Jewellery is imbibed with meaning in ways no other objects are. We love hearing how your Motley pieces sit alongside treasured family heirlooms on your fingers, wrists, necks and ears. Art-hanging expert and Motley crew member Emily recently shared a photo of her beautiful ring collection with us, so we asked her to tell its story. Here it is.
By Emily Smeaton
I am entering my 40s with a whole new hand of treasures; a precious heirloom, a love symbol, a new showpiece. Harmony that reflects how life is right now.
Armour and memories
As a child I was taken with the Mediterranean idea of the evil eye. My Grandparents had lived for a while in Cyprus and my Granny always wore hers on a necklace; armour and memories. She gifted me one, but I lost it. I can still feel the round of the glass eye between my fingers, and the guilt of mislaying something given with love.
My Maternal Grandparents on their wedding day in Dorset
In my 20s my jewellery was big, brash, and usually plastic. With a limited budget you had to go for cheap materials if you wanted to make an impact. I had some fabulous earrings. They probably wore me if I’m honest, but they made me feel good – now, I can still picture some of them, and the nights out that gave them meaning. I was an art student with a look to prove, and a cropped haircut that needed balance. My rings were big and bulbous on my inelegant hands.
That era mellowed into more delicate pieces, but all high street and erratic. None of it stuck.
My thirties were brassy. Brass rings that wrapped around my red knuckles. Brass necklaces that stained my chest on sunny days. Brass earrings, until the birth of my daughter changed my body and it began to reject them.
Love, death and birth
I was present for my sister’s labour. She bought me a pendant of her daughter's birthstone to match the one I have for mine. Peridot and Amethyst. Semi-precious stones and very precious people.
When my elegant and superstitious grandmother died, she left me an engraved rolled gold bangle, burnished and comfortable on my wrist. I wear it often.
Then I met my husband. For my 39th birthday he gave me an emerald ring; carefully chosen and just right on my finger. An old-fashioned kind of gesture. The kind I’d not experienced before, man nor deed.
I took the small yellow gold eternity ring that had belonged to my other Granny, from the box I stored it away in. I never really wore it. Didn't suit my hands, I thought. But I put it in a little pouch and boarded a plane to Trinidad and said my vows on a rock in a cave as he put it on my finger. She had never understood why I had not wanted to marry – after all, hers was so happy, so deeply lovely.
The turn my life had taken may have surprised her but she would have delighted to see her ring, a symbol of their union, marking mine. I have had it cleaned and resized, found a more conventional wedding band to wear with it, and now it suits me. I think it was waiting.
A changed world
For my 40th birthday, celebrated in lockdown, my brother and sister wanted to give me something to cherish.
Like the evil eyes my granny had valued, and the bold shapes I had always been drawn to, the work I had seen by Charlotte Garnett for Motley had a strong shape but exuded something more than decoration. When I read that they were to be played with, like worry beads and comfortable but felt - experienced - by the wearer I was a goner. On my birthday, I unwrapped a gorgeous bright orange box and put it on my finger. Perfect fit.
I love my creased hands all the more for having someone who loves them and siblings who have adorned them. These are heart-warmers in a changed, and changing, world.
You can find Emily's work here.