Thursday, 1 March 2018

Farewell to one bracelet, hello to another

I like jewellery - or rather, I like silver jewellery that tends toward the plain and simple, yet has a special feature or association that makes it special. The associations that a piece might have (from the outset, or garnered during its life) completely override any considerations of beauty or opulence. The little silver ring I wear on my left little finger cost just £2 in July 1994, and it's utterly plain. It weighs only 2g, so there's not a lot of silver here. But it was a spontaneous birthday gift, and I have worn it with fondness for nearly twenty-four years. I never take it off. I intend to wear it until I die.

That's definitely an item of jewellery that I've bonded with! And there are other pieces too, that I wear all the time, or most of the time. It's important to bond with the jewellery that comes into your life. If you don't, the piece will soon get put away, to be worn no longer. Or if you have to wear it - it might be part of your wedding regalia - then you have a constant feeling that it doesn't suit, and that you wish you could wear something different. All this is quite independent of its value. Just imagine how many engagement or wedding rings, or other fancy pieces, have been taken off and put away in little boxes in chests of drawers, too meaningful or valuable to discard, but not loved. It's a pity, but it's what happens.

In my case, I chiefly wear pieces dating from 2009 or 2010, which was an important time in my life, a period of great change. That's not to say that I haven't spent money on newer stuff. In recent years there have been a few purchases, mainly of bracelets, some of them expensive (for silver items, anyway). At the moment of purchase, I really liked what I had seen, tried on, and was now buying. But each time we failed to bond. Mostly it was because there was some design snag with the piece, such as a catch that - on my wrist, doing what I do - would come open too easily, so that the bracelet was in danger of falling off. Or it was a matter of comfort. I don't like bracelets that mark my wrist because of their weight, or some feature that digs in as the bracelet shifts position. Those bracelets were taken off and put away, although two of them subsequently found new homes with my local friends, and in their hands have been much appreciated. There's nothing wrong in my book with giving gifts to friends.

The only bracelet I ever owned in the past that was comfortable to wear, looked great, and became part of my regular jewellery ensemble, was this one, seen here in some photos taken yesterday:

As you can see, it hinges. There's a steel spring inside the hinge that keeps it shut. You simply prise it open against the force of the spring to put it on or take it off. It's not solid silver: it's hollow. But it still feels substantial. It weighs 51g. I have always loved the rippling on the outer surface, which catches the light beautifully. In the shots above it is reflecting the yellow of the top I was wearing.

I didn't wear it 24/7, only when I went out. But it was suitable for almost any occasion, and I wore it proudly nearly every day from September 2009 until August 2014. By then the spring had weakened. Any movement of my wrist would make the thing go 'clack', which was an irritation. And it was clear that if the spring ever gave way from too much metal fatigue, it would open up suddenly and drop off. I put it away, with the installation of a new spring in mind when I could afford it. Meanwhile I looked at new bracelets in the jewellers' shops I regularly visited, usually resisting (with a sigh) the impulse to buy.

The hinged bracelet really had been great to wear. It had become part of my 'look'. And without it, I felt vaguely nude. Alleviating that feeling was one of the things that drove me into looking for a replacement: I wasn't all that confident that it could be repaired at an economical cost.

Pruden & Smith in Ditchling (see were one of the shops within a few miles of home that not only sold upmarket jewellery made on their premises, but undertook repairs and redesigns. My friend Jo went there. The obvious choice! I popped in yesterday afternoon, showed my hinged bracelet to the girl who served me (Cat was her name), and asked what might be done to put in a new spring and restore it to its former glory. We went downstairs to the workshop and had a three-way discussion with one of the craftspeople. The answer: nothing at any reasonable cost. It would be very tricky to put in a new spring and get the tension right, and working with hollow pieces was always difficult. It couldn't be done at a price I'd be happy with.

Well, I can't say I was surprised. But I had been geared up to spend £70 or £80 on a repair (if it could be done at all) and in my heart wanted that bracelet back on my wrist, to ride again. Or a close substitute.

Did they have anything like it in the shop? They did.

Hmm, it looked quite similar. It wasn't hinged, but a one-piece affair - it was what they called a 'cuff'. It looked much the same on me as the hinged bracelet had. It was hammered, and caught the light in much the same attractive way as the hinged bracelet had with its ripples. It cost £99. Of course I bought it. Partly because on the day before the Volvo dealer had told me that my car's annual service was likely to cost £200 less than I'd estimated. So I genuinely had some money available.

Well, here is the new bracelet (cuff, I should say) soon after getting it home.

For comparison, here is the old bracelet being worn in its last days, in June and July 2014:

Gosh, you can see that in July 2014 I was already putting on weight! My face has lost much of that plumped-out look. That said, a little plumpness doesn't look unattractive (and it disguises lines and wrinkles).

The new bracelet isn't so 'chunky' nor as heavy (only 21g); but on the other hand it's solid, not hollow, and hallmarked to boot.

There you are. APRS is the maker's mark - AP stands for Anton Pruden I think, whom I saw when buying a previous item at the shop. The 925 refers to the silver content - 92.5% - which is 'sterling silver'. Then the rose symbol, which means 'assayed and hallmarked in Sheffield'. Then the lion symbol which again says 'sterling silver'. Finally, the lower-case letter 'r', which denotes '2016'.

I started off wearing the new bracelet or cuff on my right wrist, but it quickly migrated to my left wrist. The reason is straightforward. It's out of harm's way there. I'm right-handed, and if I wore the cuff all the time (as I intend to do), then it would be more likely to get knocked and scuffed on my right wrist than on my left. In any case, I think it might be displayed better if placed on my left wrist.

I did look into whether there was any rule about which wrist to wear bracelets on, but it seems not, although most women certainly do seem to prefer wearing watches and bracelets on their right wrist - possibly to 'balance' the rings and the watch on their left hand and wrist. Or maybe most women just copy each other, regardless of any practical considerations. But even if there were a definite rule, I'd flout it. I hate being a slave to social convention!

The new bracelet (or cuff) is very comfortable to wear. This is no doubt due to its width, which spreads the weight and makes it seem unnoticeable. I think I finally have the true successor here to the hinged ring from 2009.

And what is its very first association? Well, it starts off - auspiciously - connected with an important anniversary. Seven years ago, on 28th February 2011, I was enjoying - if that's the right word - my first night in a private hospital room with this on the door...

...and with this tag on my wrist (I have redacted the home address)...

And by this time in the afternoon on 1st March 2011 I was awake, uncomfortable but elated. And utterly relieved to be alive, after a leap into the unknown - it had been the first invasive surgery for fifty years. So, a momentous opening association for my new bracelet (or cuff)!


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Lucy Melford