Hope Springs Eternal

About 6 hours before sitting down to write this post, I was extremely fortunate to receive my first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. My husband, Andy, and I both became eligible on the same day and were lucky enough to find two open appointments at the same time at the United Center arena.

The site, where thousands of Chicagoans are vaccinated each day, is run by FEMA and the National Guard. Walking up to the expansive array of white military tents, it felt very much like we were going to a concert or a basketball game—which we’ve done countless times there in the past—but the anticipation and excitement was even greater. Funny how going to get our shots together felt like our first real “romantic” date in a year.

The uniformed soldiers who registered us and administered our shots had a calm air of jadedness, undoubtedly because the novelty of the experience wore off for them long ago. But for us, it was thrilling. Deeply moving even. We subtly fist bumped after the deed was done, then took a selfie outside because we know this is an occasion we will not soon forget. As we left the scene, feeling so empowered and relieved, masked ushers shouted, “Thanks for coming out today!” as if we hadn’t been counting the minutes until this momentous day for months.

The day we landed our appointments was one of my happiest in recent memory. Happy in a giddy, uncontrollable laughter and dancing kind of way. Relief mixed with excitement and anxiety and adrenaline and joy and thinking about the future and also sorrow for the people who never got to see this day. The feeling I settled into after the initial ecstasy passed reminded me of the way I felt when each of my kids slept through the night for the very first time: suddenly, the clouds part and you feel optimistic for the first time in months that the future is going to look a whole lot brighter. In a word, it is hope.


Spring has always been my favorite season because of the hope and potential it embodies. Early spring flowers break through the ground when the air is still chilly because they are certain warmer days are coming, and they always do come. Summer is fully realized bounty, but spring is the promise. And this spring, as the vaccine rollout expands, that hope is even more palpable and urgent.


To commemorate the arrival of spring, I’ve gathered my favorite spring jewelry that sings with bright colors and floral motifs. I can’t believe that in just a few short weeks, I may be able to wear this jewelry out to dinner with friends, something I’ve longed for and fantasized about so much during the past year at home:

Red BonBon Earrings, available on Etsy here ($31).

Lele Sadoughi Tarte Buttercup Button Earrings, available here ($95).

Gorjana Sylvie Earrings, sold out at Nordstrom, available secondhand here ($55).

Kendra Scott Ophelia Earrings, available secondhand here and here.

Colorful “vintage” necklaces from the early 2000s. Similar here and here.

J. Crew Floral Hoop Earrings, available here (colorful version available too) ($65).

Rainbow resin drop earrings. Similar here and here.

J. Crew Crystal Earrings, similar available secondhand here.

Hope you all get to enjoy these early spring days while they last! Soon enough we’ll be lamenting the summer heat…

Love It, Couldn’t Wear It

I recently joined TikTok to see what all the fuss is about (as if I needed one more social-media platform to consume whatever little remaining appetite I have for more screen time). I was pleasantly surprised to find not a mere time waster, but an all-you-can-eat buffet of funny, thought-provoking, heart-warming, and even, at times, rather educational content (shout-out to @ohheyitskelseyrae for the stellar parenting tips!). I haven’t created any videos yet. For now, I’m happy to remain a connoisseur of the Tiks (Toks?), and to share the best of them at an annoying frequency with friends and family.

One of my favorite viral trends in recent weeks involves people showing off cute outfits they couldn’t wear because of the pandemic, while an audio track of a high-pitched voice with a Spanish accent (originally spoken by a creepy cat with superimposed human lips and eyes) repeats “I love it, couldn’t wear it,” with each changing outfit. If you’re not familiar, the way TikTok works is that you can re-purpose other people’s audio for use with your own videos. People have incorporated this crazy cat audio into videos of themselves, their children, and even their pets rocking over-the-top outfits.

