Playing "dress-up" may be pretty common for a couple of sisters, but our mother had an uncommonly good stash. As the beautiful wife of an attorney in 1960's Los Angeles -- whose Depression-era childhood and artistic sensibilities had given her a passion for beautiful things -- our mom loved jewelry.
She was addicted to treasure-hunting at the thrift stores where glamorous Hollywood stars cast off their outdated fashions, in the days when nobody paid any attention to thrift stores. Nobody except, it seemed, our mom. We spent countless afternoons tagging along as she sifted through fifty-cent boxes of "junk" jewelry that was already decades old, and we threw tantrums as she insisted she'd be "just another minute."
Not that she could actually wear all the jewelry she owned. It's true that she was fashionable, and she designed and made her own snappy wardrobe, but given the sheer volume of the collection, it was clear to our family that she was simply hoarding her treasures.
Her eccentricity was surely a factor in our parents' divorce, which forced Mom to transform her treasure-hunting into a means of supporting herself. So she became an antique dealer, specializing in jewelry and Asian collectibles, initiating a more than 30-year career as a fixture in West Coast antique shows and a frequent traveler to China and Japan. Los Angeles Times, April 1972
Although we'd long since outgrown our dress-up days, at times even detesting those gaudy old baubles, something rubbed off on us. Maybe it was because we excelled at history, or because so many of our relatives were also antique dealers. We began to develop our own tastes in antique and vintage jewelry, such as the sentimental mourning wear inspired by Queen Victoria's fashion after the untimely death of Prince Albert. And the beautiful -- if kitschy -- Egyptian revival jewelry inspired by the discovery of King Tut's tomb in 1920.
So as our mother gradually faded out of this world, leaving several of her bedrooms filled to the ceilings with her jewelry, beads and collectibles, we couldn't bear to turn them over to a dealer. Instead, we formed Earthly Adornments as a way of passing on our mother's treasures to those who share her eye for the beautiful and unique.
And -- though we never imagined it in all the time at those thrift stores -- we've been treasure-hunting on our own.
Now, our mother's legacy is far more to us than the objects she left behind -- it's the magic of holding a bracelet that may have once graced the wrist of a movie star. It's the feel of an exquisitely carved bead that is so rare that it can only be found on a necklace with one or two beads missing. It's a glimmer of insight into the details that defined strange and wonderful cultures and individual lives -- including our mother's, and our own.