Two novels printed 30 years apart share the experience of Jewish Women from Indiana

 

 

Two novels that have been on my radar for many years by Hoosier Jewish women writers became my summer reads this year.   Rock of Refuge by Betty Tigay and published in 1953 by Vantage Press, and Pageant by Kathryn Lasky, and published in 1983 by Macmillian.  Both novels chronicled the experience of two very different Jewish women both from Indiana.

 

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Kathryn Lasky’s novel about Sarah Benjamin in Indianapolis on the eve of JFK’s Camelot era

Beverly in Rock of Refuge was from Hammond very early in the 20th century long before the theater and department store architect Henry Newhouse put up the Kneseth Israel Synagogue on Sibley Street.  By the time the story opens, just prior to the United States entering WWII, Beverly is an assimilated divorcee in Chicago’s South Shore area hob hobnobbing with establishment ladies that know nothing about her humble and Jewish origins and she has no intent of revealing her ethnic past.  The local Chabad rabbi enjoyed my humorous telling about the story and the character Beverly so anxious for her only daughter to return to Chicago to live with her, but opening the door to find daughter Shirley has embraced orthodoxy and is dating a rabbi.  This vintage story brought to mind Rachel Cowan the wife of the late Paul Cowan who wrote his autobiography An Orphan in History, how she wasn’t sure if her in-laws were more horrified of her being from a Mayflower family or the gentleman their daughter married that was orthodox.  The elder Cowan had changed his name from Cohen and then married a Spiegel heiress who was raised as an Episcopalian.  The Spiegel’s by the way originated in Ligonier, Indiana.

 

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Alas no dust cover art was available for this writing for Betty Tigay’s story of Beverly aka Betty Plotnik’s life as an assimilated divorcee from Hammond living in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood.

The author of Rock of Refuge was from early Hammond and she was a niece of the Nagdeman and Winer families, both which became quite prominent in haute cloture ladies apparel and also manufacturing respectively.  Nagdeman’s had been one of the prominent ladies’ store in down town Hammond, and the Winer’s manufactured the Stratojac coats and were nationally famous for designing the Eisenhower jacket; a fashion icon of 1950s Americana.  Those two families led the Hadassah movement in Hammond and our author Bess or Betty Tigay was the first chairperson of the Hammond chapter that was hosted in the Meyer Nadgeman home in the Forest Avenue district.  The Winer teas were annual events for the Hammond Hadassah and it was at one of those elegant fundraisers in January 1943 that Betty Tigay was an honoree, coming back to town for the occasion.  Hence the story line of Rock of Refuge has a heroine well-endowed with clothing and the reader notices zippering up dresses, closets full of hat boxes and matching accessories.  The story takes place when American Jewry was coming of its own, mostly native born and either religious or not, and before the Israel experience captured their imaginations in a universal tidal wave and also after recognition set-in of the total loss of the European Jewish communities in the Shoah.

Bess Tigay’s story is the spiritual journey of a urbane assimilated divorcee who seems to have no encumbrances being divorced but whose daughter’s spiritual journey strengthens that of the parent.

Pageant by Kathryn Lasky of Indianapolis is the next generation and takes place in the days leading up and after John F. Kennedy’s election as President.  The heroine of the story, Sarah Benjamin, is the Jewish daughter of a successful plastic surgeon in the Indiana state capital who is attending an exclusive girls school of mostly Nixon supporting WASPs.  This is the journey of Jewish teenager during Camelot.  Her mother volunteers for Planned Parenthood, Meals-on-Wheels, and leads the anti-censorship campaign with do-good-er moms that try to ban Catcher in the Rye from their school library.  When Sarah finally gets a date, the touchy-feely advances of her escort aren’t nearly as offensive as his referring to the folks who fish in the White River using the N-word.  Whereupon she gets out of the car and walks all the way home.  Central to the story is that every year Sarah must play the shepherd in their school Christmas Pageant. It gives her an idea for a school project to query the student body, the mayor of Indianapolis, Martin Luther King Jr and several others what color eyes and hair do they believe have angels?  Except for MLK all come back as blond with blue eyes.  When Sarah and her older sister who comes home from Park Avenue talking about the twinkle lights on the Big Apple’s Christmas trees, Dr. and Mrs. Benjamin allow their daughters to have a tree because they see it as a national and no longer as a religious holiday and theirs will only have clear bulbs, twinkle lights, candy canes and angels with brown hair!