Here’s the original:

@lorenapages

I ❤️ what everyone did with my previous AUDIO so I made another one 🤗 can’t wait to see 👏 #catmom #funnyaudio #funnypets #fyp #loveitcouldntwearit

♬ original sound – Lorena Pages

…And here’s a cute kid getting in on the fun:

…And here’s a wiener dog named Wilson serving lots of looks:


The sentiment of the #loveitcouldntwearit trend hits close to home for me. It’s frustrating that I have nowhere to wear all the fantastic jewelry I’ve purchased over the past year because, frankly, I never change out of sweatpants, nor do I ever leave my house for anything other than mundane errands. Sure, I can wear the stuff at home, but what fun is that? As many women will likely agree, we really dress for other women, and besides my mom, I’m not seeing many of those these days.

So, I’ve decided to use this forum to share some of the things I love that I couldn’t wear [out of the house] this year. This includes new jewelry and the fancy clothes I keep buying for unknown reasons (especially considering that, even when I do return to the office, we have a casual dress code…).


First up, we’ve got chunky gold hoops and a lovely faux emerald choker, both from Etsy. The choker is now sold out, but here’s a similar option. (I was inspired to get this necklace by my fave Italian fashion influencer, Chiara Ferragni, who has a similar one shown here.) The bright animal print sweater helps me channel my caged-lion-at-the-zoo energy.

Love it, couldn’t wear it.


Next, we have vintage faux pearl studs from Etsy (similar here and here), sparkly glasses from Zenni, and a purple and pink tweed headband from J. Crew (now available on Poshmark here). So preppy, so chic, so wasted on the hermit life.

Love it, couldn’t wear it.


For my punk-glam look, I’m showcasing beautiful mini chandelier earrings from Nadri and a rhinestone-studded sweatshirt that is basically jewelry in and of itself.

Love it, couldn’t wear it.


Moving along, for the lady-who-lunches-somewhere-other-than-her-kitchen-island look, we have a John Hardy yellow gold dome cocktail ring from Poshmark (similar here and here), Georgian hoop charms from designer Shan Adams, and simple yellow gold huggie hoops from Zoe Lev.

Love it, couldn’t wear it.


Next up is an edgy Kalessi necklace from Vanessa Mooney and sparkly swirl earrings of indeterminate brand that I bought from a local boutique during one of my rare in-person shopping stops this summer (similar styles here and here).

Love it, couldn’t wear it.


And in closing, this “Goldie” ring with mystic quartz from Joy Dravecky, juxtaposed with a sterling silver druzy statement ring from Etsy, and three yellow gold stacking bracelets that I actually do wear out of the house because they tuck nicely under a sweatshirt sleeve (see paperclip chain, bead, herringbone).

Love it, couldn’t wear it (all together).


If my pandemic buying habits stick, I’m destined to come out of quarantine looking fancier than I ever was before. Sure, sweatsuits have their charm, but nothing makes you feel more “together” than slapping on some lipstick and sparkly jewelry. Until that glorious day when this nightmare is truly over, I’ll just be over here, at home, makeup-less and disheveled, but so so comfortable.

Aunt Sew

My mom’s family is full of collectors. Collectors of art. Collectors of natural objects. Collectors of impossibly specific categories of memorabilia (e.g., 1933 World’s Fair commemorative merchandise; pre-Colombian pottery from the banks of the Mississippi River; antique miniature canoes). I once saw a sign at an antique store that read: “We Pay Top Dollar for Old Things,” and that resonated as a potential credo for my family.

No one’s collections speak to me more than those of my dear Aunt Sue, who is my mom’s middle sister:

Image may contain: Sue Ayres Roberts, smiling

Aunt Sue is one of the most creative and crafty people I know. Her passion for sewing earned her the nickname “Aunt Sew” when I was a kid. Her house holds many wonderful treasures, not the least of which is an actual English pub in the basement where my Uncle Tom watches football games and helps himself to PBR from the built-in tap. She also has a small powder room covered in drawings of pin-up girls from the 1950s, and a giant vintage Double-Mint gum box in her kitchen. But her best treasures of all are her hundreds of pairs of earrings. And that’s no exaggeration. Here’s but a small sampling of her inimitable collection:


I interviewed Aunt Sue about her incredible collection. Here’s what I learned:

