TJL Jewelry DNA

We’re all at home, hunkered down in our personal spaces, reaching out to check on family and friends. We’re finding new rhythms, ways to virtually connect, and ways to reconnect too. We’ve been pulling some of our favorite books back off the shelves and rummaging through the bottom drawers of our jewelry boxes to get reacquainted with some of our most treasured pieces. At times like these, we often think about how earlier generations coped with pandemics and economic hardships, and find solace in knowing they got through it…
Over these next weeks, TJL is “staying home” and telling stories about those earlier generations, those we inherited our Jewelry DNA from. Follow along here and on our Instagram.

Nicola Murphy

"When my Father was dying he gave each of his children a piece of his jewelry. My sister got his gold chain, my brother his watch, and my other brother his signet ring. He gave me his wedding ring, but I felt very strongly that my Mam should have that. After he died, I found another gold chain, and my Mother said I could keep this instead. Turns out it was the first gift she ever bought him. She had his initial "T" carved into the front of it, and her initial "K" with "Xmas 1982" on the back (the year they got engaged). This past Christmas my Mam gave me a replica of the first piece of jewelry my Dad ever bought her–a gold chain with an infinity symbol. (She had unfortunately lost the original.) Up until I received this necklace, I never took the one from my Dad off. Now I hang them side by side in my bedroom and depending on how I feel that day I wear one or the other. Each necklace holds within it certain attributes I admire in my parents; integrity, calm, patience, and courage. It helps me feel close to my Dad when I miss him, and closer to my mam while we are living on opposite sides of the world. I feel really honoured to have both of these pieces that are such an integral part of their love story in my possession." –– Nicola is a Director/Actress and Co-Founder of On the Quays Productions, a New York based international production company. She is a graduate of The American Academy of Dramatic Arts NY conservatory acting program, and received her MFA in Directing from The Lir, National Academy of Dramatic Art, Trinity College Dublin.


"My grandfather, Gene Rawlings, was a charming man. He had a way with people, the kind of way that turned strangers into friends, and friends into family. He was the sweetest man I ever knew. He spent much of his adult life working multiple jobs to provide a decent life for his wife and four children. And he gave me my first real ring when I was nine years old, a polished gold band with a deep-cut black diamond right at its center. It was beautiful, yet modest, and actually reminds me of who my grandfather was as a person. You could say his wife and children represented the gold in his life, and hard honest work was the solid rock at the center of it all. I wore that ring everyday, just like Grandpa wore his wedding ring, even though my mother said it was too special to be worn casually. She was right. At some point in the eighth grade, it slipped off my finger, and I never found it again. Losing that ring was very hard for me, because Grandpa and I were so close. He dropped us off at school every morning, and every afternoon he would take us home with him to watch the soaps, like "The Young and Restless," and "Guiding Light." He taught me so much about kindness and honesty, and he even showed me how to make the most of a small cup of ice cream by packing an extra scoop in there every time. Grandpa was consistent. He did what he said he would do. When I lost that ring I thought I had lost the most important thing he gave me, but the truth is that his most valuable contribution to my life was as intangible as the time we shared. Kindness, honesty, consistency. Now, there's hardly a single day that goes by without me wearing at least one ring on my hand." –– KIRU is a Brooklyn-based artist and entrepreneur and founder of KIRUNIVERSE, a boutique firm specializing in purpose-driven experience marketing.

Aida Sulova

"I grew up in the Soviet Union. My father was a talented dentist: his huge fat fingers could miraculously make small tooth sculptures. Silver and gold teeth were very popular at that time. Famous singers came to him to get a “Hollywood” smile. People brought him pieces of silver and gold jewelry to turn into crowns. Sometimes, my father would keep the nice ones for my mother and offer the patients his high quality scrap metal. My mother kept her jewelry in a beautiful wooden box. I liked the smell of it, and that smell became a pleasant memory when we had to move from one house to another after the Soviet Union collapsed. A Soviet cotton handkerchief replaced the wooden box and served as a guard for my mother’s small jewelry collection. The “Wild-90’s” of the post-Soviet era was ruled by mafia and criminals. One such criminal showed up at our house and took our carpet and TV. Television had just started broadcasting Walt Disney cartoons; for kids like us, losing this access was an unimaginable tragedy. We got a new TV a few days later. My mother did not tell us, but I knew that she sold her gold rings to buy the TV. I saw how small the pile in her handkerchief had become. Selling jewelry for food, bills, and birthdays became a routine in our family. The last piece my mother sold was a pair of her favorite Soviet samovar earrings, which she wore on special occasions. I recently found a pair on Etsy and bought them for my mother to remind us how we had managed to get through uncertain times together." –– Born and raised in Kyrgyzstan, Aida Sulova is an artist and curator who lives and works in NYC.

Patricia Funt Oxman

"My paternal grandfather, Isidor Funt, was a diamond dealer on 47th street. He was a quiet gentle man. He died when I was 14, but I still have a strong memory of him. At times he carried diamonds in his breast pocket. That made quite an impression on me. Such an out of the ordinary thing to have on your person. They were in crisp folded squares of tissue paper, and he would unwrap the tissue and show me a group of diamonds rolling and sparkling in the folds of the tissue. He gave me one of my first real pieces of jewelry. It's a circular gold charm with a hand holding a bouquet of gem set flowers. On the back he had engraved "Patty my angel". –– Patricia Funt Oxman of Patricia Funt Antiques has been in the antique arena since the early 1980s. She's had stores in both New York City and Connecticut. These days she's online and at antiques shows. She loves unusual smalls and all kinds of jewelry, from early antique pieces to those of any era that combine good craftsmanship with a sense of humor.

Barbara Schwartz

"My love affair with jewelry began when I was about four years old. Where others might remember the treasured toys of early childhood, for me, it is the jewelry–a crystal heart on a silver chain, a red rhinestone strawberry brooch, and a garnet (my birthstone) ring–all pieces given to me by my great-aunt Esther, with whom I had a very special relationship. Aunt Esther, a woman with her own sense of style, always marked special occasions with gifts of fine jewelry, each one appropriate to the milestone I was celebrating: a gold charm bracelet for my 13th birthday, a “Sweet 16” charm for my 16th, and a gold bangle for my high school graduation. When I was older, she gave me a Victorian brooch with seed pearls, and a magnificent Victorian gold watch on a long chain; both had belonged to her mother, my great-grandmother. The watch cover is engraved with our shared initials “BS”, so I have a feeling it was always meant to make its way to me. I have passed the watch along to Aunt Esther’s namesake in our family, the next generation, and believe my dear great-aunt would approve.” –– Barbara Schwartz is a historian, educator, former librarian, vintage costume jewelry expert, and founder of Trufaux Jewels, an exceptional collection of vintage pieces from the 1920s-1950s.

Karen Davidov

"My mother, Corinne (Corky) Alster Davidov was born in the 1930s during the Depression. With such scarcity of financial resources, my grandmother, Elizabeth, never threw anything out–including the inexpensive plastic jewelry she wore at the time, and that she still had in her jewelry box fifty years later. Mom started collecting Art Deco in the 1960s, discovered my grandmother's trove of 1930s pieces, and a few carved bracelets later, became a full-on Bakelite enthusiast. She loved the bright and bold colors, the deep carving, the chunkiness, the pure delight of wearing a clacking armful. In 1988, she co-authored The Bakelite Jewelry Book with Ginny Redington Dawes. Bakelite jewelry was joyful and playful and clever, and that was my mother too."