In the background to the story is Sarah’s very cosmopolitan and jet setting auntie, the road manager for world famous ballet dancers and stage musicians, refugees from behind the iron curtain and new prodigies from Israel.  The auntie’s nurturing comes across to Sarah often as condescending but she also is the sounding board mocking the stuffy environment of conservative Indianapolis.  Eventually, Sarah can no longer take her Hoosier setting and runs away to New York City the very week Camelot was gunned down.

Both women from different eras portray the insider-outsider perspective of the Jewish experience in Indiana and in America itself.  Beverly and Sarah have privileged lifestyles yet look out for the underdog.  In a sense, they are that underdog but they each have money that affords them certain comforts and survival.  Both women leave Indiana as did their authors.  That too seems to be the Indiana Jewish experience.  Wander Indiana that was once the theme for our state license plates ironically is what so many of us do, Wander away from the banks of the Wabash.

#HoosierJewishfiction #JewishWomenIndiana #Indianafiction  #Hoosierfiction # Continue reading

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Crown Point High School Hall of Fame includes some nefarious Duds

Leading up to my Crown Point High School 20th class reunion I visited a brilliant therapist in Phoenix for four sessions.   Barbara Levy PhD listening to my school experiences asked why I would want to go back to such a place?!   I wrote a column in 1995.     I said the people I went home to see for the first time in two decades should have been paying for my therapy.   Happily my mother’s advice:  Try to make adversaries friends won over decades of avoidance.   I had a great time revisiting my classmates.   The vignettes that had haunted me for so many years, only I remembered.   I left the reunion with many new happy memories.   Though shortly thereafter I commenced to write a historical fiction.   Anchored in the story are those haunting school vignettes that had me reluctant to return to the home town of my adolescence.

The Crown Point High School Hall of Fame committee has honored some great faculty and also some nefarious duds.

The Crown Point High School Hall of Fame committee has honored some great faculty and also some nefarious duds.

My novel will finally be published this summer.   I portray the little Napoleon of a teacher who in 1974 yelled out at a debate during the OPEC oil embargo that the Jews and Cubans should be rounded up and Nuked!   [I never did understand why he included the Cubans unless he thought all American Jews resided in Greater Miami, which only proves he was an idiot and a bigot].   I also portray a vignette of my graduation, a blatant trespass of separation of church and state as the commencement address was entitled that Christians come in all shapes and sizes like glass bottles.    Then the also small minded principal paraded the flunking students, those that they hadn’t cherry picked out of the line earlier, and sadly across the stage and announced to the whole town their humiliating demerits.

My response to years of unflattering comments by several faculty during my years at CPHS during Christmas decorating by the Student Council.  I used this vintage 1974 image on a holiday card in recent years with the sarcastic caption:   “Celebrating Diversity at CPHS.....The Principal was Pissed!”

My response to years of unflattering comments by several faculty during my years at CPHS during Christmas decorating by the Student Council. I used this vintage 1974 image on a holiday card in recent years with the sarcastic caption: “Celebrating Diversity at CPHS…..The Principal was Pissed!”

You can imagine how shocked I was when I learned both of those men were inducted into the Crown Point High School Hall of Fame.   I had told one of their committee members about the anti-Semetic remarks.   But apparently my words were forgotten or worse discounted and the little mamzer is now a hall of fame inductee.

This past week the committee inducted another former faculty member who in his acceptance speech, explained he deserved the award and then went on to make many political comments including homophobic attacks on gay marriage.   As if Indiana needed more bad publicity, we have a school teacher making a mockery of what is to be exceptional Hoosier educators.

Scuttlebutt is abounding about the homophobic comments.   Like the incumbent Indiana governor this moron is also unaware that most of us have gay friends, family members, colleagues and we respect and love them.   Making public bigoted comments has no place in contemporary America.    This scuttlebutt should be spreading like wildfire and the honoree needs to be rebuked and his honor revoked.

The Hall of Fame committee needs to examine its standards for selection and allow at least a years time to pass between nomination and induction.    Perhaps by then the committee won’t be embarrassed when they’ve honored someone who is more a nefarious bastard than someone to behold.