  • Her jewelry is all costume jewelry, and 90% vintage. She’s not interested in the fancy vintage brands, like Miriam Haskell or Weiss. Instead she prefers earrings of the kitschy variety. (Note: she has a ton of vintage brooches, too.)
  • In my observation, she has never worn the same pair of earrings twice around me, and her earrings always match her outfit impeccably.
  • She had never previously counted her earrings until I asked her to estimate how many pairs she owns. She counted 370 in her personal jewelry chest, but she also has a separate stash of jewelry she purchased specifically to re-sell (she frequents estate sales in the Quad Cities, where she lives, and often scores unbelievable deals on vintage items that she then sells through her Etsy shop–check it out).
  • In terms of storage, she organizes her earrings in the plastic trays that come in boxes of chocolates. Before returning to graduate school later in life to become a special-education teacher, Aunt Sue worked at a popular candy store in Rock Island, Illinois called Lagomarcino’s. While working there, she realized that the chocolate trays the store threw away were perfect for earrings, and so she started saving them.
  • She has never had pierced ears and has never wanted them. All of her earrings are clip-ons or screw-ons.
  • [My favorite tidbit:] She keeps a spare pair of earrings in her car for times when she forgets to put them on in the morning. She admits to returning home many, many times in the past when she has forgotten earrings and was without a spare pair. She “feels naked without them.”
  • Early on during the pandemic lock-down, she eschewed earrings for a while as she wasn’t leaving the house. Now that her grandson (my awesome cousin, Xander!) is coming to her house daily for remote schooling, she has resumed wearing earrings so he will “respect [her] as his teacher” and not just see her as Granny Sue.
  • In college, she wrote an ode to her favorite pair of snake earrings.
  • When I asked where her love for jewelry originated, she recounted this memory: “The family two doors down from us growing up had a flashy mother. The daughter and I went up to the mother’s bedroom one day and checked out the jewelry she kept in a bureau under the eaves. I vaguely remember taking something. Maybe I put it back. I don’t remember whether the daughter took something too. This experience made me want jewelry and to have my own drawers full of it.”

So it seems that extreme love for jewelry runs in my blood. I can’t wait until the pandemic is over and I can not only see Aunt Sew again, but also rifle through her drawers to marvel at her amazing collection in person.

Image may contain: 6 people, people smiling
The Crazy Collector Crew.

Confessions

The final post of 2020!!!

Now that this craptastic year is almost dunzo (don’t let the door hit you on the way out!), I feel compelled to lay bare my jewelry sins of the past twelve months so I can start the new year with a fresh, clean conscience. In no particular order of egregiousness, I confess that:

1. I created a second Gmail account so I could receive the “first-time subscriber” discounts from my favorite brands a second time (it’s not my fault they don’t cross check their lists for duplicate names and addresses!).

2. After binging Selling Sunset on Netflix, I bought a super sparkly, somewhat tacky heart pendant just like the diamond one villainess Christine Quinn wore in almost every episode and still haven’t worn it out of the house once (PS: Christine was my favorite!).

3. I purchased an antique sapphire and diamond ring from an Etsy shop in the U.K., paid extra to have it resized, and paid even more for expedited shipping, only to discover I didn’t really like it when it arrived. So I sold it, at a small loss, through Facebook Marketplace (note: this is the ring at the heart of my earlier diamond detector story):

Image may contain: ring

4. Speaking of Etsy, the company froze my account at the beginning of the year for unknown reasons, though I suppose it was because they suspected fraudulent activity due to heavy traffic (it was all me!). So, I used my new Gmail account to create a secondary profile, and we’re back in business.

5. When a women located in another state was struggling to place an order for one of my rings on Facebook Marketplace and couldn’t figure out how to process her payment, I blocked her so I could sell the ring to a different woman in Chicago who offered a higher price.

