The day after the film's screening, I sat at work surrounded by sapphires and tourmalines, and wondered, Is jewelry necessary?
The attraction to adornment isn't shared by everyone, but by enough people to support a complex global industry. The baubles also serve other needs: for status, for the marking of ritual occasions, and if you're a believer, to impart the healing essences of various minerals. (Not my thing.)
When Minimalists advise getting rid of "trash and trinkets", I understand their perspective, but doubt I would divest my jewellery and feel better for it. Many minimalist exemplars are men, and I wonder if, because of gender bias, they might be less familiar with the pleasure of jewellery; sure, they have their watches, but relatively few wear earrings. Women cluster four deep around a jeweler's booth at a good art or craft show, while 90% of men sail by.
The Minimalist movement asks an essential question; as Vicki Robin and the late Joe Dominguez wrote a generation earlier in "Your Money or Your Life": Is striving mainly to get more stuff a fair exchange for the precious, limited time you have here? And once you fill the trophy case, then what? Millman quotes Chuck Palahniuk in "The Fight Club": "The things you own end up owning you".
I've felt that way about many possessions, from napkin rings to exercise bikes, but regarding jewellery, I feel like a steward of art.
I also feel connected to loved ones; when I wear a piece my mother wore too, in a way she is with me. The other night I dreamed of her. She was reading in a wing-backed chair I'd forgotten we had, and wearing this clip; I awoke savouring the recovered memory.
Am I going to continue collecting jewelry? Yes, in a judicious, limited way, or at least that's my intention.
Would I suggest that others do so? Only if the intrinsic beauty of a piece adds to your enjoyment of life, provides an aesthetic or sentimental burnish, and is within your or the giver's means.
As Sara Teasdale wrote in "Barter",
"Life has loveliness to sell
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
Children's faces looking up,
Holding wonder like a cup."
Though in succeeding stanzas Teasdale says we pay for these things by bartering "many an hour of strife"— hence the title—the best things in life are free, but they also require that we stop doing, and pause to appreciate them.
Jewelry is art which inhabits our everyday lives, becoming almost a part of our bodies.
|Brooch, Cai Xuan|
My friend Beth and I recently spent an hour at Galerie Noel Guyomarc'h admiring their Taiwanese jewellery exhibit: ethereal acrylic pieces by Cai Xuan, formed like sea anenomes, were among our favourites. The prices for many brooches and necklaces were not prohibitive—similar to a good pair of shoes—but we did not feel acquisitive.
I did, however, feel that art/beauty frisson and its attendant rush of want when we paused to look at a selection of sterling and gem-set cuffs by Matthieu Cheminée.
|Photo: Matthieu Cheminée|
What does jewellery do for you? And if we couldn't give you, for example, a cuff bracelet, what is your enjoyable addition to life, minimalist or not?