CPHS Gay and Lesbian alumni are outraged as Social media quickly spread word throughout the country of homophobic remarks made by a CPHS Hall of Fame inductee during his acceptance speech.

CPHS Gay and Lesbian alumni are outraged as Social media quickly spread word throughout the country of homophobic remarks made by a CPHS Hall of Fame inductee during his acceptance speech.

Other gay classmates said they plan to join the organization and allow their voice to be heard.   I’m not so optimistic having observed one of their meetings last winter.   This time its an institution best to avoid, even though they have honored some of our best and brightest teachers, but the Hall of Fame status is shallow seeing the duds on the list.

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Fancy Tablescapes, Family Memories and Playing House.

Several years ago observing one of my mother’s holiday tablescapes, I noticed that there was a theme but it had been interrupted by her incessantly ringing telephone.  Mom once upon a time was an artist but that gave way to her becoming one of those hard core Realtors.  Looking at her fine porcelain china atop linens that contrasted poorly and then tacky holiday stemware, me, the fine jeweler with an eye for visual display, said Your table is a train wreck!

Mom who had not been groomed as a homemaker by her long gone mother, and then  with our other family matriarch gone who had hosted holiday dinners for decades, she hadn’t a clue how to arrange these family affairs.  Mom’s quick-on-her-feet response was:  “Then you do it!

My first tablescape for Thanksiving used a vintage 1970s woven bedspread to compliment the Bavarian porcelain, with chargers with a Silver hue.  Old Newbury Crafter cutlery.

My first tablescape for Thanksgiving 2011, I used a vintage 1970s woven bedspread to compliment the Bavarian porcelain, “Roseamonde” by Johann Haviland and chargers with a Silver hue.  Old Newbury Crafter cutlery, French and Bavarian crystal.  Linens vintage and from Crate & Barrel.

So began the conversion of our tablescapes and holiday meals from their put-together helter skelter arrangement between business telephone calls to my more methodical visuals and dinners thought out months in advance.  We went from layers of mismatched themes and conflicting hues to very coordinated landscapes of alluring beauty.  Today family treasures make up our centerpieces that have been pulled out from dusty corners from around the house to make entertaining conversations.

Our membership into the Facebook era has taken these private family affairs to a vast array of friends, and I’ve become better known for my tablescapes than my professional life as a fine jeweler.  I’ve received accolades from the pulpit, and received compliments from around the Facebook globe.  One friend has an photo album of my tables.  And relatives who no longer have use for their heirloom china and cutlery have been sending me their family treasures!

Mother, also an uber consumer, was enchanted with my first table settings for Thanksgiving 2011.  She asked:  “Where did those blue glasses come from?  Did you bring those from your house?  No mom, these Bavarian blue hand cut crystal tumblers were in one of your china cabinets!  Dad was originally confused by the new fascination with our tables.  The first couple of years he kept asking:  “Who is coming?”  Are you inviting the President?!

Thanksgiving using Century old "White Block" china and Reed & Barton's "Dorothy Hamilton" cutlery.  Party favors wrapped with silk ribbon and a fresh spray of Rosemary from the garden

Thanksgiving 2103 using century old “White Block” china and Reed & Barton’s “Dorothy Hamilton” cutlery.  Party favors wrapped with silk ribbon and a fresh spray of Rosemary from the garden for each place setting.

 

The refocus on our tables has also done something deeper for our holidays than adding visual beauty.  We are sharing more time together.  Most holiday meals, the shopping for groceries, the baking and cooking can take days, but the meal itself, when the family is actually sitting together as a group, is over in twenty minutes!  Now with each table trying too compliment or improve the former, we talk more about planning, search around the house for conversation pieces to decorate the table.  This new trend also allows mother to shop for more dishes and stemware as if we didn’t have enough already.

My original focus was to just spruce up the table and to use our better porcelains, crystals and sterling; riches that were stored away and thereto seldom seen.  But what I’ve unexpectedly done is also created a new family tradition and conversations about the origins of those very crystals, and china patterns.  For a family that doesn’t want for anything other than good health  (although I wish they would buy a new car)  we’ve created a new bonding experience.

Dad laughs to himself about our fussing with a table that hadn’t been used but a few times in the past decades.  Mom and I talk weeks in advance discussing which china set she prefers to use for the next upcoming holiday.   We begin setting the table weeks in advance, and Dad helps wash everything again a day before our family meal.

