I receive the school’s alumnae newsletter around twice a year, and I’m always happy to see it. I love reading about what is going on at the school and what everyone is up to in the class notes. On a fairly regular basis there will be an entry that goes something like this:
It has been quite a year for Liesel! She writes that she has completed her doctorate in Molecular Biology, as well as another masters in Folklore! In her spare time, she has been training for a triathlon. Do you remember those cookies she used to make to “relax”? They have turned into a multi-million dollar business with all the profits going to an orphanage in Cameroon! Congratulations!
My first reaction to reading these entries is always one of awe. My second is one of anxiety, to the tune of, “What am I doing with my life?” This invariably leads to “What is the purpose of jewelry? Why does it matter?”
My neurosis aside, this is a good question.
Humans have worn some kind of personal adornment for as long as we’ve walked the earth. Shell beads have recently been found that are 100,000 years old! It’s thought that we wore jewelry even before we wore clothes to show our rank within a tribe, or for spiritual protection.
I recently found a notebook I kept for a class about jewelry trends. On the opening page I had written, Purpose of Jewelry: 1.Status, 2.Practicality/Functionality, 3. Protection (as an amulet or talisman), 4. Currency, and 5. Symbolism.
I think people today wear jewelry for all these reasons, and more. I know I wear jewelry for some talismanic purposes, but mainly because it gives me pleasure. On a rainy and sad day it’s nice to look down and see something beautiful attached to your hand. I’ve always felt that if you feel better you’ll do better. Aside from self expression perhaps my role in creating jewelry is simply to add beauty to others’ lives that might inspire them.
I’ve been thinking about jewelry’s purpose for many years and I will undoubtedly continue to. Ultimately though, it doesn’t really matter what its purpose is. Or as a jeweler I once knew said to me, “Jewelry is a given. We think it matters, and so it does.”