Jewellery: Rebuilding after loss

From time to time, readers send e-mails asking me things about jewellery purchases. A Montréal reader, L., wrote just before the holidays to say that nearly all of her jewellery was stolen during a home reno, including cherished heirlooms.

The heirlooms are irreplaceable; she might walk around Montréal looking at random strangers' hands and necks—that's what I've done when things were stolen.

She had received an insurance settlement of $4, 000. She asked some questions, which included:
  • Should I buy things for myself, or things to pass on to my daughter?
  • Do I buy one item? Do I instead buy a number of smaller pieces?
  • Where do I go to get a sense of what’s out there and what I like: how do I figure out what is 'me'?
She mostly lives in jeans and works in a very casual environment.

I replied with several guidelines: 
1. Don't spend it all at once— it's not like they cleaned out all your furniture and you have nothing to sleep on. 

2. Here is your chance to update (and possibly upgrade if you wish). Look around. A big, local craft show was on when she wrote; I suggested she drop by to look at different styles and build a sense of what interests her now. I gave her a short list of local jewellers.

3. Passing it down ought not to be the paramount criterion. That plan can backfire on both ends: Mom consults the daughter and buys what the daughter wants, but it's not exactly Mom's style, so Mom is never all that happy—or, when it is time to inherit, the daughter's taste has changed. Auction houses are full of pieces heirs don't want.

4. Over fifty, replacement is different than at thirty. Your jewellery should be real: buy noble metals, real stones or pearls—which need not be big, expensive or branded. 

Those points are valid not just in the context of theft. (When a woman changes lovers, she gets new lingerie; when she changes her life, she gets different jewellery.)

Below, two options. Plan A focuses on "relaxed real"; Plan B enters the fine jewellery level. (You will see the term "demi-fine" sometimes, which means plated or filled gold and sometimes imitation stones or crystals. Not the best long-term choice.)

Plan A: "Relaxed real" earrings, ring, pendant
Going for handmade, well-designed, durable—but not gold or platinum. And a bonus for us, all Canadian jewellers or merchants.

Left: Something for the neckline: I'm taking her to vintage Scandinavian: Elis Kauppi "hidden spheres" carnelian pendant necklace on 23-inch silver chain; from Samantha Howard. Price, $CDN 184.
Centre: Dorothée Rosen "one footer" ring in silver with blue sapphire set in 18k. (Other colours of sapphire available.) The only stones that stand up to everyday wear are diamond and the corundums (ruby and sapphire). Price, $980.
Right: Classic Picots Polish earring by Celine Bourré, Kokass; just enough detail in a mix of silver and 18k gold; truly passe-partout, $CDN 125.
TOTAL (minus taxes and shipping): $1, 290

Plan B: Gold and gemmy: a little more luxe 
The earrings and ring are hand-down quality. All gold can be worn with other gold no matter the karat or colour.

Earrings: Back to Celine Bourré for Tahitian pearls set in green gold, dreamy with these peacock Tahitians, and worth every penny of $CDN 735.
Ring: Step-cut small ruby band set in matte-finish 9k yellow gold, handmade in Dublin by Eva Dorney. Simple and serene on its own, and if she wishes she can add other stacking rings later or right now. Price, £500.
Bracelet/necklace: Anne Sportun Gemstone Wrap bracelet, shown in slate moonstone; price $CDN 400. The wrap bracelet converts to a lariat necklace, so it's like having two pieces. Available in many, many bead options; I liked the low-key elegance of the grey with the ruby ring and pearls.
TOTAL (minus taxes and shipping): $1, 985. 
Still lots left over!

Plan O (as in OMG): "Or should I spend it all on one thing?"
A totally different approach, but $4, 000 does not float in all that often and if you find the perfect thing, go all in! This bracelet that looks casual but is in fact very special; it's firmly on my dream list.