Party favors for each place setting.  Here note pads wrapped in ribbon with an odd old earring as an added jewel to the bows.

Party favors for each place setting. Here note pads wrapped in ribbon with an odd old earring as an added jewel to the bows and a spray of  Lily of the Valley.

My parent’s are very private folks.  Mom’s being a busy Realtor and with a telephone stuck to her ear too many hours of the day, doesn’t entertain at home.  Her country residence is her safe place and few are allowed inside or even on the grounds of our home turf.  There is an office in town and everywhere else she shares her space. Ok, well the telephone has been an invasion of our private space but that is life of a Realtor.

Several years ago, a cousin who happened to live in the very duneland house we procured a decade ago, came to introduce herself and spend a weekend.  I had planned a fancy dinner for six relatives.  My distant cousin, the special guest, had been a pen pal for years.  During her visit, we sat on the deck and polished silver and recited what she could about her very early years here in Furnessville.  It was the most amazing visit, sitting outside chatting away and polishing silver!

A layering of chargers complimented the Bavarian and English china and Francis I cutlery by Reed & Barton.  Unknown vintage crystal complimented used for Jello servings complimented the Regency pattern soup bowls by Tuscany.

A layering of chargers complimented the Bavarian and English china and Francis I cutlery by Reed & Barton.  Unknown vintage crystal used for Jello servings complimented the Regency pattern soup bowls by Tuscany.

I worry what possible family memories others are losing as more and more families move away from one another, communicate electronically.  Most threatening are those who go shopping on our family holidays, rather than creating memories together around a table, or even planning that table, or cleaning up together afterward.  For years the women always cleaned up while visiting with one another in the kitchens and washing and storing away the cutlery, dishes and servers.  The men put away the extra chairs and moved furniture back into place before everyone regrouped in comfortable living rooms.   It is that shared togetherness that most of us value more than anything.  Sharing time is where the best memories evolve.

Mother's Day with Castleton China with a individual menu.  Gold plated Irish coffee mugs by Hall China and tumblers by Culver

Mother’s Day with Castleton’s “Sunnyvale” china with an individual menu.  Gold plated Irish coffee mugs by Hall China and tumblers by Culver.

Brides don’t seem to register for china and cutlery as much if at all of late.  Another distant cousin who came also to my house for dinner, which isn’t the guarded retreat as is my parent’s residence, for dad’s recent 80th birthday had mentioned her wedding when talking about my tablescape.   She had used several sets of heirloom china and mixed them all up for her wedding.  We are related through a common G.G.G. Grandfather.  I asked where her heirloom china was made and which generation and branch of her family it had originated.  That question sparked an interest in family history.  Even my brother, who sat quietly, and not interested in china dishes was learning about our family through our discussions of vintage porcelain.

Perfume decanter's were the centerpieces for this tablescape that complimented the Moser stemware and tumbler by Culver.

Vintage perfume decanter’s were the centerpieces for this tablescape that complimented the Moser stemware and tumbler by Culver.

One vignette survives of a G.G. Grandmother’s china and how her daughters in 1914 busted up the huge Haviland charger plates in their back garden in Lima, Ohio before their move west to Valparaiso, Indiana.  I have one tea cup that remains of that collection.  For Mother’s Day this year, I’ve procured several pieces to compliment the Haviland tea cup that is more than a century old.  Grandma for years lamented how silly it was to break their mother’s china

only because they were so tired of washing the huge plates.

Our Thanksgiving 2014 centerpiece was a vintage Moser crystal punch bowl filled with colored water and floating candles!

Our Thanksgiving 2014 centerpiece was a vintage Moser crystal punch bowl filled with colored water and floating candles!  Wedgwood “Williamsburg Bianca” and “Oberon,” and vintage white Block china. Caspari napkins from the Schoolhouse Shop in Furnessville,

So for your upcoming holiday and family gatherings, I recommend you have some fun playing house and get out the good stuff, life is short, and there is so much to share.  Pull out unusual items to make your centerpieces.  They don’t have to be expensive, only interesting:  Old pieces of jewelry, perfume bottles, something to spark conversations and enchant the eye.   You’ll be creating magic and powerful memories!

