Heirlooms that remind us of our ancestors’ past. Shining adornments from special travel destinations. Gifts of love, and of grief. We carry these emotions, these feelings, these deep memories with us via gold, silver and gemstones.
We know that, throughout time, pieces of adornment have held all kinds of special significance and benefits for the wearer. Medieval jewellery was noteworthy in its use of meaningful stones like Hessonite garnet, peridot and sapphire, which were worn to give protection.
There are examples of pendants from this time with backless settings so that the gem would be even closer to the body to maximise the potency of its power.
Emma Aitchison brass Rainfall bracelet, £210, shop at Emma Aitchison
Love, life and death captured in jewels
Beyond talismanic protections and tokens of health and prosperity, I am especially intrigued by the emotional attachment of adornments. One example of jewellery as a carried token of love is the mourning jewellery of Queen Victoria, who kept miniature paintings of her deceased husband Prince Albert under glass on a bracelet, to give a sense that he was still close.
Another of my favourite examples of sentimentality in jewellery are mid-17th century posie rings. These bands with floral embellishments were etched with simple sentiments of love and were worn with much affection.
Love and death, being momentous elements of one’s life, have naturally inspired many jewels and treasures, and certainly still do to this day. Engagement and wedding rings are still very much customary, and heirlooms are carried with us to remember those who came before.
Jewellery designer Emma Aitchison
Why I chose to bury my jewels
When I got engaged, my partner and I marked the moment by burying some of our own jewels in the ground to give back to the land in bid for a blessing of our coming together. In a secret spot known only to us is a single bangle from a set of five, and one of his earrings. When I now wear the remaining four bangles, the memory and joy of that moment are alive in the present.
But what about other life experiences? What other memories do your jewels conjure? For each person, there are a whole bundle of stories and significance, sometimes subtly, other times overtly, linked to our treasures.
When I was 20, I embarked on a solo adventure travelling around Australia. It was an eye-opening and defining experience, as these types of adventures often are. I turned 21 when I was there and gifted myself a locally mined boulder opal. Upon my return to the UK, the opal was transformed into a gorgeous ring with a silver band and gold edge by my family. I wear it often, and although it is now scuffed and marked, it is one of my most treasured possessions. It brings me great comfort and strength in times of worry, reminding me that I am resilient and well supported by the love of my family.
Emma Aitchison silver Overflow necklace, £140, shop at Emma Aitchison
Emma Aitchison silver The Fall necklace, £170, shop at Emma Aitchison
Jewellery not as an adornment, but a companion
I often utilise pockets of time between making my own jewellery and getting outside for walks. In these moments, I see my jewellery as my only companion; the only item with me that’s accompanied me on so many of my previous journeys and jaunts. I relish this time.
Time spent huffing up hills and looking out over grassy cliffs, deep in thought, is always accompanied by the fiddling of a ring or the twist of a necklace chain, reminding me of the thoughts, feelings and experiences connected to each piece. On occasion, my jewellery chosen for the day is chosen on account of the memory I wish to be blanketed in and the feelings I wish to bathe in.
These pieces of jewellery are a part of my story and I find comfort in carrying them with me. Of course, there is an element of pure placebo at play here. But these powerful feelings of joy, comfort, support, strength and courage that the simple act of wearing jewellery can bring is utterly fascinating to me.
Emma Aitchison silver Streaming Windows earrings, £279, shop at Emma Aitchison
Setting intentions with your jewellery
I believe the power of jewellery to evoke strong feelings or memories is common for many. But have you considered how we can form new memories and even intentions with jewellery?
For me, my own jewellery designs reflect my wonder for the natural world. Shapes, dips and fluidity that remind us of rock, soil, air and water. The jewels I craft in my workshop in Frome are inspired by the beauty of nature and how urgently we must all individually and collectively strive to protect our environment. When I design my pieces, I weave and hammer in my intention for planetary health. My adoration for nature and the outdoors is reflected in the forms and sculptural shapes.
I avidly will my customers to wear their jewellery almost as protest art, to remember and be stirred to action, to tread lightly on earth and inspire others to do the same. My Mountain Collection inspires a sense of grounded strength and courage. Often, but not always, bought for mountaineering friends, these rings can signify joyous journeys, or moments of physical achievement for their wearers.
Jewellery is so much more than something we wear. My advice is to take your jewellery on a journey; allow it to absorb a memory, a feeling, an experience. Have it set an intention that you can be reminded of and be connected back to with every wear. Let it be your companion.
A selection of Emma Aitchison jewellery, shop at Emma Aitchison
Emma Aitchison is a sustainable jewellery designer based in Frome, England. In her countryside workshop, she creates fine jewellery inspired by the natural world