Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Sentimental value

Following on from yesterday's post.

I have a couple of things of Mum's that are of great sentimental value to me. One is her 'engagement' ring. It is a 9ct gold ring with a cluster setting of sapphires (four) and what looked like brilliant diamonds (and were probably cubic zirconia stones).

When Mum and Dad married in December 1938 I know there wasn't the money for an engagement ring, but I'd often wondered about a ring that Mum wore on the many visits she and Dad made after we'd moved here from London. My sister told me she didn't want that particular ring. Five stones were missing, it looked dowdy and dirty and was in need of repair and restoration.

I took it to a local jeweller and was surprised to hear that it was made in 1987. Did that alter how I felt about it? In one sense, it did. I was slightly disappointed that it wasn't older. But, knowing that it had been purchased for my parents' Golden Wedding Anniversary added even more sentimental value to it. I decided to have it repaired.

The jeweller did a great job. He replaced the missing 'diamond' stones with cubic zirconia, reset the sapphires and original zirconias, repaired the damaged claw settings and cleaned the whole ring so that it now sparkles and shines. The cost of the repair is probably more than the original value of the ring, but it means a lot to me knowing that Dad bought it for Mum after 50 years of marriage. It's a pretty little ring, a little too big for my idex finger and will need to be worn with a 'keeper'. I'm not one for wearing 'sparkly' jewelry and I have a better quality solitaire sapphire ring that I bring out on special occasions. I'll have to find some 'slightly less special' occasions to wear Mum's.

The second item is a silver bracelet that, once again, I thought was a lot older than it turns out to be. Mum gave me this on her last visit to us here. She also gave me an art deco glass coffee cup and saucer and told me that she'd bought it along with some other items in a school summer fete. I assumed that bracelet had been among the purchases and that the school was the one I'd attended. As a sixth form prefect, one of my final duties was to help run the summer fete. That would have dated the bracelet as pre-1967/8. I reasoned that it was even older than that as few people give new items to their school fetes. When Mum gave it to me, it was already in a poor condition; the clasp was broken and the safety chain was missing.

I took the bracelet to a different jeweller - one that has been on the same site in town for 250 years. The first surprise was the date of the hallmark - 1972. Despite my disappointment, I went ahead and had it repaired. While I was waiting for its return, it dawned on me that it had probably been bought to celebrate the Christening of our daughter, who was born in October 1972. Mum must have kept it because there was no Christening. She may have worn the bracelet herself and decided to pass it on to me after it was broken rather than throw it away. Again, the jeweller has done a good job of repairing and restoring at a cost that is many times more than the financial value of the bracelet, but not its sentimental value.

It always saddens me when I find family photographs or items like this ring and bracelet for sale in jeweller's shops, antique shops, market stalls, or even charity shops. These are family 'heirlooms'. Their financial value isn't much and their historical and sentimental value far outstrips it. Where are the stories that bring these items to life? Who owned them? Where did the owners live? What did they do?  Why were the items sold or discarded? It would be nice to think that whoever keeps the family geneology alive, does so in a way that records the social significance of events and memorabelia such as this. Future historians, finding 'artefacts' from the 20th century would consider themselves very lucky if the family stories that accompany them were intact too.