My sister gifted me a diamond ring on my fifteenth birthday. Fifteen years before that, at the same age, my grandmother had given it to her, and my sister felt it was time to pass along this special object to me.
I didn’t even learn the story behind it until many years later.
Obviously, I was thrilled to have it, but I very rarely wore it for some years. It wasn’t until I was in college, in an extremely competitive film program, that I began wearing the ring.
There was something about being a young woman with a diamond ring, despite its petite size, that gave me confidence whenever I needed to perform, conquer, and kick ass.
I went on to work consistently in multiple male-dominated realms - a heart surgeon’s office at NYU Medical, a boutique investment firm in Midtown Manhattan, and then a ten year career in post-production film. I was surrounded by supportive, encouraging women. We all taught each other that we had to be perfect, because our place in these professions was tenuous. They were like warriors to me.
The ring got me through. As I got older, many of my friends and colleagues became engaged, and sported huge, blinding rings. But the little sparkler my sister gave me kept me proud.
Toward the end of my grandmother’s life, in 2010, she shared the origin story of that ring.
Grandma Jean was not a woman to be trifled with. As the daughter of a nationally-known journalist, she studied the profession in college, and became the youngest female journalist to cover the Associated Press night beat in Manhattan. She was also the first female journalist to enter Berlin at the end of the WWII. Eventually, she became engaged to a young man who presented her with the sweet and humble ring, and she accepted.
However. Upon their marriage, her new husband suddenly expected her to cook, to clean, and to run the household. He scoffed at her aspiration to be an author.
She promptly divorced his ass. And kept the ring. Our ring. (She also became an author.)
I wear the ring almost daily now, and I plan to give it to my niece, my sister’s daughter, when she turns fifteen not that many years from now. I will be sad to let it go, but it taught me what I needed to know.
When I give it to her, I will tell her her great grandmother’s story. And my story. And I will tell her that the strength it bears is within her, always.
Jewelry is like armor. But it’s not a superficial, protective cover. It projects our internal strength, our aspirations, our deep, hysterical flaws, and our greatest conquests, in all their glory.
And now you know why I make jewelry.
My mother boasts that I made my first drawing at six months old. Whatever crayon squiggle gave her this idea, it’s true that I’ve been a creative spirit for as long as anyone can remember - constantly drawing, painting, photographing, collaging, and writing. I ultimately attended NYU Tisch School of the Arts Film and Television program, and had an amazing career in film editing for ten years.
But it was my lifelong passion for jewelry that became my touchstone, my solace, through the stresses of adulthood and a career. I left the film industry in 2014 to build the creative vision for Paloma Mele Jewelry, and to do what I love every day.
I work amongst the mountains and woods between Saugerties and Woodstock, NY.