Jewellery Box

Sunday, 30 June 2013

My mother had a creamy white jewellery box when I was little. It was flat, with a small golden swan engraved on the lid. Inside, she kept old watches, necklaces, brooches and hairpins. Some were so old, they turned black. Others were a steely shade of grey, a deep bronze-brown (like blushing cheeks peeking from a dark canvas) hue crackling with age, softer shades of brown and subdued golds. The deep nutty brown of the leather in watches mixed with various shades of silver, white, yellow, black. I used to love opening this box and laying out everything in it on my parents’ bed. I would untangle the knots in necklaces and try on the watches and then walk away with a pungent smell of rust on my fingers, like the smell of blood. It wasn’t so much the jewellery itself that interested me as the array of colours. The first time I read these lines in Wordsworth’s poem, I was reminded of these colours:

I see the dark-brown curls, the brow,
The smooth transparent skin,
Refined, as with intent to show
The holiness within;
The grace of parting Infancy
By blushes yet untamed;
Age faithful to the mother’s knee,
Nor of her arms ashamed.

–William Wordsworth, “A Jewish Family (In a Small Valley Opposite St. Goar, Upon the Rhine)”, 1828.

What the poem is about and what I associate it with are two different things. But I can’t help thinking of my mother’s jewellery box whenever I read of those “dark-brown curls” and the “blushes yet untamed”.

So occasionally, I’m struck by how I try to recreate this treasure box of colours through the images I save and collect in my various computer folders. I’d like to lay a few of them out too, like all that jewellery spread on the bed:

jewellery box

jewellery box

jewellery box

jewellery box

jewellery box

jewellery box

jewellery box

jewellery box

jewellery box

Image credits (top to bottom): Portrait of a Lady by Lilla Cabot Perry, 1910; Les raboteurs de parquet by Gustave Caillebotte, 1875; Glenn Gould; Picture of a lunch time ballet audience, Arts Theatre Club, London, 1940s; Artwork by Thomas Ehretsmann; David Hallberg in the wings during the first act of The Sleeping Beauty at a dress rehearsal at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. Photo: Sergei L. Loiko/Los Angeles Times; The Silver Vase by Lilla Cabot Perry, 1905; Duane Michals’ “This Photograph is My Proof”; Venetian Street by John Singer Sargent, 1880.


Rambling Tart said...

I used to do the same with my mother's jewelry box. I loved imagining stories to go with each piece, made up histories of the women who had worn them. :-)

Laura Tjitradjaja said...

Reminds me of the little jewellery box my mum bought me the first time my parents went to Europe more than 20 years ago!

Kelly said...

What a beautiful post. Thank you for this collection of images, including those of you and your mother's jewelry box.

hungryandfrozen said...

"this photograph is my proof" - oh. That is wonderful. Thanks for sharing all of these, Hila. Beautiful images, including that of yourself and your mother's jewellery...and, I've just realised I've come to the exact same verbal conclusion as Kelly above!

Hila said...

Krista: I imagine many of us had this ritual :)

Laura: I also later received a white jewellery box, but no golden swan.

Kelly: My pleasure, thanks for reading it.

Laura: Isn't that photo (and its text) just wonderful?

Rita Adams said...

Those photos are wonderful. I can see that you have a wonderful sense of style. It just reminds me of my mom and my grandmother. They really love their jewelry boxes because it is where they keep their accessories safe.

Lisa kudrow said...

Yea I used to do the same thing with my mum's jewelry and jewelry box which she keeps her in her wardrobe but whenever i get chance, I wear all her jewelry one by one. I so in love with her jewelry so my mum promised to give me her jewelry in my wedding.

Jewelry boxes