Family Memoir

Grandma’s Charms

My grandma had an awesome chunky, clunky charm bracelet.

It had sixty-five bajillion charms on it, and it clanked whenever she shook her wrist.

She died in 1982, while I was at summer camp.

I don’t know to whom her charm bracelet was willed, but I never saw  — or heard — it again.

Fast forward three years. My senior year of high school, two friends of mine and I fancied ourselves jewelry makers and set up shop stringing rainbow-colored beads onto tiny black fishing lures.

Our plan?

To become famous jewelry makers.

Or maybe to earn just enough money to see the next Grateful Dead Show.

{Or maybe that was just my plan.}

Anyway, after school and on weekends, we bought miniscule black fishing lures and itsy-bitsy multi-colored seed beads and transformed these cheap components into semi-hideous totally fabulous earrings, bracelets and necklaces.

We hawked our wares during periods 5, 6 and 7 lunch and sold everything for under $5.

And then my left thumbnail split in two.

And that was it; we were out of business.

Still, it was good while it lasted.

While our little business was booming, I got to table together with two friends. And as we slumped over flat surfaces sorting beads and determining color schemes, we talked about our lives: the boys we liked, what we thought we might do after college, where we might eventually land.

Our stuff was not fancy, but people seemed to like it. And it was wonderful to see someone delight in wearing something that we had made.

Recently, I saw these really adorable bracelets.

They don’t call ’em cutey for nothin’!

I immediately liked the colorful bead combinations, especially one bracelet with a whimsical heart-drop dangle featuring two people smooching.

I like that bauble a lot.

I like to roll the round smooth beads between my fingers and see if I can guess which one is which just by the way it feels.

Even though this bracelet is nothing like the junk kind my friends and I created in high school — nor is it like the one my grandmother wore — the clinking sounds strangely familiar.

So now I jingle a bit, and — happily — it reminds me of old friends.

And of my grandmother.

Pieces of my life’s history in metal and beads.

Who could have known that this little bracelet would bring me such sweet memories?

Tell me about a favorite piece of symbolic jewelry.

tweet me @rasjacobson

83 thoughts on “Grandma’s Charms

  1. My favorite piece of jewelry broke recently. It was a heavy silvery colored chain and attached was a beaded vile to put some favorite perfume in. It was very Grace Kelly. I love Grace Kelly. She’s the epitome of…well…gracefulness! Fun idea, Renee!

  2. What a fun giveaway friend! My favorite jewelry is a necklace and bracelet set that a friend of mine made for me – it’s silver with beads and my children’s names/ initials on it. {Mama jewelry, yes?}

  3. Mine is a necklace with a small hoop bearing a crescent moon, a star and a tiny rectangle upon which is imprinted the word “Imagine.” (It’s the necklace that started this all.) And I would love, love, love a bracelet, although I might have to conceal it from my pint-sized bracelet aficionado.

    Just about to tweet this, too!

  4. My favorite piece is a guardian angel charm that was my grandma’s. When she passed my mom and aunt made sure that I got it. Its nice to have the feeling that she is always near to me.

  5. I can’t possibly come up with one favorite piece of jewelry! I love it all so much that I work in a jewelry store and I make jewelry as well! However, I think the piece that stands out the most is the Miraculous Medal of Mary that was my grandmothers. She wore it on a silver chain that was like 24-30″ long and kept it tucked between her boobs. It was silver and enameled in a pearly white with pink roses on it. It was actually 2 pieces that were exactly the same shape so they appeared to be one piece. When you slid them apart you could see the impression of the sacred heart inside. My mother told me I teethed on that piece of jewelry and that’s why the enameling is chipped. When she died in 2002, my mother gave it to me. I don’t wear it but once in a while I take it out and look at it, slide the pieces between my fingers and miss my grandma.

  6. My favorite piece of jewelry is one I don’t wear because it never works and isn’t reliable (unlike it’s giver.) It’s a white gold Bulova watch with Swarovski crystals. It’s beautiful but not horribly expensive but is priceless. Why? Because my husband, who does NOT buy jewelery, or purses, or fashionable clothes, made a special trip to buy it for me. This is a man who packed work clothes for his honeymoon at a luxury B&B. It was totally unlike him and I love him for it. My practical no-nonsense sweetheart went totally out of his comfort zone to buy me something frou frou just because he loved me. Who could not love a piece like that?