Posted in Castleton, Fine crystal, Fostoria crystal, Haviland, Holiday dinners, Moser crystal, Old Newbury Crafters sterling, procelain china, Tablescapes, Tuscany, Wedgwood | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Maker & Muse: Women and Early Twentieth Century Art Jewelry

Have an interest in vintage jewelry?  

Then you must visit the Driehaus Museum in Chicago for their show Maker & Muse: Women and Early Twentieth Century Art Jewelry. This show in a treasure chest of a mansion in River East opened on Valentines Day 2015 and runs through January 3, 2016.

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“This exhibition features more than two hundred and fifty pieces of jewelry created in the early decades of the twentieth century. During this vibrant period, jewelry makers in the world’s centers of design created audacious new styles in response to the growing industrialization of the world and changing role of women in society. Their alternative designs boldly artistic, exquisitely detailed, hand-wrought, and inspired by nature became known as art jewelry.

Maker & Muse explores five different areas of art jewelry design and fabrications: The Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain, Art Nouveau in France, Jugendstil in Germany and Austria, Louis Comfort Tiffany in New York, and the American Arts and Crafts in Chicago.

An exquisite necklace of gold and set with pearls and aquamarines by Charlotte Newman of England circa 1890

An exquisite necklace of gold and set with pearls and aquamarines by Charlotte Newman of England circa 1890

Work created by both men and women are exhibited together to highlight commonalities while illustrating each maker’s distinctive style, And in regions or movements that saw few women present in the workshop, the female remained unquestionably present in the mind of the designer. Not only did art jewelers intend to highlight the fashionable clothing and natural beauty of a woman during this period, they also often represented her within the work itself.

A Tiara of silver with enamel and citrine b y Child & Child (England 1990-1916)

      A Tiara of silver with enamel and citrine      by Child & Child (England 1990-1916)

While inspired by the broader art movements of the day and their unique cultures and contexts, designers strove together to created adventurous pieces of jewelry with dramatic forms, intricate craftsmanship, saturated colors, and semi-precious stones. Drawn from collection of Richard H. Driehaus and prominent natural public and private collections, this exhibition upholds the same ideal of beauty as did its talented makers.”

While some of the names of the makers are well known such as Rene Lalique, Henri Vever, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Marcus & Co. there are many others that are to be known from this exhibit of fine and often important jewelry.

Marcus & Co. (American 1892-1941) Brooch and necklace,  gold, agate, enamel.

Marcus & Co. (American 1892-1941) Brooch and necklace, gold, agate, enamel.

I make the distinction of fine as this exhibition focuses on women entering the field of precious metals and gemstone jewelry but overlooks the contributions of Coco Chanel of Europe and the American born Miriam Haskell who were also innovative jewelry designers. Miriam Haskell jewelry was non precious metals, and although only marketed in the better stores was more affordable than the pieces exhibited in Maker & Muse that are riches only available for the crème de la crème of society, I highly recommend this show, but keep in mind, unless your great grandmother or great great grandmother’s generations were extremely wealthy, you won’t find any of these pieces amongst your family heirlooms. But if you are lucky to find a Haskell piece, which weren’t hallmarked until after 1950, that non precious jewel could have more value than the diamonds those ancestors wore!

The Driehaus Museum is located at 30 East Eire Street, east of Michigan Avenue in Chicago's River East neighborhood.  Call 312.482-8933 for hours and admission fees.

The Driehaus Museum is located at 40 East Eire Street, east of Michigan Avenue in Chicago’s River East neighborhood. Call  312.482-8933 for hours and admission fees

Meanwhile note that the Driehaus Museum is in one of the most remarkable homes of Chicago, and only opened to the public since 2008. The 1879 home of banker Samuel Mayo Nickerson whose fortune was made on selling alcohol to the Union Army during the civil war. See more on this gilded nineteenth century residence at: http://www.driehausmuseum.org 

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Rosemary Gard, Another Indiana Author to Note and Read

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Local author’s trilogy adds another plume

to Indiana’s prolific fountain of writers!