6. I bought this custom necklace from BaubleBar and waited over a month for it to ship. The day I received it, I accidentally dropped it in the washing machine before running an extra hot, extra soapy cycle. The clasp is now completely tarnished, but everything else seems to have survived (the “E” sort of looked like a “B” even before the washing):

7. If you’ve been keeping up with this blog, you know I unwittingly sold a woman a fake gold ring.

8. A few weeks into the pandemic, I started showering and getting dressed for the next day at night, because my kids always wake up first and, once they’re up, there’s no time or ability to do anything for myself. So, I now regularly sleep in my outfit–and full jewelry–for the next day. Don’t knock it until you try it!

9. More than a few times, I blogged during work conference calls. (SM, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry!)

10. I purchased a ring from a woman on Facebook (yes, I do occasionally buy as well as sell on the Marketplace). She eagerly shipped it to me that same day, but failed to put the ring in any sort of protective box or padding. Instead, she just dropped it in an envelope and sent it off. Who could have guessed it (!), but the ring arrived severely misshapen. Using two sets of pliers and my countertop for leverage, I carefully bent the ring back into shape. I must say, it looked pretty good! But I didn’t feel the same about it, knowing the trauma it had endured. So, I sold it on Facebook Marketplace to someone else:

No description available.

11. Throughout this pandemic, shopping for and buying jewelry has become therapeutic for me, probably to an unhealthy degree. I spend a lot of time mindlessly browsing jewelry websites, adding things to my cart to get that momentary shopping high, then forget about them as I quickly move on to the next thrilling find. I suspect many of us have developed coping mechanisms to get through this year. It’ll be interesting to see what habits stick once this craziness is over. I, for one, seriously need to work on reducing my screen time in 2021…


To end on an uplifting note, I wish everyone health, happiness, prosperity, and love in the new year. May your 2021 be exponentially better than 2020! We’re so close to being through this nightmare – don’t give up now!

Year in Review

As this year draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting on the roller coaster that was 2020. So much changed, literally overnight, and the future is still so uncertain. In thinking back on my jewelry acquisitions from the past year, I realized that they pretty accurately reflect the mental state and life events I was experiencing at the time of purchase. Revisiting each quarter in turn:

Q1: We were so naive.

As of January / February 2020, we heard rumblings of the “novel coronavirus” sweeping through Wuhan, but we convinced ourselves that it would never hit the U.S., and that even if it did, it would be gone in just a few weeks. In other words, we were idiots. I distinctly remember joking with my colleagues about how we were going to start selling black-market hand sanitizer, and I’m embarrassed to admit now that I harshly judged people who got on the crowded morning train wearing masks, which, at the time, seemed unnecessarily performative. Little did I know that just a few weeks later, my paradigm would completely flip flop, such that anyone not wearing a mask became a pariah.

In those early, blissfully ignorant days of 2020, I bought this magnificent, Georgian-inspired, pear-shaped pendant on a gold swivel dog clip from jewelry designer Shan Adams:

It is razzle dazzle to the max. It shimmers, it shines, it screams “glam.” It is completely incompatible with the sweats, messy buns, and makeup-free looks I would soon be rocking for the foreseeable future. It is a reflection of the optimism I still held onto at the start of 2020, naively believing I would be attending cocktail parties, weddings, or really any social events at all, in the coming months. It is the embodiment of delusion about what was to come.

Q2: Sh*t hit the fan.

Late March through June was, as you are so painfully aware, a time of lock-downs, fear, rising Covid numbers, suffering, social unrest, police brutality, and disillusionment with just about everything. Days felt like weeks, and the news was a never-ending source of fresh anxiety. It was a rough go, to say the least. (In no way do I intend to trivialize any of this by pivoting to talking about jewelry. However, this is a jewelry blog, so true to form, I will now take a frivolous turn.)

During those months when it was hard to see a way out of all the despair in this country, I drowned my sorrows in hours of scrolling through photos of beautiful things online. Jewelry, of course, but also travel destinations, fashion editorials, gourmet recipes, even makeup tutorials. I often landed on Etsy, which seems to be a truly bottomless source of treats for the eye.