  7. It would have to be my wedding ring. Danny gave it to me when he proposed on the gondola in Aspen. I always wear it. When the kids were little, I remember Courtney often tried it on at Church. She still does! So cute!

    -Using my positive visualization and can see the package in the mail. I LOVE IT!

  8. -My favorite jewelry is this amazing, thin silver bracelet that I’ve had since I was a baby. I was born in Thailand, and my parents bought it for me there. It’s adjustable, and I have pictures of it on my wrist as a toddler. Now I wear it everywhere. The day I was baptized, when I got married, for the birth of all 3 kids … it never comes off. I’m rather attached to it.
    -I tweeted this contest!
    – and FB:
    This post rocks!

    1. Grandparent memories can be so fresh. Isn’t it amazing? My grandma passed decades ago, but I still have a plant that she had in her house. It bloom every August!

      And if you win, you could give this to your wife, you know!

  9. You should have sold your bracelets AT the Dead shows. Then you could have killed two birds with one stoner. Didn’t know you were a Deadhead. Did you go to many shows?

    My mother got very into beads the last few years of her life. She made my wife jewelry to wear for special occasions, like our wedding shower. After she passed away, my wife received a couple of the pieces that my mother made for herself. They are treasured memories that will last for a long time.

    1. JJ: I did sell stuff at Dead shows, but first I had to get there! 😉 I always sold out at the shows! I went to a lot of shows in the 80s and 90s. I didn’t “follow” them, per se — but whenever they were nearby, we always drove the distance. I’ll never forget one Buffalo show.

      As for jewelry… homemade is the best! 😉

  10. Favorite piece of jewelry? It might be the white gold funky cross-like pendant I bought in the Middle East. I love the irony of buying the most sensual cross I’ve seen (in white gold) in an Islamic country known for yellow gold.

  11. My granny is 99. When I started traveling to foreign places in 2002, she gave it to me, explaining the significance of each tarnished silver charm. On it are charms from the places she and my grandpa traveled – Egypt, Hawaii, London, Mexico, Paris – as well as a few “sweetheart” charms she added to it while he was serving in WWII – a little army jeep, a machine gun, a tank and a little hat. I love it, and I love her for being mine.

  12. I have a necklace that is a bird’s nest with three little eggs in it. I love it because I am the mommy bird with my little babies to protect.

    1. Duffy! I love the sound of that symbolic piece of jewelry! I should have made people send me pictures of their favorite pieces! I’d so love to see this!

      Thanks for the tweet and the follow! Three votes for you on my Excel Spreadsheet!

      Nice to meet you!

  13. My favorite piece of jewelry is a double strand pearl bracelet with a 14 ct gold latch. This belonged to my mother in law may she rest in piece. five days after her death, while the family was in town my siser in laws invited me to the table to divide the jewelry. We were still sitting shiva. I was mortified they would want me to be part of the splitting of the jewelry. It was not my mother. she had two daughters, one grandaughter, a son not yet married and of course my husband and I. It was not my place to have any of the jewelry, let alone be part of the decision as to who got what. I understand that they split the jewelry after five days because they would all be leaving town in two more days but I had a hard time with it. I politely declined and asked that it be split amond her children. After all took what they wanted, they left me the pearl bracelet. To this day I am not sure why nobody took it. It is beautiful and does remind me of my mother in law and the way she was always classy, sophisticated and in style. Maybe the kids left it since they are the ripped jeans type. They are very cool but not into sophistication. lucky me.

  14. My parents traveled the world extensively and upon their first visit to a new city, my father would buy my mom a charm for her bracelet that represented that city to her/them. By the time of his death, she had 7 filled bracelets. The sounds they made were how we could find her in a store.Like you with your grandma’s bracelet, I have such fond memories of my mom’s bracelets. However, it is a necklace my husband gave me that is my favorite piece of jewelry. Hung from a simple chain are two figures cast so that they are perfectly intertwined to hang as one charm, but can still be separated (not that I ever do.) It represents (to me/us) the union of two independent souls. Cool post–fun contest!

