The timeless elegance of pearl necklaces
  • The life sounds of soul music
  • A costume-jewelry necklace hidden away
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    Auction Finds

    A music box of pearls

    pearlsjewelryboxI love mysteries, whether in books and movies, or on TV. That’s why auctions appeal to me. You never know what you’ll find tucked away in an envelope or a jewelry case or a vanity box. Or what memories those finds will evoke.

    I was intrigued recently when I got a small wooden music box among some items I’d purchased at an auction. The box was a light-colored wood, 5 ¼ by 3 ½  in size, with a fancy design on the top. It was completely lacquered, and in wonderful condition.

    I turned the lever on the bottom to get the music started. When I opened the box, I didn’t notice the music at all. I found something much more engaging: an old one-strand faux pearl necklace. It had medium-sized (about 3/8”) pearls, creamy in color. The round clasp had a ring of hearts with rhinestones in the center. The necklace wasn’t expensive-looking, and today, it’d be considered retro.

    pearljewelryboxopenThis necklace conjured up all kinds of questions. Who did it belong to? A grown woman who wore it on special occasions? A gift from a mother to a daughter?  And how old was it? As simple as it was, it was in very good condition, so it meant a lot to someone who took very good care of it.

    Years ago, I was also enthralled with pearls. I could see myself prancing around with my Mikimotos against my dark skin and long neck feeling like a queen. My brother offered to buy me a strand of Mikimotos once at a jewelry store’s going-out-of-business sale, but I demurred. Even then, I wasn’t sure if I was a pearls woman. Maybe I wasn’t because I never bought a pearl necklace. I can only assume that it was a phase, because today pearls come up often at auctions and I just let them pass me by.

    No one really knows where pearls first originated, but they have always been priceless – whether monetarily or to the women who wore them. According to gemologist Fred Ward, “at the height of the Roman Empire, when pearl fever reached its peak, the historian Suetonius wrote that the Roman general Vitellius financed an entire military campaign by selling just one of his mother’s pearl earrings.”

    Do you remember the old photos of Jackie Kennedy in her pearls? And the new photos of Michele Obama, who apparently loves them, too.


    Pearls are called the “Queen of the Gems.” That’s understandable, because their simple elegance makes us feel so gorgeous.

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