Mathieu Cheminée handmade silver cuff set with rubies, at L.A. Pai Gallery; price, $3, 600.

L. is taking time to make her own deliberations; I've asked her to send photos of her choices. (Since I wrote this, I learned that she's not a "ring woman", and wears only a simple wedding band. However, a comfortable ring can be a new start, and I like rings because you can see and enjoy them.)

 If there's a small silver lining to a sorrowful event, it's that a new choice can become tomorrow's heirlooms and delight L. today.


LauraH said…
As always, love your jewellery posts and this one is packed with good stuff, both pieces and wisdom. Your observation about a change of life = a change of jewellery really struck me. It can apply to so many other externals. For me it was clothing (hello cashmere!), my house (semi-reno) and now ...jewellery. Re-making my surroundings, in increments, to fit my new life was a huge step forward and I'm very happy with the results.

Both the Kokass earrings are wonderful and the wrap bracelet/necklace is such a good idea. Off to drool at the websites:-)

BTW I fully endorse your advice not to buy for the next generation, I know cases where a lot of money was wasted on that kind of thinking.
JohnInWI said…
Wow! Losing cherished heirlooms like that is so sad! Happened to a friend of mine. A caretaker took her rings. I hide valuables now when I am going to be gone for a period of time. Your advice is all sound. Especially regarding making a rash purchase. As for my pretend purchase, I would choose beach glass pieces from Drift Jewelry. -Lily
Susan B said…
Oh, that ring in the top set!! I am swooning!!
Laura J said…
That cuff bracelet is fabulous!!!
I have one of those rough Scandi heavy silver necklaces from the late 60s-early 70s. I would love to wear it, but the chain hurts the back of my neck. Should I drape it in grosgrain ribbon or do something else? Would a bit of silver chain look out of place?
Duchesse said…
LauraH: And don't forget your garden! You have, with the garden and one pair of earrings in particular, honoured the memories.

Lily: When L. described the pieces she had lost, I about wept. Beach glass makes very pretty "relaxed real" jewellery, and it is worry free.

une femme: I bought this ring, set with a lavender sapphire, to replace large, formal ring that my mother gave me, which I never wore, and sold. Dorothée Rosen is a wonderful jeweller to deal with.

Laura Janek: Yes, and he makes those cuffs set with a variety of gemstones. I literally had a dream of this.

lagatta: It is hard to answer your question without a photo as you refer to the chain as hurting your neck, and then refer to "would a bit of silver chain look about of place?" "Draping in grosgrain" has a risk of looking sloppy.A good jeweller can repurpose elements from an existing necklace, which IMO is worth it to get it done so it looks perfect. I know you have the eye to determine what you can do and when to seek a pro.

Wizelliott said…
Having your jewelry stolen really can have silver lining. It did for me. Now as an older woman I am not saddled with items that I have collected up over the years or that have been given to me but never really worked, I have a fresh start at deciding who I am now and what look I will have going forward. It’s a good thing. I immediately replaced one custom made item that did have great sentimental value but also great wearability in my retired casual lifestyle. In contrast a second replacement item just bummed me out and reminded me of the robbery every time I looked at it. I returned it and am having a totally new item made up to fit who I am now. Wish me luck. To all of you out there who may unfortunately have your treasures stolen, look on the bright side.
Duchesse said…
Lizette: It is a little ray for sure, and wise to not be towed under by a loss of anything material. However, there are better ways to divest the things you are not wearing and cannot or do not wish to restyle: sell, donate or give to someone who would like the item. It does not take a burglary to create opportunity to choose something that is "you" now.

There us also the disturbing emotional shock of realizing someone has been in your home, taking your things. I am not sure where your burglary took place. but speaking from experience, I was unsettled for a good while.

What L. lost was deeply important in terms of family history and sentiment— and several pieces were of museum quality. If one loses a traditional diamond solitaire, t is not that hard to replace but when L. described a family necklace, it was a whole different thing.

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