Even at the end, she wore a glittery hair clip.
She may have been unconscious, navigating the mysterious landscape between this world and the next, but her motionless and petite frame was ever the fashion plate. A Barbizon model in her youth, Mom never lost her sense of fashion and colorful expressiveness.
She was never without bright adornments, from garish Chico’s tops and sweaters to intricate necklaces and colorful rings. My father-in-law dubbed her “the trinket lady.”
The interesting thing was that Mom’s colorful outfits, large rings, and extravagant necklaces never overshadowed her vivacious and outgoing personality, they complemented it.
You wear your jewelry, don’t let it wear you. — Masaba Gupta
A month or so before her passing, we talked about the glass-topped jewelry box that held her favorite trinkets.
“Johnny, this row is costume jewelry,” she said, pointing with her bent and twisted index finger (a result of late-stage Parkinson’s disease). “But this row is the expensive stuff, and there are supporting documents and receipts in the bottom drawer of the box. Sell these and get yourself something nice,” she told me.
Her many rings, necklaces, and broaches summoned memories of family events, coffee shop outings, and even doctor visits. Everywhere she went, no matter the occasion, her glittering trinkets matched her sparkling personality.
The only cure for grief is action
I was blessed to be with Mom when she passed away, holding her hands and saying, “It’s okay, I’ve got you.” The wonderful assisted living attendants and hospice nurse handled the many details of death, while I felt the weight of loss and grief settle into my being.
In the days that followed, I began collecting Mom’s things and emptying the apartment. I handled all her funeral and burial arrangements and donated most of her furniture, clothing, and remaining possessions.
The only cure for grief is action. — George Henry Lewes
Time passed, and one day I pulled Mom’s jewelry box out of the safe. I noticed a necklace with a broken clasp and decided to get it repaired. I took the jewelry box to a nearby-by jewelry store.
The jeweler examined the necklace, which Mom led me to believe was valuable. “It’s a costume jewelry piece,” the jeweler told me. He offered to repair it, but I could tell he had little interest in doing so.
I showed the jeweler the ring in Mom’s collection that I knew was valuable. It was a double pink and blue sapphire ring, surrounded by 140 small diamonds. The appraisal and purchase paperwork indicated that the ring was worth thousands.
The jeweler examined the ring briefly, said it was attractive, and handed it back to me. He didn’t seem that impressed with the ring. “What do you think I could get for this ring?” I asked him. “Hard to say,” he answered, adding, “Sometimes it’s hard to sell those antique rings.”
My mother bought the ring in Carmel, California from an established estate jewelry and watch seller. Thankfully, she kept the appraisal and purchase documents.
I had no memory of Mom wearing the ring, and it held no sentimental value for me, so I thought I’d try to sell it. What followed was a sobering education in the true value of jewelry.
I’ve been getting way richer
I live in Las Vegas, where there is no shortage of pawn shops, “We buy gold” establishments, jewelry stores, and more. I researched the most reputable jewelry buyers and spent a day visiting them.
One establishment buzzed me in through a security door to a client appraisal room. Security cameras were everywhere, and the business owner sat down behind a bulletproof window with a small hole at the bottom for transactions.
“Okay, let’s see what you brought in,” the gentleman said.
I pulled out my Mother’s sapphires and diamonds ring, along with all the supporting documents. The gentleman gazed briefly at the ring and the documents, and then said, “Well, I’m sorry, but it’s not something I can work with.”
I spent the morning pricing similar sapphires online and had educated myself about carats, color, and prices. I expected a lowball offer, not outright disinterest.
“My mother spent a lot of money on this ring, and similar sapphires go for thousands,” I said.
“Let me show you something,” the gentleman said. He walked away and returned holding a zip lock baggy full of various gems and stones.
“It’s nearly impossible to sell these gems and stones. I only buy rings with gems when the rings have a lot of gold, which I can melt down. The gems end up in this bag,” the gentleman explained.
“That seems crazy,” I said. “Why do people buy gemstones if they don’t hold their value?”
The man held up his hands, saying, “You’ll notice I don’t wear any jewelry.”
The other establishments I visited told me much the same thing. They’ll buy large diamonds or gold and silver to melt down, but few if any are interested in gemstones. Jewelry, in my view, seems a terrible investment.
Ever since I’ve been saving money and not spending it on jewelry, I’ve been getting way richer. — 21 Savage
Later that day I filled out a form with a reputable (Better Business Bureau approved) jewelry buyer. I included photos of my mother’s ring, including the original purchase paperwork and appraisal.
They never responded, so I emailed them after four days, and a representative emailed back. He apologized and asked me to send the details about the ring.
Ten minutes later the representative emailed back, indicating that he wasn’t interested in the ring. “We tend to focus on diamonds, not gemstones. Perhaps an auctioneer might be able to help you?” he wrote.
Something that has to do with emotion
As a last-ditch effort, I phoned an auctioneer I knew in my local Rotary club many years ago. A few days later he phoned back, and we discussed the ring.
He told me that if I insured and shipped him the ring, he’d be happy to include it in a future estate auction. “Just go on my website, fill out the forms, and email the details to me,” he said.
I went on his website, filled out the forms, and emailed the details. To date, there has been no response from him.
I think I hear my mother giggling from afar.
Jewelry is something that has to do with emotion. That aspect of jewelry really interests me. — Ann Demeulemeester
What I have learned is that my mother didn’t buy jewelry as an investment. She bought jewelry because it made her feel good. Also, it accentuated her outgoing, upbeat, glittering personality.
I decided to keep Mom’s sapphires and diamonds ring. She may have wanted me to sell it, but I think she’d be happy to know that it’s staying in the family.
My wife used my mother’s old costume jewelry to create a beautiful, framed Christmas display.
Now, every December, a part of my mother will be with us. The trinkets she left behind. The color, sparkle, and glitter that was her personality.
And that’s worth more than all the gold, diamonds, and gemstones in the world.
Before you go
I’m John P. Weiss. I draw cartoons, paint, and write about life lessons. Sign up for my popular Saturday Newsletter here.
This post was previously published on Medium.
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