Life with a Spy
When I was a little girl, one of my favorite “special” things to do was play with my mom’s jewelry. I would get to sit up on my parents bed and go through her jewelry box. As I put on each piece, I would go show my mom how beautiful I looked. She had a story for each one, where dad got it, how he gave it to her, what she liked about it. I think I enjoyed hearing those stories as much as I did wearing the jewelry. The jewelry box, and most of the jewelry is from Japan. Some of the pieces came from Siam and India. I remember thinking the box was just the most beautiful and special thing I had ever seen. It was black and red lacquer painted in the typical Japanese scenes. After you opened the lid, there were two compartments that you lifted and slid to each side, doing that opened a larger area that had more gems inside! It played a dainty Oriental tune. I would keep winding it up so it would play over and over, I would pretend I was in some exotic foreign land and that I was a princess admiring all her jewels. I can’t remember when my mom gave me the box, and unfortunately it was lost in a move or ultimately in our fire. I found this picture online, similar to the one my mother had.
Dad was in the Navy. He was a flight engineer on the “Super Connie”, a plane in the ‘Airborne Early Warning Wing of the Pacific’, during the beginning years of the cold war. He was gone a lot when we were stationed in Hawaii and Midway. Eighteen days flying on an assigned mission out of Midway Island, then back to Barbers Point, Hawaii, for the rest of the month, he called them, hops. It was during those trips that he bought the jewelry for my mom.
Her favorite pieces were the Blue Moonstone necklace and 2 sets of earrings, the Jade earrings and the Black Siam Silver pendant, charm bracelet and earrings. She was also fond of the ivory elephant earrings too. Her absolute favorite though was the blue star sapphire ring my dad had made for her. He brought the stone to her when they were first married. He carried it home in a tissue he stuffed into the small pocket in his “blues”. The first ring he had it made into was in a simple 4 prong setting, but the stone fell out and was lost for a time. After she found it and had it re-set she would never wear it for fear of losing the stone for good. When I was about 12-13 years old, dad had the stone set in the setting it’s in now. (See the picture, bottom right corner)
Since I was the only daughter, all the jewelry was handed down to me. Some of my grandmother’s costume jewelry has been handed down to me too. And so, the tradition continues with my six grand-daughters, they love to play with and wear the jewelry. I must confess that I only let them play with mine and my Auntie Em’s old costume jewelry, bought during the 80’s though.
Almost all the women in our family are definitely “into jewelry…for that matter what woman isn’t? I don’t think I ever saw my maternal grandmother, Grossie (short for Grossmutter, german for grandmother) without earrings and/or a broach on. I now have a “new hobby”, researching costume jewelry.
Recently I was favored with a necklace and earrings set that was my paternal grandmother, Nanny’s. She always had some sort of jewelry on too. This set is a signed Judy Lee, the jewelry was sold at parties in peoples homes during the 1950s -70s and was founded by Blance and Aldo Viano in 1949.