What Constitutes a Collection?

Funny story: I remember a Christmas, long ago, when I received a long-awaited watch as a gift. I remember giggling triumphantly with glee. Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, my mom was shaking her head. “What?” I asked. “Nothing,” she replied, “other than the fact that you only have 16 watches…” I shrugged. “It’s a collection!” It only got funnier when she asked my dad – who hadn’t been paying any attention – how many of something constituted a collection and he replied, in all sincerity, “I dunno… 200?”

It got me to thinking, though, about my longtime obsession with jewelry. My penchant for design began very early on, out of a desire to find the perfect… what? Well, everything. The perfect hoop earring. The perfect charm bracelet. The perfect diamond pendant. You get the idea.

I realize now that what I was trying to do, in my own naive grade school way, was to curate a collection. It seemed there was so much junk to be had, that I wanted to be the person who could pull out my “set” of pieces – even when that set only constituted 5 or 6 items – and point to a pin that had just the right proportions, or the ring that had just the right color rhodolite. It wasn’t about amassing a huge collection, or even a complete collection, but about finding the perfect piece and giving it a home. 

Back in the 80’s, when I first scouring the local shops, the selection wasn’t nearly what it is today – particularly in Canada. Heck, “back in the day” white gold wasn’t even available! But more than that, what the stores seemed inundated with was… bad design. The idea that everyone wanted the same yellow heart pendant, or solitaire ring. Oh, to be sure, they were to someone’s taste. Just not mine!

So when my dad offered, the following year, to kick-start my collection of “real” jewelry with a specially designed sapphire ring, I jumped on the chance. For months, he visited the local jeweler and gave orders, approved details, and made sure it met his exact specifications. Then, that Christmas, it arrived under the tree.

And I didn’t like it.

I didn’t like it, and what’s more, he could tell. I smiled weakly, and tried to enthuse, but he saw through it. He looked at me indignantly, threw his hands up in the air, and turned and walked away. I felt horrible; don’t get me wrong, I really, really wanted to like it, and usually the two of us had very similar taste. But for whatever reason, that particular ring, to me, looked a little… cheap. Fake, maybe, given it was the first time I’d ever seen in white gold (so much like silver!). At any rate, I gulped hard, and swore to myself to wear it every day anyway. Maybe it would grow on me.

But the story gets worse. Some six weeks later I was invited to go swimming with some friends. So, to ensure no harm came to it (I don’t know why I’d worry that a couple hours exposure to pool water might hurt it, but I did) – I made the fatal mistake of leaving it, buried in my sock, in an open locker. I’d forgotten change. And when I came back, predictably, it was gone. I arrived home stricken. It took days to finally come clean about what had happened. …I was never quite able to make up for it with my dad, who just said, “just don’t expect me to buy you another piece of jewelry”    :(

Anyway, take from these family stories a couple lessons, if you will:

First, a collection has no predefined size; it can be however large or small you think is reasonable, manageable, affordable and makes you happy. But it should definitely include statement pieces and items with sentimental value. Second, if you’re going to give someone something special for their collection… maybe just check that it’s their style first. Or at least, don’t be insulted when they don’t. Third, always – always – bring change for the locker.

One thought on “What Constitutes a Collection?

  • June 7, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Item 2 is good advice for any husband wanting to get something for his wife. It’s better to get it right than to surprise her. :)


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