JEWELRY AS HISTORY, PART 2 – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I recently wrote a blog about how the jewelry I’ve collected over the years from other family members can trace our family history through the decades. I can also trace my personal history the same way, starting with the baby bracelet my parents bought for me when I was born. I guess it couldn’t be customized, because it spells my name the traditional way, rather than the way I spell it.

I spell my name “ELLIN”

Below are some pendants my parents and grandparents gave me as a preteen. I still have them all and wear the watch all the time (even though it no longer works).

A very meaningful gift from my grandparents was the Jewish Star of David they gave me on my thirteenth birthday. Boys were Bar Mitzvahed at thirteen but in the early 60’s, girls still weren’t. So this gift was meant to reaffirm my Jewish identity from the grandparents who shaped that part of me. I have already passed this down to my daughter, Sarah, and it means a lot to her too.

Here are two of the many fun costume jewelry pieces my grandfather bought for me as a teenager. Sarah has both of them now, but I wore them for decades.

I managed to get my grandmother to give me one of her Art Deco necklaces when I was in high school because I loved it so much and begged so hard!

Grandma’s Deco necklace

Another kind of ‘jewelry’ that represents an important part of my life, are the political pins I proudly wore and lovingly kept for all these years. My first political ‘crush’ was Gene McCarthy but ironically, I took time off after college and actually worked full time for Ed Muskie in 1971-1972, but I don’t have a pin from his campaign.

Political pins from my first forays into politics

One of my favorite jewelry trends growing up was the choker. I loved them and wore them for years. I had everyday ones and dressy ones and had one to match almost everything I owned that had an open neck.

Two of my large collection of chokers for many years in my late teens and twenties.

One of the most important pieces of jewelry I wear, always, is my wedding band. The one below on the left was from my first marriage and I wore it for 25 years. I loved it so much, that when I went looking for a new band for my second marriage, I tried to find something like it. My daughter and I searched everywhere and only found one that even remotely mirrored the style of the first band. I’ve worn the one on the right now for 17 years and I love it (almost), as much as the first one.

My first wedding band on the left, from 1974, and my second, from 2002 on the right.

While I loved jewelry, the one type of jewelry I couldn’t wear for many years, was the earring. I didn’t have pierced ears and the clip on earrings hurt so much I could only wear them for an hour or so, so I usually just didn’t wear them at all. Then, at thirty-two, a friend convinced me to get my ears pierced. That started a lifelong romance with earrings, now my favorite piece of jewelry. I have so many, I have several drawers dedicated to the unusual collection I’ve amassed over the years.

Below, the top, small gold earring was one of my first earrings. Very quickly I moved on to the bigger and more colorful ‘statement’ earrings, like the other two. I really went wild with earrings, though I’m too small to wear the really giant ones that are popular today.

My first experiments with earrings in my 30’s.

For a while, I was into matched sets of earrings and necklaces.

Matched sets of earrings and necklaces

The most expensive jewelry I ever bought were genuine Indian-made sets below that my first husband got for me over two different trips we made out west in the late 1980s or early 1990s. I still have them and wear them often.

For many years, my mother, daughter and I loved Craft Shows and got much of our jewelry there. We all favor interesting and unusual pieces and obviously love color and texture in what we wear. I never bought a lot of ‘real’ gold or silver jewelry because I could only afford very small pieces and I liked a more dramatic statement from what I wear. When my mother died, she left me her collection of glass jewelry from the artist on the right. So I now have a lot of necklaces, in different lengths, colors and styles from this artist.

Below are some more of the Craft Show earrings (and pendant) I have collected over the years.

Some other pieces that I cherish are the ones below that I wore at my wedding to Tom in 2002. I went back to my love of chokers and wore simple pearl and crystal earrings that matched the neckpiece.

Choker and hairpins I wore at my second wedding, to Tom, in 2002

Some of my jewelry is actually made by talented family members. The necklace and bracelet on the left were made by my first mother-in-law, Dorothy (Nana to everyone). The piece on the right was made by my incredibly talented, first stepmother-in-law, Joy. She was a welder and made amazing metal sculptures that I have all through my home. She also made some pieces of jewelry that are beautiful and unique. This piece is actually two individual sculptural pieces that she suggested I wear together.

The pendants in the middle were made by Sarah, who took up jewelry making for a year or two and became really good at it. The pendant on the right is a beautiful green stone, but you can’t see the color in the photo.

So a lot of what I wear every day reminds me of my past and my family members. And whenever my daughter comes home to visit, we go through the drawers of jewelry from the past that I no longer wear and we reminisce about the people and the places and the times that are evoked by each piece. It’s a fun way to remember our family history.



Categories: Ellin Curley, Family, Marilyn Armstrong, Photography

Tags: , , ,

12 replies

  1. Your Native jewelry is exquisite. I love the colors!

    Like

  2. All very original and interesting Ellin. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
    Leslie xoxo

    Like

    • Thank you! I see jewelry as wearable art and have bought accordingly over the years. It is interesting to see the trajectory from my early years to today. I don’t buy much anymore because I already have so much. I recently went through my ‘don’t wear’ jewelry drawers and recycled some of my old craft show pieces back into my daily rotation. So I can shop in my own house for new and interesting pieces to wear!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! It’s nice to know that other people like my jewelry, although I do get a lot of compliments when I wear my more interesting pieces.

      Like

  3. Interesting post, Ellin! I especially love that art deco necklace!

    Like

  4. Beautiful collection with wonderful memories

    Like

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