Jewelry + Magical Thinking

Saturday night I had the pleasure of taking in the masterful Vanessa Redgrave (2007 Tony Award nominee for Best Actress in a Play) in the equally masterful Joan Didion’s (2006 Pulitzer Prize nominee for Biography) The Year of Magical Thinking: a memoir that’s part bereavement tutorial, part fastidious clinical reenactment of the shocking near-simultaneous deaths of Didion’s husband, author John Gregory Dunne, 71, and daughter, Quintana Roo, 37.


Vanessa Redgrave, as Joan Didion, in The Year of Magical Thinking
Photo by Brigitte Lacombe

Redgrave, who plays Didion in this one-woman performance, holds the audience rapt for 95 minutes. Twice during those minutes, our attention is drawn to “a simple gold Tiffany bangle, much like this one,” given to Quintana. But of course, the bangle wasn’t merely “much like,” but rather “the.”

Redgrave is stately and commanding, but also elegant and fragile as she holds forth her arm and the band of gold shimmers in the light against the sparse set. We can’t help but think about the human desire to use something tangible to keep alive what’s no longer physically there. And that keeping alive is what “magical thinking” is about. Which had me thinking about the spirituality and depth of the seemingly material and shallow baubles our lives circle around.


Redgrave displays a treasured bangle in The Year of Magical Thinking
Photo by Brigitte Lacombe

The New York Times recently ran an article on the cross earring designed by Shapur Mozaffarian, of Shapur, for baseball great Barry Bonds. The cross was fashioned from a pendant Bonds’s grandfather (now deceased) wore. For Barry, it became an inspirational and spiritual memory (and somewhat of a talisman).

I myself worked with a jeweler some time ago to convert a deceased family member’s cocktail ring (too big for my finger) into a necklace, which to this day provides me with a no-fail moment to remember her.

And if you’re a subscriber to JCK Luxury, you’re familiar with the At Last department, where consumers talk about meaningful jewelry—they often cite heirloom pieces that tug at the heartstrings.

So whether you’re lucky enough to wear a piece a loved one wore before you, or you’ve converted it, or re-created it, or you’ve helped a customer do that, there’s something very poignant about keepsakes that keep memory alive. Something that bridges the gap between terra firma and the ether. Something that saves us from our greatest fear: forgetting. And what a great gift it is that something material allows us to materialize our loved ones. Magical thinking indeed.