Believe it or not Indiana was once the literary fountain from which came a stream of novels that entertained America at the turn of the last century. George Ade, Booth Tarkington, Theodore Dreiser, Lew Wallace, Gene Stratton Porter, Edwin Way Teale, James Witcomb Riley. Our Best and Brightest that originated here or had some stay before wandering off to more cosmopolitan places leaving the Hoosier landscape with brain dead politicians elected by a populace vacant of the progressives, Abraham Lincoln included.  But here too we’ve produced the liberals (Republican) Wendell Willkie, and (Democrat) U.S. Senator Birch Bayh who authored two successful amendments to the United States Constitution, the 26th which gave 18 year olds the right to vote.

Our northwest corner of the state has produced not only two Nobel Prize winners for economics but also an impressive list of authors from Edwin Way Teale, Sidney Sheldon, Steve Tesich,  (Meyer Levin penned his novel “The Old Bunch” while staying at a nudist colony in Valparaiso as it was the only place he could find peace and quiet)  and Jean Shepherd but also Rabbi Garry August, Anne Putnam Sanford, Lee Zacharias, Guy Slaughter, Amy Kristoff, and the most prolific Rosemary Gard of Crown Point.

Rosemary has written a trilogy of Destiny novels,  Destiny’s DowryDestiny Denied and  Destiny’s Dance.  Her stories are set in a complex Croatian homeland reeling in the aftermath of feudalism, draconian law, old world superstitions and a dominating Catholicism culture as late as the end of the 19th century.  Yet we are transported there through the eyes of an American author.  How lucky we are to see such a foreign place with its rituals, multiple cultures sharing the same turf, without a transatlantic flight back into a time long ago.  Her feminist characters though local in birth, have a spark of the American frontier, rebellious and a be-dammed attitude with suffocating traditions, and mostly with good moral compasses.  They are Herbalists for profit, a Gypsy Queen, a brothel manager as well as mainstream business women and heads of households.  We are “transported” as so many reviewers have written to another time and place and sans having to visit the place so many of our ancestors ran away from.

Rosemary has the genius of a story teller and we are all the richer for journey through her reads.

http://www.amazon.com/Destinys-Dowry-Rosemary-Gard/dp/1601456239/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425325860&sr=8-1&keywords=Rosemary+Gard

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Caring for your Pearl jewelry

Pearls are fascinating and beautiful jewels.  Our culture makes pearls a most feminine feature hence every woman’s jewelry wardrobe demands Pearls!   These delicate gems need special care and I’ll remind you here how to treat these lustrous orbs.                     

This photograph shows a variety of pearls and their various colors, hues, sizes and shapes.  The vintage cameo brooch of ivory is surrounded by tiny natural seed pearls.

This photograph shows a variety of pearls and their various colors, hues, sizes and shapes. The vintage cameo brooch of ivory is surrounded by tiny natural seed pearls.


 

Once upon a time, even men were festooned with Pearls.  The paintings of English King Henry VIII is dripping in pearls as are many Persian and other royals of the Near and Far East.  I’ve a card printed of some of my mother’s pearls and inscribed is a Midrash quote: “What is the use of having a barrel of pearls if you don’t get them out, polish them and  show them off?!”   

 

These vintage costume earrings possibly by Miriam Haskell with faux seed pearls also contain Mother of Pearl shell as their centerpiece.

These vintage costume earrings possibly by Miriam Haskell with faux seed pearls also contain Mother of Pearl shell as their centerpiece.

Pearls are vulnerable to perfume and hairspray and jewelers urge those who procure these gems to wear them with care. Pearl and other jewels should be the last accessory added when dressing. Perfumes and hairsprays should all be applied before the adornment of jewelry. Pearls and other jewelry should be the first pieces removed when undressing. Pearls worn against the skin should be wiped with a pure cotton cloth to help remove any body oils that came in contact with the pearls while on your the wrist or neck.

 

A Chicago customer wore a choker strand of large Akoya (Japanese cultured) pearls as her signature look nearly every day.  Unfortunately her skin was very acidic and ate the nacre off the beads.   The necklace that once was valued at over ten thousand dollars became worthless.  She had brought the necklace in to be appraised.  My colleagues played hot potato with who would be the point person to tell her the unhappy news, and that her pearls were ruined.  I was the consultant who assisted with the touchy telling that her pearls had lost all their value. I’m not sure how the conversation evolved but she admitted to me that she had ruined her pearls saving me from delivering the bad news.

