Wednesday, November 5, 2008
An Ethical Problem
I've had an ethical issue sitting in my bead drawer since, well, since I had a bead drawer. Although I have only been designing jewelry for a short time, like many women I have had an interest in jewelry since I was a child, an interest that probably started with my many forays into my mother's jewelry box. I remember spending time with my mother examining the jewelry she collected as a young woman being a "special occasion". Her box was always interesting, and I loved each piece: an amethyst cocktail ring, a finely carved jade Buddha, porcelain rose earrings and enamel pieces with delicate mother-of-pearl inlay were among the treasures I remember.
When I became a teenager, she gave most of the jewelry to me, including this bracelet. My mother purchased this piece when she was traveling in Japan as a young woman, some time in the 1950s. These lovely hand-carved beads are genuine ivory. Mom was doing a little cleaning a few years ago and stumbled upon the box in my old room. Since the elastic had gone on the bracelet, she brought it with her when visiting and gave it to me, thinking that I might like to use the beads for other projects. And they've sat around, first in a drawer - and then in my bead box, once I started a bead box - ever since.
I love these beads - they always remind me of my childhood (and back then the elastic was still good, and I remember wearing them quite happily) and of images of my mother as a young woman. Even though they cannot be classified as antique - I believe a piece has to be pre-1948 to be considered antique - they have been in my family for over 50 years, and they are definitely pre-ban ivory. Still, I have qualms about what to do with them. I initially thought that, since I know for a fact that this ivory is vintage, it wouldn't be a problem to use them to design new jewelry. However, to be honest, I don't want to do anything that might be construed as promoting the desirability of ivory. Due to the sheer sentimental value of the beads, I do not intend to discard or destroy them. However, I've been on the fence about what to do with them for a while, now.
Does anyone else have vintage pieces like this - toroiseshell or ivory, for example - that you've acquired or inherited from family members or have simply had in your possession for a long time? If so, if you have similar feelings about these pieces, what did you decide to do with them? I'd be interested in hearing your stories.