Entertaining Necklace Thoughts

Tuesday December 30, 2003

I’m not a small and delicate person—never have been; except perhaps once as a 10-year-old in seventh grade when I was described as “tiny Maya Elmer” in some local school paper. Since those years I am now tall enough, sized-large enough, and always daring enough to collect necklaces which are never modest. Rather conservatively flamboyant. That’s why I have never owned that supposedly elegant string of pearls which rests on the bosom of a cashmere sweater or encircles elitists’ and socialites’ necks. In fact, notice that their dress necklines are always rounded just to accommodate such jewels. Barbara Bush isn’t the only one; there is Nancy, and Mamie before her. Does that say something about Republican women? No; I recall Lady Bird Johnson wore pearls years ago, too. Discreet ostentatiousness, if I may coin an oxymoron; “conservatively flamboyant,” doesn’t count.  

On TV these days I always notice the necklines and jewelry of female anchors and reporters; their model is the v-necked suit with a contrasting v-necked blouse or a modest straight-line underblouse AND a chain in the middle of which sits a small, unobtrusive diamond or other jewel. See Samantha Mohr on KPIX weather, or Susie Gerab on Nightly Business Review. See for yourself... 

So, while I am neckline watching, I also note the collar-and-ties of male announcers and hosts. Wow! Are they all in the old-boy, down east all over patterned style; unless they have opted for the red—or orange—tie. Blue shirt, of course. But if the man has a position in the Silicon Valley tech business, he dispenses with ties altogether. I admire the occasional guest on the Lehrer News Show—usually a Midwest intellectual prof from the University of Chicago economics department who dares to show up tieless and with open collar. 

Robert Redfern from Hollywood, an indie film producer and renegade in his own way always does the same. Guess they have Bill Gates to thank for that: he broke the mold years before his legal troubles began.  

My favorite necklace is so spectacular and different that I rarely wear it myself, only because I have to carefully coordinate either its color or style. Also I have to be in my “display” mode. Dollar-sized ovals of quarter inch carnelian (a red-orange semi-precious stone) are raised and centered on antique hollow, three dimensional  

silver medallions about two inches wide, washed with a light gold finish. Four of these medallions alternate with four large oval inch wide silver-looking globes. It doesn’t look heavy, nor is it. The eye focuses on another such carnelian medallion, larger than the rest which drops down in mid-center ending with a small bell. 

Today, to church I wear it on top of a buttercup yellow wool coat dress; and sure enough, friends and strangers smile and comment. 

My part of the story goes this way.  

I splash across the puddles in downtown Berkeley, in the winter of January of 1989, aiming east on University Avenue (towards the campus central entrance) for Copy Central. An Indian restaurant anchors the corner at Shattuck Avenue, the major intersection of Berkeley. Next door a new ethnic store is trying to lure the customers with a splashy window display. So I slow my footsteps to see what it has to offer. There in the center gleams the star piece I have just described; I am mentally ambushed by its uniqueness. There’s no way I can pass that up with just a glance.  

The Middle Eastern clerk greets me, “Good afternoon.” I respond, “Hello.” But I look over his stock, peering into shelves before I finally ask about the necklace. I am amazed when he tells me it is from Turkmenistan. I probe further. “How did that get here?” He mentions that it is one of his family heirlooms: he is trying to get a business started here. Most of the rest of his stock is trite Indian imports. 

“How much is it?” I ask, after all the admiring amenities have been exchanged. 

He doesn’t blink an eye; but I do: Four hundred dollars !!! I look at it and cannot imagine paying that much for a necklace which rattles and clanks, though ever so gently. Could it have decorated a sheik’s camel?  

“I’ll have to think about it,” and I turn to leave the shop. But the clerk persists. “Oh you can return it if you don’t like it.” He wouldn’t let me go that easily: “No, now take it with you.” 

Doubt still trickled in the corners of my desire. 

But there is more. Christmas has come and gone by a few months. Last October I meet my new-found friend through a Date Game plan. In November we are still seeing each other. By December and the Christmas season we are serious; but I’m not committed. I tell him, “I want nothing practical—but something beautiful.”  

“Beautiful?” He responds; “I know that beauty in artifacts is relative to prior experience and contacts! All I can do is test the boundaries.” 

What he means is that it’s all in the eye of the beholder. I hadn’t yet learned that he really needs to quantify things, time, the earth. 

“You will know,” I smile and continue, “Just imagine what I might find beautiful.”  


Christmas Day I open a large flat silver box, lavishly ribboned and bowed. A package from Nordstroms, my gift from Jan. I slide off the ribbons, pull back the tissue paper: and they are indeed beautiful: two—not one—fine silk, printed, designer blouses. I am taken aback, I gasp at their sheerness, the feel of luxury. 

Then I look at the sizes. How very astute he is in the ways of gifts for women; or showing utter disregard of me. It could have been flattery. I choose to consider it a matter of expediency which I admire...: 

But they were both size 12!!  

The ball is now in my corner. He has given me something beautiful.  

So of course, I drive over to Corte Madera where he has purchased them to return them for my size. I should have known: the Designer-Vogue department doesn’t carry size 16’s. So I just decide to return them for credit to my Visa account. I watch the clerk as she fiddles with the tags, looks up some data—and then hands me a credit slip for—$200. Now I gasp again internally! The conversation with the clerk ends when she says, “Oh’ you’ll have no problem spending that here. I know I wouldn’t.”  

* * *  

So now I find myself on University Avenue looking at a beautiful antique necklace already half-paid for.