Pearls that are mounted on earrings and rings are often half drilled and then mounted onto a precious metal post, gold or silver, and bonded with an epoxy.   This type of pearl jewelry should never be exposed to water, whether washing one hands, bathing, showering, or swimming.   The water will break the epoxy bonding and the pearl will then slip off the post.  Swimming pools with their water safety chemicals are harmful for many gems and precious metals. and also harmful to the nacre of pearls.  Our new tradition of hand sanitizers with their alcohol base will also damage your pearls, and also remove the rhodium plating from white gold jewelry!

Strands of pearls and bracelets need to be re-strung from time to time, and how often depends how much the bracelets and or necklaces are being worn.  Knots between each pearl are the jeweler-preferred stringing of pearls for bracelets and necklaces.  If the knots are no longer tight against each pearl then its time to restring.  The knots keep the entire strand from coming loose should the silk cord break.  At most with breakage of the silk cord, only lose a single pearl would drop, and one is usually easier to find that sixty or more.

When taking your pearls in for restringing make sure your jeweler gives you a photocopy of your necklace.  Count the pearls on the photocopy and keep one copy for yourself so later you can verify that all your pearls were restrung.  I am not the best counter, and find the photocopy is a good record in case your jeweler miscounted.  Also, I can count off every ten pearls with my pencil and recount easily on the paper photocopy rather than bead counting on the necklace.  Make sure your jeweler identifies the metal of your clasp.  Is it white gold, yellow gold, platinum or sterling silver or not a precious metal?!   The millimeter of the pearls should also be measured, and if its a graduated pearl necklace measure both the smallest and largest pearl.

 

Pearls are measured in millimeter and their size should always be noted.  The bigger the pearl the rarer and more expensive depending on the quality.

Pearls are measured in millimeter and their size should always be noted. The bigger the pearl the rarer and more expensive depending on the quality.

When the necklace or bracelet is restrung it often takes a while before the silk cord relaxes and when the pearls again hang in an perfect alignment.  Before the silk relaxes the necklaces can look a bit snaky.  A seasoned pearl connoisseur is aware of this and will allow their necklaces to hang on a towel rod in their bath room for a while, where the humidity from baths or showers will facilitate the relaxation of the silk hence the straightness of the necklace.   I can usually tell someone who has never had their pearls restrung when they are alarmed by their fresh restrung necklaces not looking so straight.  Jewelers have to calmly explain there is a bit more care involved once they return the jewel to their homes.  This happens usually with rushed restringing when there isn’t time for the silk to relax.

Earrings by Susan Berman of Trabert & Hoeffer with black Tahitian pearls and a white South Sea pearl in an award winning ring by Jack Demerjian of Mastcraft Jewelers.

Earrings by Susan Berman of Trabert & Hoeffer of Chicago with black Tahitian pearls, and a white South Sea pearl in an award winning ring by Jack Demerjian of Mastcraft Jewelers of Detroit.

Pearls are beautiful and fragile as I have attempted to explain above.  A century ago, Coco Channel introduced a high fashion of mixing faux pearls or costume (man made) with cultured strands and this fanciful look with various sizes and length of pearl necklaces, and this bountiful look continues today.   However, I would warn against mixing pearls with gold necklaces where metal is touching the pearls.  In the 1980s and 1990s even many jewelers wore long gold rope necklaces with their sumptuous pearls but they were damaging the nacre.  Likewise they should be stored separately from other jewels.

When presenting pearls, a book describing their history, rarity and beauty can add much appreciation and knowledge to your valuable jewelry gift. 

Books on pearls will add appreciation for these jewels as the caretakers learn to value their beautiful bounty.

Books on pearls will add appreciation for these jewels as the caretakers learn to value their beautiful bounty.

According to the Cultured Pearl Association: “Pearl was the earliest known gem and highly prized long before the discovery of diamonds and even gold!”

 

So get them out and show them off!

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Bridegroom: Another documentary on a gay guy from Indiana that will hopefully push for tolerance and action for equal rights.

