“What will survive of us is love,” Philip Larkin, An Arundel Tomb
Every day my daughter wears a ring. It’s not a particularly beautiful ring or especially well made. It’s not from a desirable or famous brand. It’s not particularly on trend. But it is her most precious piece of jewellery. The ring belonged to my other grandmother, Agnes – my mother’s mother – who died before my daughter was even thought about.
Not many photographs of my grandmother exist. She wasn’t wealthy and the ring would not have cost much. The story of how she came by the ring has been forgotten but for my daughter the ring is a link with the past – her past, a very personal and precious symbol of life and love and continuity.
Jewellery connects us with the past in such an individual and intimate way. Inheriting jewellery, even if it is not particularly to your taste or if it has gone out of fashion, is such a humbling thing. A piece can be worn every day by women of different generations. It can take on the patina of the life of the wearer. It will be smoothed and worn to fit them. When it comes down the generations to you, it is alredy pre-loaded with sentiment and meaning.
There is a reason that we mark important life events with jewellery and this is because of its endurance and durability. We want the occasions and people who matter to us to be represented, not by something ephemeral, but by something precious and permanent.
My original degree was in prehistoric archaeology from Edinburgh University. I cannot begin to describe the thrill of finding a piece of jewellery on an archaeological excavation, of being the first to look at something for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years. There is something incredibly tactile and sensory about learning about the past from the artefacts and structures left behind by our ancestors. Everything has evolved but what has always struck me is how incredibly contemporary and beautiful much ancient jewellery seems.
When you find a piece of vintage jewellery or even come across it in a museum or an antique shop, it is impossible not to imagine the original wearer, the person for whom the piece was made. Who was she? What did she do? Who did she love?
Here, at the Lily Blanche studio, there is rarely a single inspiration for a piece of jewellery. Ideas come together but running through all of the Lily Blanche collections are the themes of sentiment and meaning, of celebrating life and expressing love. We love designing and creating pieces with hidden secrets.
Nowhere does this come together better than in the Memory Keeper Locket. Based on a vintage design, updated for the 21st century, the Memory Keeper Locket opens to take six photographs. It is an intricate piece, beautifully crafted and I wanted it to be an heirloom piece, something full of precious memories that could be passed on through the generations.
The Memory Keeper was originally designed in sterling silver but recently we’ve added an 18 carat gold and rose gold version. What I love about this piece is that people often tell us why they are buying it. It cuts across all age groups. It has been given for 18th birthdays, 21st birthdays, 30ths, 40ths, 50ths – right up to a 100th birthday. A teenage girl wrote to us and told us she’d fill it with pictures of her pets. It has been given by brides to their mothers, as a thank you for the big day. It can have a very special meaning for those who have lost someone close to them.
So that is the story of the Lily Blanche Memory Keeper – it’s about love and life and legacy and I like to think that some day – in a thousand years’ time – a young archaeologist will discover my Memory Keeper Locket, filled with pictures of my loved ones and feel an intimate and personal connection with the past.