    1. Tweeted and on FB, too! (But it’s doing a weird, funky, not-linking thing here. ARGH!)

      Transitioning Mom via RASJacobson’s “Lessons From Teachers & Twits”
      Super fabulous give-away is nestled in this fabulous blogger’s post! Click on over for your chance to win, and be sure to subscribe to RASJacobson’s “Lessons From Teachers & Twits” blog while you’re there. (Click on the “I’m good for your brain–Push Here” button. She’s not only good for your brain, she might just be good for your wardrobe!)

      Grandma’s Charms
      My grandma had an awesome chunky, clunky charm bracelet. It had sixty-five bajillion charms on it, and it clanked whenever she shook her wrist. She died in 1982, while I was at summer camp. …

  15. There are so many pieces I love, each one linked to someone special. I wear my dad’s chunky silver signet ring and my brother’s gold claddagh ring. They have both passed away and it always feels great when I can talk about them because someone admires those rings. I have a silver star pendant that reminds me that “wherever you are, you shall be my star, flashing near, or smoldering far” … that I am exactly that for one person.

    I would love this cutey bracelet .. and it too, would be linked to someone special! 🙂

    I’ll be tweeting and fbing about this later. I promise.

    1. I love that you wear men’s jewelry. And your rings are so special. I’m sorry to hear of your losses, but it is nice to have those special pieces to wear. And I’m sure that people do comment. A lot. I love my father’s college ring. It is chunky and I totally associate it with him.

      Gosh, I think I need to call him now.

      1. So happy to hear that you CAN call your father … and I hope you did! I just tweeted about this so that’s entry # 2.

        As for # 4 … I already like your page … as myself and my page. 😉

        Back to # 3: Sent people your way from The Loneliness of the Stay-at-Home-Mother over on fb.

        Is there anything else you need doing? 🙂

        1. I did call my dad. I didn’t mean to sound cavalier about that. You reminded me to be grateful!

          And no ma’am, I think you have done everything and then some! Duly noted.

          And thank you for sharing with your followers! 😉

  16. i got a charm thingy (?!) on a gold chain that my Grandmother gave me for Graduation – i got a new charm for each event after that – i loved it. It was stolen before i got to place my #1Mom charm on it after i had my first child. My grandma is in an assisted living home in the last stage of Alzheimers – i never had the heart to tell her that i no longer have it… Still hurts that i don’t…

  17. Dave gave me a necklace the night before our wedding and I never take it off. Seriously, I sleep in it, shower in it, exercise, clean, swim…you get the idea. I love it because it is simple, always tasteful and stylish, dresses up, dresses down. Plus, since Dave travels regularly, it’s like getting a little hug from him when he’s away!

  18. Both my Grandmas passed away when I was 7 months old, so I never knew either one of them. But my Grandma Arlene knew she was going to pass soon so she gave Mommy her engagement ring to give to me when I turned 18. I absolutely treasure it.

  19. My favorite piece of jewelry is a necklace with a quarter-sized silver disc that has my kids’ names stamped on it. When you come to NOLA (in a few weeks… I’m counting!) I’ll show it to you!

      1. Hi Lisha! You did everything right! I will be down to NOLA soon! How cool would it be if I could hand deliver the gift in person! We’ll see what happens with the random number generator!

        But we should make plans.

        For reals. I would LOVE to meet you! I’m pretty free during the days (except Sunday for brunch)! When and where shall we meet! I’ll be at the Rusty Nail on 2/11 at 10:30 pm. Unless I pass out somewhere first. 😉

  20. My favorite piece of jewelry was the friendship ring that my grandfather gave my grandmother when they were dating. I gave that to my cousin when she was getting married so she would have something old to wear. Then my favorite piece of jewelry was my grandmother’s wedding band, which I wore right next to my own wedding band. And now, a year after my mother’s death, it is a ring that she was given by my father (that is worn stacked with my grandmother’s ring) that is my favorite. I guess I really have a bunch of favorites!

    I love that you have a small reminder of your grandmother with you. XO

    1. Jen: I think it is amazing that you have been so generous to give some of these treasures away! I suspect you’ll hold onto to this one that connects your father to your mother to you.