 

 

Bridegroom is a compelling documentary based on two guys, one from Northwestern Indiana and another from Montana.   A friend rented this movie for us to view while lounging around on New Years Day 2014 at my home in the Indiana Dunes Country.  We had been watching the feel-good Hallmark movies most of the holiday.  Little did we know the content of “Bridegroom” nor that the story of these two men would hit so many raw nerves, and especially at a time while the state of Indiana is trying to make life more difficult for gays by running counter current to progress and the hopes and desires of so many Americans by passing anti-equality legislation HRJ-6. Alas this is a true love story, albeit a short one, and about one of the best and brightest from Indiana.  A Culver graduate too that had exited the Hoosier state in our generation-after- generation brain drain exodus to more cosmopolitan places.  Sadly this is not a happy ending about a young life that ended too soon, and parents who put their gay son, in death, back into the closet.  A gay friend of mine from Knox died a few years ago and I suspect that part of his life was also covered up by the family as was another gay friend from a nearby small northern Indiana town who committed suicide also a couple years ago in Valparaiso.  Ironically, the other portrait in this documentary, a young man from rural Montana, his parent’s embraced their son as all parents should.  The Montana father said of his son’s “coming out,” that he wasn’t having any more children so he better embraced what he had.

 

As past president of an Indiana Historical Society, and someone passionate about American and Indiana history, I’m quite familiar with the Hoosier state’s contributions to the quality-of-life and also many of its irresponsible political flaws of late.   Although the state has produced scores and scores of pacesetters of contemporary American life from Noble Prize Winners as well as so many others that have enhanced American quality-of- life.   This includes teaching Americans how to dress (Bill Blass from Fort Wayne, and Halston from Evansville), How to wear jewelry: Martin Katz from South Bend, and Miriam Haskell from New Albany; Motion picture stars of every generation (There is a whole book on Hoosiers in Hollywood), and medical doctors who have saved us from a litany of diseases.   We’ve also been the place that once was the epicenter of American literature from 1870 to 1920 and produced political leaders like U.S. Senator Birch Bayh, the only non-Founding Father to author two amendments to the United States Constitution, including the 26th that gave citizens age 18 the right to vote.

 

Sadly our best and brightest tend to move away.  Our state license plate once read “Wander Indiana” borrowing from a familiar song, but it also means wander away which so many of our kids do, after going away to college. Bill Blass referred to it as a Conga Dance to Los Angeles or New York City, to where our Jane Pauley and David Letterman landed decades ago.

 

I’m quite familiar with small towns in Indiana. Interestingly although I was born in Chicago and raised in one of the most urban cities in Indiana until 1967.  We moved to a small town environment when I was only ten years of age.  Crown Point wasn’t the safe place my parents had thought we were moving to during the tumultuous sixties.  The leadership of the town share the philosophies of the John Birch Society and Lily White Republican was the only accepted mantra.  My physical Education teacher in High School espoused nuking the Jews and the son of a Judge jumped in hysteric to that tyranny.  I would later write a walking tour for the town’s high society neighborhood and offended some old timers when I revealed that there were indeed many shades of their lily white and Jews too, both of German and Russian descent. Crown Point still hasn’t come to terms that two gay men were married there in the 1920s.  An Illinois Judge ruled this as a legal marriage.  Nothing earth-shattering came from that event as most never have realized it even took place in another lifetime.  But we have today an Indiana governor who wishes to make sure that gays like that star from Knox couldn’t get legal rights that opposite sex couples secure.  Hospital visitation being one of those rights.

 

Such bigotry whether from parents, the pulpit or community leaders sends a message to young kids all over Indiana that its not cool to be your own person here, (Hence the suicides of so many gay youth) and to cosmopolitan adults that this isn’t a healthy place to raise a family nor work.  Hence why Eli Lilly, the University of Indianapolis and Indiana University and even towns like Valparaiso, Indiana are imploring the state legislature to scrap HRJ-6 because it will keep smart academics from accepting positions of higher learning in Indiana and improving what brain trust actually remains instate.

 

Bridegroom is another gay documentary about a guy from Indiana, that will impact good people just as David Silverstein, a guy from Gary, Indiana, did as the main portrait in the gay documentary “Trembling Before G-D.”  And for this I’m proud to say I’m a Hoosier. Sometime in 2014 this Indiana Jewish writer will leave a pebble on Tom Bridegroom’s gravestone in nearby Knox and as a memento from a fan of his and his surviving lover’s story.

 

 

 

 

http://bridegroommovie.com/

Posted in Crown Point, gay suicide, Gays in Indiana, Hoosier Brain Drain, HRJ-6, Indiana, Indiana General Assembly, Suicide, Trembling Before G-D, Valparaiso | Tagged | Leave a comment