Monday, April 4, 2011

Grandmothers, Heirlooms, and Shiny Things

Just recently, I noticed something interesting. I was standing at my dresser, putting away clothes, when I noticed that an antique china bowl that I use to hold jewelry looked very similar to the jewelry box sitting next to it. The fresh colors and swirling flowers looked almost like they went together. The bowl is a piece from Robb's grandmother's china set; the jewelry box was my grandmothers. I thought to myself, could it be that these two women who never met and lived across the country from one another had such similar taste? And how did both of these things come to wind up on my dresser, so many years after they had both passed away?

This, I believe, is one of the ways we commune with those who are no longer with us. We visit with belongings, ponder what they meant to that person, and what they mean to us now. Did Robb's grandmother like the china pattern, or was it picked out for her? (I, for one, adore it.) Was this a special jewelry box of my grandmother's, or was it some old thing that someone gave to me to fill with sparkly stuff when we went to pack up her home? Though it may seem morose, I find it quite interesting! So I thought I would spend some time visiting with the grandmothers. Won't you join me?

When my grandmother passed, I was eight years old. For some reason that has never been quite clear to me--perhaps just to keep me occupied--I was given the floral box above and allowed to root through Grandma Gerry's jewelry and fill up the box. Because I was eight, and because it was the '80s, I wound up with a few things I might not have picked now, like the pink crystal heart earrings above.

But there were a few gems that I'm so glad I grabbed. For instance, the Rainbow Girls ring. For those of you not in the know, Rainbow Girls is a "society" with a Masonic heritage, so it's got that element of mystique that's so intriguing. Grandma was a Rainbow Girl in her teens and must have received this ring then. I have tiny little fingers and it only fits on my pinky, so she was either teeny tiny, or she also wore it as pinky bling.
The rainbow and hammer on top of the ring are nice and all, but the setting is what it's all about. I'm a sucker for ornate settings.
Another ring that is a total mystery is this one--the diamond swirl ring. Was it an engagement ring? If so, whose was it? I don't think it was her engagement ring and none of my family has been able to tell me who it belonged to or what it was. Fancy cocktail ring? Priceless gem? I have no idea, but someday if I go to Antiques Roadshow, this will definitely be one of my entries.

And of course, I would be remiss not to mention the grandma ring that I wear every day. It came from Robb's Grandma McClure, the very same one who owned the china bowl above. This is my engagement ring, and it was hers, too. And at the end of the day, I have to say, it's the prettiest engagement ring I've ever seen. Simple, delicate, with a slightly ornate's not too much and not too little. Clearly, us ladies all have excellent taste.

Just last week, I saw Robb's mom and caught her gazing at the ring. She said something to me along the lines of "I was just visiting." And really, that's what we do when we pull out the heirlooms, isn't it? 

And isn't it fascinating that someone can hang onto these pieces for so long, tucked away in a drawer, while others don't even know that they exist? I thought of my dad and uncles as I conceived of this post, and how they might like to revisit some of their mother's jewelry, which they probably haven't seen in decades because it's been in a box in my underwear drawer. Perhaps, if we're lucky, they can recall her wearing these pieces, a memory will be jogged, and a new story will be born.  


  1. Lovely rings... I want to lick them all!

  2. This blog made me cry! I also keep many items as they remind me of the people who have gone on before makes me still feel close to them. The china was selected by Robb's Grandma and Grandpa McCluer when they were married in 1944. China was a very important selection back in the day. I am so glad that you love the ring as much as I do. Edna Berneda Bowyer McCluer would be happy that you are the one that has the ring. Love You!

  3. I never knew that jewelry box was Grandma Gerry's! I think they gave it to you, and let you root through her stuff, because you'd been left out of the will. But I still think it blows that you got the Rainbow Girls ring when I was the one who had to wear all those damn dresses. And yes, I know it was my own fault.

    (OK, I'm kidding about the Rainbow Girls ring. It's good it went to the granddaughter who actually wears jewelry!)

  4. Kaye, I love getting the background story on Edna's ring! And the china, for that matter. So fun!

    Erin, if only I had a photo of you in one of your froofy rainbow girls dresses...oh, if only...

  5. Glamorous! When I was younger, I never appreciated granny's style, 'coz I thought they were too laid back and boring. Never thought that granny's stuff can make me look even more classy and elegant! And now, I'm so into vintage style! BTW, your engagement ring is really the prettiest I've ever seen!

  6. Bridget, thanks so much! I, too, love vintage jewelry. There's just nothing like it made these days. The engagement ring really truly is my favorite ring...I feel quite lucky to have a grandmother in law (and a husband) with such excellent taste!

    1. Found this old post searching for "Rainbow Girl Rings". Just have to mention that the hammer on your ring is a gavel, which means that your Grandmother was a Worthy Advisor of her Rainbow Assembly, the highest office in the assembly. Makes it even more special.