When I was a child, I would feel like Indiana Jones slipping into my mother’s room to look in her jewelry box. Not only was it guarded and forbidden, it was full of treasures and, I was pretty sure, magic. My mother has always been a collector of beautiful and unique things and many of them were kept in the plain wooden box on her dresser.
Gemstones, coins, pendants, scraps of paper, and jewelry, so much jewelry, fine, costume, artistic, rustic. I would root through opal rings and gold chains, tangling them all together, examining each piece and always landing on one, the diamond lavalier.
It hung like a bluebell, sleek and perfect, white gold with a slight scallop on the edges. It was my first glimpse at filigree, starting the love affair I would maintain for the rest of my life, etched with flowers, scrolling up through the center. and vines, clutching the small diamond in their midst.
It was beautiful. It was powerful. Before my mother it had belonged to my great grandmother. Knowing it was an heirloom always made it more special as it not only held the magic of my mother but of my maternal line, something that resonated with me before I even understood what it meant.
I come from a line of strong women. My great grandmother came from dirt, dropping out of grammar school to help her widowed mother raise her brothers and sisters, marrying an Irish Catholic officer in Philadelphia and sneaking out to work during the Depression, not because they needed the money, but because once her daughter was in school she needed to stimulate her sharp mind.
My grandmother and my grandfather started out with little and worked hard together, building their own homes with little knowledge of how to do so, raising three girls and traveling the world. Today she is 91 years old and shows no sign of slowing down.
My mother pursued her dream of becoming a professional artist. She worked throughout college and maintained a high GPA. She fell in love with a man who was her equal in creativity, drive and stubbornness and they have fought and laughed their way through their enduring marriage. She is a lifelong feminist, in spite of the movement’s ebbs and flows in popularity, having kept her last name and passing it down to my brother and I as our middle names.
When I married my husband, she passed this lavalier onto me. Over the years my idea of the perfect wedding dress changed drastically, but I always knew the piece of jewelery I would want to wear with it. The diamond lavalier that possessed the grace, the wisdom and the strength of the women in my family.
The lavalier will someday go to my own daughter. At 10 months old she has already proven she possesses the same grit and heart as the women who previously wore this necklace.