I spent my early twenties as an archaeologist digging up everything from hunting knives and pottery to the remnants of housing structures. After that, I moved on to a corporate job that was cushy but not fulfilling. After seven years, I left my cushy corporate job to devote my life to creating and learning about jewelry. Last month, a project came in to Custom jewelry that reminded me why I took that leap of faith.
A gentleman came in and asked us to re-purpose a ring that had been significant in his life into a white gold band he could wear as a daily reminder of his past. His main request: let the band look like a Mayan temple. From my anthropological schooling, I knew that while much about the Mayan religion is still unknown, at its core, the Mayans believed that our existence was comprised of rotating cycles of creation and destruction that infinitely loop across time. A beautiful concept, and a heavy significance for a ring.
During my archaeological tenure, I saw firsthand the important roles objects play in our daily lives. Knives to hunt and chop with. Pottery to store and cook. Housing to shelter us and keep the fire going. Even in our most primitive states, our lives were filled with practical objects made for practical reasons. When I dug up my first small pile of necklace beads, I pondered their utter impracticality. They didn’t provide food, warmth, or shelter, and they weren’t created to protect us from the elements. They were absolutely insignificant in a practical world. Yet we still made them, wore them, and passed them down from generation to generation.
It was in that moment I realized how deeply significant adornments are. While they may serve little practical purpose in our daily lives, each piece can be incredibly meaningful and very personal, helping to create our individual human narratives. Jewelry reminds us where we come from, who we are, and who we want to be. We share it to profess our love or commemorate life-changing events. And the most significant pieces we pass down between generations or wear daily to remind us who we are and, in a lot of cases, who we’ve loved.
A jeweler is really a scribe of the human condition. A purveyor of impractical artifacts that become precious and meaningful only by the significance we place on them. Metallurgy, like the Mayan religion, is an infinite cycle of destruction and creation, using fire to change someone’s past into their present. And with each new piece a jeweler casts we potentially create a new piece of the human narrative.
As with this white gold Mayan temple ring, I too had to de-construct my past in order to move into my future. The ring’s owner sacrificed an important artifact in order create something for his present, and in doing so, married his two identities. And one day, his new ring may be passed down to a future generation to be re-purposed again, continuing the cycle of destruction and creation that moves our lives along through time.