’m content with this set-up, eyeing up my vaguely rag-tag assembly of chains, beads and stones, plucking things up according to colour and the day’s/ outfit’s mood. But then I got to wear Pippa Small’s jewellery for an afternoon during this set of portraits, and I felt like a magpie – entirely entranced by all those ammolites and opals and diamonds and tourmalines and amethysts and rubies and so many other stones that are so very satisfying to name. I sat as Susannah Baker-Smith chose each new combination, content to lounge in the afternoon light as my skin was adorned with all these turquoises and golds and greys and rainbow-scattered shades. Some of them seemed to transform when on, while others seemed to transform me. We worked carefully with angles and poses (jewellery is surprisingly tricky to photograph), Susannah moving around and directing my limbs, me holding my breath while I waited for the shutter-click. The shoot was a small, suspended interlude in an otherwise frantic week.

That afternoon also reminded me of the possibilities of modern craftsmanship (especially apt for Pippa – read all about her ethical projects and work with communities here) as well as the sheer, aesthetic pleasure of wearing truly gorgeous jewellery. It does something to you. Not sure exactly what, but it's quietly special. And although it's beyond my price range for now, a girl can idly dream…

Susannah is a marvellous photographer and even more marvellous friend. It always feels like a vague honour to work with her - as I have done twice before. I feel like she captures something of me that's very natural and relaxed. And you can see Pippa's website here.

In other news, I wrote something for Yahoo Beauty on Oxford, outside perceptions, and going my own way. You can read it here



Anova said...

Amazing pictures! I've been actually dreaming of a turquoise-gold ring like yours for ages, it's perfection! xo Anova

Rick Forrestal said...

I love these new shots of you.
And I love opals.

Nice post.

Closet Fashionista said...

Wow such gorgeous pieces!!!
I remember my cheap jewelry phase well, haha. Now I don't wear much but i do have the rings I wear every day as well as a bunch of statement and simple necklaces I like to wear :)

Holly Rose said...

Such beautiful pieces! Jewelry is so special and personal, especially if it's been through your family! x

Ivana Split said...

I don't have any jewelry that has been hand down to me. My husband had some from his late parents, but it all gone, lost when our house was robbed. I have, however, been making jewelry for a time long enough to have had some pieces for years now and to those pieces I can attribute stories.

I do understand what you talk about when you say how important those stories can be. It is same with vintage clothes, that's the main reason why I like them so much...when they come from a family member, they're even more precious.

The photography in this post is exceptional. Kudos to your do look relaxed...and very're such a natural beauty!

You displayed some absolutely wonderful jewelry....stunning pieces, all of them!

Melanie said...

I can appreciate how difficult it is to capture small shiny things in a photograph; these ones are beautiful, the photos and the jewellery. I liked your pirate treasure game. Haha.
I also enjoyed your piece in Yahoo Beauty. You seem to have found a place of relative contentment. I know my image of what Oxford is like is terribly skewed by British detective shows. Heh.

Francesca Rose said...

I love jewellery- well made jewellery- because it's so timeless. The sentimental side is always special too. They way jewellery can be passed on to generation and generation, allowing a part of a past relative to always be with you.

These photos are gorgeous!


Carlota Antolin Vallespin said...

I don't know what to say...Your are just beautiful, peaceful and blue as a nymph.
There is nothing else, just beauty. Beauty by itself is enough for me to enjoy.

I love to see you so transparent.


Lola Byatt said...

It is uncommon of me to comment on your pictures first but I must say, I haven't seen pictures with such beauty and elegance. The first picture is my fave, your hair! and then a beautiful piece on your favorite treasures to go with. I was given a set of earrings from my paternal grandparents, the day I was born. It is very common in asian culture to have baby's ears pierced and so the earrings were able to be enjoyed from a very young age. It was only when I had to see my younger sister have her pierced (as a baby also) that I questioned whether this is necessary? The jewelry you have shown is stunning, love the colour of the stones. I also read your oxford piece and loved it


These precious jewellery pieces are incredibly striking, I've always been fascinated by handmade jewellery, especially if it's passed on from earlier generations. My mum's family friend was a silversmith and glass maker, and I used to love watching them make pieces. Exceptional photographs great tone in these, you're beautifully captured.

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