It was on Etsy that I found this green onyx and gold necklace, made by Irish designer Jane Asple under her brand EMMABYJANE:

The necklace shipped right away, but I realized after a few weeks had passed that I hadn’t received it yet. I checked the Royal Mail tracking number, and it showed that the necklace was still sitting at Heathrow Airport in London. More weeks went by, but no movement. Finally, nearly two months after it shipped, the necklace arrived at my door unexpectedly one day. I later learned that the U.S. had closed its borders to parcels from other countries for a while. A true pandemic purchase experience.

Q3: The calm before the storm.

When the summer months arrived, things started to look up. Covid numbers seemed to stabilize, the weather was beautiful, small social gatherings could be held safely outside, and my own optimism was at its peak for the year. I bought this beautiful and cheery butterfly necklace by designer Joy Dravecky in August (my exact necklace now sold out; similar option available here). It captures that sense of hope that came with my brief taste of “normalcy” this summer:

Q4: Winter is coming.

The experts were right: the massive fall / winter Covid surge is upon us. We knew the summer lull couldn’t last, and yet it seems we are ill-equipped to deal with the long, dark, indoor months ahead. Thank heavens for the arrival of the vaccine! Seeing videos of healthcare workers receiving their shots brings me joy like nothing else. I am also deeply relieved to know that January 20, 2021 will mark the end of a very dark time in U.S. history. Things admittedly aren’t good right now, but there is promising light on the horizon.

For my October birthday, I requested and received from my mom this beautiful Jane Win pendant that says “GARDEZ BIEN” (meaning “KEEP WELL” in French) with a snake motif on one side and “PROTECT” on the other:

I’m fairly superstitious, so I like to wear this necklace as an amulet to offer me a little extra protection as I make my way through this uncertain world. To dress it down for my leisure-wear lifestyle, I put the pendant on a blackened silver chain rather than something shinier. It adds just the right amount of pizzaz to my décolletage for virtual calls.


Looking back years from now, 2020 will probably feel like a bad dream–a very long, surreal dream. One thing’s for sure: we won’t soon forget any of it.

Ring Redesign Part II: The Consultation

(If you missed the first installment of this series, catch up here: Part I.)

I met with Andre Lukawski on a beautiful, warm day in September to discuss my ring redesign. Andre’s workshop is located on the lower level of a three flat where he lives upstairs, on the northwest side of Chicago. He was waiting for me on his front porch when I arrived. I was so excited, it felt like I sprinted from my car to greet him.

I didn’t know what to expect as we made our way downstairs to Andre’s lair. I’ve never seen a jewelry workshop before—only jewelry store showrooms and the front counter of a jewelry repair shop. 

Upon seeing his workshop, my mind was blown by the scale of his operation. The wood-paneled room featured four separate workstations equipped with grinders, and buffers, and vices, and magnifying glasses, and all kinds of hand tools. In a smaller room off the main space (an erstwhile kitchen) sat an assortment of glass jars and vats of chemicals with tubing and wires coming out of them. It had the look of fully stocked high school science lab, and stirred within me giddiness at the prospect of all the jewelry alchemy that must happen within its walls:

Andre and I stationed ourselves at his large work table and, while maintaining proper distance with masks on, began to chat about my project. I had a clear vision of what I wanted my rings to look like, but didn’t appreciate beforehand just how many decisions were required to shape the design. Did I want the band to taper toward the stone or stay uniform in width? Did I want 14k or 18k yellow gold? How tall and wide should the bands be? What design did I want for the basket where the diamond would sit? As I contemplated the various options for each design element, Andre pulled out picture catalogs and sample rings from his behemoth safe to provide greater clarity for my choices. He made rough sketches and measurements as we talked, and paused throughout our conversation to pensively consider the design as it came to fruition in his mind. 

One of my concerns was whether I could save my original engagement ring setting, perhaps to gift to my kids someday. Andre had the wonderful idea that we could set a gemstone where the diamond had been. I’m planning to do that as a special gift for Sloane, maybe on her 16th birthday or as a high school graduation present.

Once we had worked through all the minutiae, Andre explained that he would convey the design to a CAD drawer, who would prepare renderings of my rings for my approval before making them. 


More to come about the renderings and the final product in Part III, the last installment in this series: The Final Reveal.