What Your Jewelry Says About You

Did you know that your jewelry box tells a tale? Your jewelry isn’t just an accessory – it‘s the story of your life. Beth Bernstein, jewelry consultant and author of My Charmed Life, helps us understand the meaning of our collections.

When did you realize that your jewelry told your story? After my mom unexpectedly passed away at the age of fifty-five, I had to go through her jewelry box. I realized what she had saved were tokens of love and affection:  pieces my brothers and I made for her and pieces she received as gifts from important people in her life.  I realized they tied her life together.

At the time, I was a fashion stylist and I always liked to choose the jewelry first and then match the dress or outfit and other accessories (which is the reverse of how styling is typically done!)  I eventually became a jewelry designer, which then led to my interest in writing about jewelry.  As I wrote and interviewed other creative people and listened to their stories, I realized that the pieces in my own jewelry box told an even bigger story--the story of my life, representative of the loves, losses and the lessons I learned along the way.

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How does our jewelry help us remember our past? Everyone remembers the past in his or her own special way. But for me, jewelry has always created a sense of permanence.  It isn’t fleeting like fashion, and it can be passed from one generation to the next. There is also something very visual about jewelry.  When I think of the people I loved, I remember them in certain pieces and also how those pieces changed when they changed.  Jewelry can reflect love, independence, happiness, and even family. A piece of fine jewelry passed down from generation to generation might connect the family members it has touched. A bold statement piece can mirror a newfound confidence in the same way that a wedding band symbolizes love.

What are some things that our pieces in our jewelry box might say about us? Taking a look at someone’s jewelry can give us a glimpse into someone’s character because people tend to gravitate towards pieces that match their personality. Whether subdued and understated or bold and flashy, willing to take risks or classic and conservative, our jewelry boxes can mimic our lives. Jewelry can symbolize religion, superstition, and even positive energy. And, of course, something as simple as a ring identifies to the world whether you are engaged or married.  

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What's the best way to build a collection that is true to yourself and your style? It’s always important to ask yourself, are you buying the jewelry because it is in style this moment? Or are you selecting it because it truly says something about you? And of course, it's important to be in touch with what kind of style you have. The key thing you should ask yourself when shopping for new pieces and building your collection is: Is the jewelry wearing you or are you wearing the jewelry? If you want to try out a new trend, it should still represent who you are at the moment. 

Are there certain pieces that mean the same thing? Or does each piece have a unique meaning to its owner? Some pieces can universally mean the same thing--like good luck charms- but the owner of course attributes his/her own feelings about the piece.  For example, I have collected various pendants and charms that I wear together on two different necklaces. Many of these have their own spiritual or symbolic meanings but for me they also become more magical because of the person who gave them to me.   Sentimentality certainly sets pieces apart from owner to owner. Most people have kept jewelry because of its emotional worth, not necessarily because it is valuable. Perhaps these pieces are the most important, because they represent different times and people in the owner’s life. 

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Beth Bernstein has been a veteran of the jewelry industry for twenty years–as a writer–reporting on the cultural influences, designers, trends and history that shape this wearable art form and offering tips and ‘how to’ articles on buying and collecting jewelry. She also own a consulting firm, which specializes in personal jewelry shopping for private clients and offers merchandising, marketing and branding for fine jewelers and retailers. “My Charmed Life: Rocky Romances, Precious Family Connections and Searching for a Band of Gold” is Bernstein’s first book. 

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