Into the Jewelry Box: Merna

So how many of you just love watching those reality shows were you get to tour people’s homes and get an inside peek into their closets?! Or even a spread in Architectural Digest or In Style magazine that shows you how the stars live? Well I just love them, but I always wish they’d spend a little more time in the closet, and more specifically show me what’s in their jewelry box. I don’t care if it’s Oprah or someone I’ve never heard of, it’s just my curiosity about wanting to see what pieces are important to them. That’s how I came up with this new series, “Into the Jewelry Box.” Throughout the year, I’ll be visiting people’s homes and getting an in-depth look at their collection. I can’t wait see what I find and share it with you!

My first visit was to see Merna, a stylish 61 year-young woman with a background full of fashion. With a cropped blond pixie and twinkling eyes, she seemed very excited to show me her treasures. In fact when she opened the door, she was wearing her first diamond, which she received at 7 months old from her grandmother (who was also her godmother) for her baptism. Jewelry has clearly been part of her life from the start, and she joked, “I teethed on Vogue!”

baptism necklace

Still in possession of her first jewelry box from 5th grade, she has been a collector and receiver of many gifts throughout her life. In fact, her collection has pieces dating back over 100 years.

first jewelry box

I asked her to show me her favorite piece, and she couldn’t limit it to one. The first was this sunburst pendant/pin from Taxco, which was made by one of Spratling’s students. Just beautiful workmanship!

tasco sunburst pendant

Another favorite is a large sterling cuff of her mothers from 1949. She used to own its mate, but sadly it disappeared at a photo shoot. (I hope whoever walked off it with is at least enjoying it!)

1949 silver cuff

Finally, this sea shell, which she found during a photo shoot at Stinson Beach, is a sentimental favorite. Ironically a couple years after she started wearing it, she was flipping through the pages of W magazine and saw that Yojii Yamamoto did the exact same thing in sterling silver! (for $4500!)

shell necklace

Merna’s collection is housed in a large rolling tower of drawers, and we spent a good amount of time opening little boxes and peering inside silk pouches. (It felt like a treasure hunt for me!) My jaw dropped when I came across this exquisitely detailed pre-WWII Chinese dragon bracelet. She also has the matching ring and earrings which she received during college, as she was born in the Year of the Dragon.

dragon bracelet

These silver filagree bracelets from the early 1900’s also demonstrate amazing detail.

silver filigree bracelets

When I asked how her personal style has changed over the years, she talked about how she has shifted more from the small, delicate pieces (unless worn in stacks or layers) to bolder pieces. She likes the juxtaposition of the the bold pieces with her tall, small frame. Case in point are these wide Armani bangles, purchased from the Armani store in SF back in the 90’s.

armani bracelet stack

I will say, though, that I was drawn to her vintage pieces. It was like being in a jewelry museum, but you could actually try things on. Take a look at this silver and amethyst Art Nouveau set from around 1900.

art nouveau jewelry

And being a Downton Abbey-o-holic, I could just picture Merna’s mother wearing this 1920’s pearl necklace out on the town in her flapper-esque dress…

1920's pearl necklace

If you like vintage watches, then you’ll definitely like this Longines timepiece from the 1930’s, which is completely original inside and with a new strap.

longings watch, 1930's

She says that she rarely edits her jewelry, as she has been given so many lovely gifts and she only buys what she loves. With so much diversity in her jewelry box, I asked her what was on her jewelry lust list. Here’s her top items:

1. There are always some Hermes pieces that she has her eye on
2. A gold pearl necklace and matching stud earrings (which would complement her hair perfectly!)
3. A single stone aquamarine pendant
4. Brown diamond stacking rings

I’m sure, like me, she’ll add things to her list. And sometimes you don’t even know when your heart will be pulled by something sparkly as you walk by the window of a random shop. Though whatever she does end up acquiring, either for herself or as a gift, I know it will have a story. There was not one item we found that didn’t have a story to go along with it, and in my eyes, that makes her collection all the more special.

Thanks for opening up your jewelry box for me, Merna! xo