Saturday, 14 April 2018

The Serpent

This is about a posh silver bangle I bought for myself in Canterbury last December. It was so nice that for the first three months of ownership I kept it for best and did not wear it as a day-to-day item - just as I keep my pearls for special occasions. But recently this has changed. I've become accustomed to putting it on most days, and wearing it not only when out, but often at home as well. We've bonded. So I had better say something about it.

My bangle is not an ordinary design. It's like a coiled serpent. Here it is, resting on an Ian Rankin crime novel, apparently hissing away and poised to strike:

Actually it's harmless, and very friendly. I wouldn't have bought it, if it were in the least bit threatening. But the likeness to a real serpent does give it a certain animal quality. This isn't just an abstract design. It's got personality. No, I haven't given it a name! But I do refer to it as The Serpent.

I saw it in an upmarket jeweller's shop in Canterbury on 6th December 2017: Justin Richardson, near the Cathedral. (See I was there with my cousin Rosemary. Her son is getting married shortly, and for the occasion she wanted Justin to enlarge a gold bracelet given to her long ago by her late husband Mick, using the gold from two rings that no longer fitted and could be melted down. Her husband had bought bracelet and rings in Saudi Arabia, and they were very yellow indeed, almost pure gold. Mick had been dead for twenty-eight years. Refurbishing and wearing the bracelet was a way of his being represented at his son's wedding.

While Rosemary discussed with Justin the best ways to use the gold from the rings to insert a new section in the bracelet to make it fit her wrist, I cast an eye at the gorgeous pieces of jewellery in the display cabinets. I dismissed the gold items: not for me. But the silver items now...

And there it was. The Serpent. Gosh, it was £300. But what a nice thing.

What's your attitude to nice things? Mine is to think carefully about why I take an immediate liking to them, and then consider practical things - such as whether they would be fit for purpose and truly affordable.

'Fit for purpose' in this case meant that the bangle would have to fit my wrist, be comfortable to wear, and easy to get on and off. It mustn't be delicate and likely to get damaged easily. There mustn't be mechanisms (like hinges and catches) that would wear and loosen with time, and perhaps come undone unexpectedly. The piece mustn't catch on clothing.

Finally, could I afford to buy it? £300 was not too much to pay for an unusual piece from a jeweller who made his own jewellery, but it was still a fair bit. But the end of the year was always a good time for my finances - the year's big bills being all out of the way - and I could easily find the money.

I asked Justin about the bangle. He said that he'd had some silver left over from a commission, and used it to make this one-off piece. That was a while back. Hmm. Well, the thing was definitely appealing. Here is was, with its shop tag on, begging to be put on my wrist. Dare I?

Rosemary is a sensible, no-nonsense woman of seventy, a retired headmistress. She admired it. She thought it was a superior item of silver jewellery. That impressed me. Her approbation wasn't essential, but it meant a lot to me. Justin didn't push the sale. He did however suggest a way of wearing it, with the head of the serpent pointing forward over the top of the hand, that made it look particularly attractive for an evening occasion - for instance, a long-dress candlelit dinner with friends. I put it on. I saw what he meant. My goodness, it did look good. I imagined such dinners. And other events, at home or on holiday, where I might want to wear something special.

Need I say more? After Justin had taken the tags off and polished it up, and I'd flashed my credit card, I walked out of the shop with the thing on my wrist. I fancied that passers-by were eyeing my new bangle. Let 'em.

Not long afterwards, Rosemary and I had tea in Nasons. The excitement hadn't worn off one bit. Rosemary took this shot with my phone.

Back at Melford Hall, I studied my purchase. 38g of silver, as bullion worth maybe £12. So nearly all the value was in the design and the making. Presumably a molten blob of silver, extruded into a long tail which curled back on itself just a little bit at the tip. The whole thing shaped into a closed ring. But then the 'head' had been angled, so that a gap was made for a baroness's wrist to slide through. I was surprised that my wrist was slim enough for this gap, but it was. I shook my wrist about, but try as I might the bangle wouldn't come off. It was secure then. It greatly appealed that this was a strong piece, with no moving parts, thick enough to resist bending and other damage, and bare of fussy detail. My kind of jewellery.

It was of course hallmarked.

JR for the maker, Justin Richardson. The lion and 925 denoting Sterling Silver. The leopard's head meaning assayed in London. The year letter 'n' saying it was assayed in 2012, and the Queen's head to confirm the year - it was her Diamond Jubliee Year. It was also the year of my 60th birthday. So, in a way, I could regard this bangle as a belated 60th birthday commemoration piece, bought in the year of my 65th birthday. 

My local friends liked my new wristwear. They all tried it on. Jackie, Jo and Valerie:

It was too big for Valerie's wrist. But the other two ladies could have worn it with no problems. Jo was especially reluctant to take it off. (Hey, it's mine. Give it back!)

An item like this might be suitable for either wrist, and The Serpent could face forwards or backwards. 

Four positions to try out then. I discovered they were all different, as regards how the bangle sat on each wrist, and how it could shift about as I moved arm or hand in various ways. Then there were convenience factors: for instance, if I wore the thing on my right wrist, it got tangled up with the lanyard on my phone - and remember, I'm constantly using the phone as a camera, with that lanyard looped over my wrist, many times during the day. 

I have settled on wearing The Serpent on my left wrist, with the head facing me, on the inside of the wrist. The tail then normally grips the small mound of flesh at the bottom right of my palm, and the bangle as a whole stays put. Unless I choose to slide it up my arm - which happens anyway when I'm driving.

It's still early days, but it looks as it The Serpent will become part of my permanent jewellery set, one of the items I am most often seen wearing. If pleasant or lucky things keep happening when I'm wearing it, I may begin to regard it as a talisman of good fortune. Not that I'm superstitious, but you never know.  

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