      And my grandma lives in my heart. She lives there with or without stuff. But if that plant ever died, I think I would be heart-broken. I’ve managed to keep it alive since 1982. 😉

  21. This is awesome! My parents started a charm bracelet for me when I entered high school. I would get a charm for special moments – like my senior trip, my prom, getting a driver’s license, etc. It is mostly James Avery stuff – but a few other misc charms. I love looking at it and telling the story of when I got each charm.

    Awesome giveaway. 🙂

  22. After my mother passed away my sister and brother insisted I take my Mother’s favorite necklace that she wore every day. It is a white gold circle with a white gold Star of David inside which has a small diamond in the middle. It was very special to her because my father had given it to her (I remember when she had to get a new chain for it.). It is also special to me as she gave it to me to wear when she was in the hospital in NJ for multiple surgeries 6 years ago which is why my siblings gave it to me. I have worn it every day since ❤

  23. I have two pieces – one I lost – a tiny, solid gold camel bought in the Khan el Khalili bazaar while we lived in Egypt. I loved it. It was my signature piece and represented these countries that I loved so much, until I lost it in one of our moves…so the second is an Ethiopian cross bought in the same bazaar.Great post – it’s funny how even “not jewelry” people like me still have their favorites…

    1. I’m not really a jewelry girl either. I really wear my wedding ring and a necklace that my son bought for me with his own money. I get more compliments on that little necklace than anything else.

      I hate when I hear that people lose special pieces of jewelry. My best friend bought me earrings, and I lost one. I scoured everyplace. I am still sure that one day it will turn up.

  24. My favorite piece of jewelry was a Peridot ring, which my husband bought for me after the birth of our fourth child. Peridot is my birthstone, and it is also my daughter’s, so I had visions of passing that ring to her.

    I had the ring for 4 months. I slammed my hand in a car door, and the ring kept my finger from being broken. BUT, the ring bent and had to be cut off of my finger. The jeweler said it would be cheaper to buy a new one than fix that one.

    3 years later, I still dont’ have another ring…

  25. My grandmother decided to give one piece of jewelry to each adult granddaughter before she passes so she can see us enjoy it. I got a beautiful necklace with a single pearl, and the story of when she got it from my grandfather. I love wearing it when I see her!

  26. My special piece of jewelry is my grandmother’s first engagement ring (she had two, one after my grandfather could afford a nicer one) but I have the first. It is special because it expresses the love my grandparents had for each other for over 50 years. I wear it occasionally and remember both of them fondly.

  27. I really like the bracelet in the photo-the one like your grandmother’s bracelet. That must be your Cutie bracelet! I’ve been thinking about getting one of them myself. I’ve seen these in the stores and other places where you can get the plain bracelet and then buy some beads to put over it. In a way they remind me of old fashined charm bracelets and charm link bracelets since they allow you to get individual “charms” and “customize” it.


    1. That is the cutey bracelet. My grandmother’s was nothing like that. It had a zillion charms on it. They were crammed together and were attached to a main chain with little hooks. This is more of a beaded thing where special “fun” beads with holes in them are strung on.

      Maybe I should have explained that, huh? 😉

  28. One of my favorite pieces of jewelery was a tac pin of an animal’s pawprint which I got from an organization that provides food for homeless animals. I always liked pawprints like that since I love cats and think those paw prints are very cute. But I accidentally stepped on it and broke-or bent-the pin to where I couldn’t fix it.

    I was given a couple 10 Commandments bracelets-one when when I was a little girl-and one when I was in college. But they both got lost or stolen. That last one was given to me by the deacon of a Baptist church and his wife. I used to babysit their son.The bracelet had special meaning for me-both because of who gave it to me and the commandments themselves.

    I found an old 10 Commandments charm bracelet at the Salvation Army and bought it. One of the charms is missing and the bracelet is too small for me. So I need to get a longer chain and a charm with the missing Commndment on it.

      1. I think I’ll give you the answer. What I meant is a bracelet with 10 charms on it with each one having one of the 10 Commandments on it. I hope it helps.


  29. I’m coming late to the party! I LOVE these bracelets. I just blogged about bracelets too. LOVE it.
    Off to tweet…

  30. You had me at jewelry give away. My favorite would be my wedding ring – not the family heirloom passed down to us for our wedding, but the one I picked out several years after we were married. An Alex Sepkus piece. It is us, symbolic of our never ending love and how two became one.

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