Relationships have always been very important to me, both in my business and in personal life. One aspect of consulting I really miss is getting to know my clients. Unfortunately, being the proprietor of an online boutique, I find operating in such an anonymous environment difficult.

Although I try to connect with every new client by sending a personal email to acknowledge the order and to find out how the person found my website, not everyone responds. And when someone does, the message is always just the answer to my question.

A Surprising New Friendship

Last January, in response to my usual query, one woman wrote a long note of appreciation for my website and shared some of her childhood memories involving costume jewelry.

Little did I know then that our correspondence would continue and we’d become devoted ‘pen pals.’ This week, we finally ‘met’ via Skype, so I could chat with her for this article.

You could say we’re an unlikely pair. Nancy lives and works on her family’s farm in a rural area, just two miles from where she grew up.

She met her husband of 44 years on the baseball diamond in their community when she was in grade five and he, in grade eight. They have three sons and three grandsons.

In contrast, I lived in two distinctively different parts of the U.S. before moving to Toronto, 100 miles east of Nancy’s town. I met my husband in Texas when I was 29, and we’ve lived in our present location for nearly 30 years. We have a lovely female Standard Poodle, who is the center of our world.

Despite these differences, our conversations reveal that Nancy and I have a lot in common.

Memories of Childhood Jewelry

Nancy: When I was not yet five, my family joined our town’s community at the train station to meet Sir John Diefenbaker (Prime Minister of Canada, 1957-1963) and his wife.

Mrs. Diefenbaker commented on the lovely Scottie brooch on my coat, and he shook my hand. I have never forgotten how much that moment meant to me!

Barbara: You’ve probably read my bio on my website and seen the portrait of me taken when I was four years old. Although it’s in black-and-white, I clearly remember what I was wearing for that special occasion: a grey-and-white striped top with a burnt-orange skirt.

I had bright green bows in my braided hair and a two-strand, white-bead wrap bracelet on my wrist. It’s funny that I don’t remember the bracelet, but I’m glad to have the photo to document that I once owned it.

The Women Who Inspired Us

Nancy: I am interested in pieces by Sherman (a Canadian company in operation in Montreal from 1947-1981) because my mother bought them on her yearly shopping trips to Stratford, during the ‘50s and ‘60s.

I was the baby of the family by 10 years, and she would take me with her – along with my father, who had a keen eye for lovely things. They worked really hard for their money, but they felt that Mom should have a nice outfit, and a piece of jewelry to go with it each season.

In those days, there were a lot of dances and functions in our small rural community. The ladies were always in their finery, with corsets to hold them in tight.

Barbara: During my childhood, my great-aunt Esther gave me a crystal heart on a silver chain, a red-rhinestone strawberry brooch and a right with my birthstone – garnet. She must have bought me that white-bead bracelet, too.

I remember that she always wore colorful earrings. My husband and I named them “Esther Williams earrings” for the film star with the same first name who wore the same style jewelry.

I also remember playing with Aunt Esther’s plastic pop-it beads in many colors and making different necklaces each time by mixing the beads.

Family Legacies

Nancy: When my sister passed away in the early 2000s, she left me two pieces of jewelry. One was a brooch with a lady wearing a hat who looks as though maybe she was going to a garden party or the races.

I always wore that pin when I went out so I could carry my sister with me and she could see what I saw. When my mom passed away in 2012, I started to wear her jewelry.

Barbara: When I was 16, I was given an Art Deco ring that had belonged to my mother’s younger sister who died when I was three. My grandmother had left it to me. I wore that ring every day for many, many years, and I still wear it quite often.

But it’s the wedding band that was Aunt Esther’s that I particularly love to wear, because I feel she’s with me when it’s on my finger.

More than a Client

These topics are just a few of many Nancy and I discussed over the past year. Some of our correspondence has gotten really personal, as we’ve developed a trusting relationship.

I’ve been able to let down my guard and put aside my ‘successful business owner persona’ when I’ve faced work or personal challenges.

On every occasion, Nancy has cheered me on, offering advice, kindness and compassion. If only we lived closer, so she could share a pot of something wonderful she is always cooking. Now that’s friendship!

Do you collect jewelry? What type? Who inspired you to start a collection? Have you made a new friend lately? How did you meet? What brought you together? Please share any fun stories in the comments below!

Barbara SchwartzBarbara Schwartz is a costume jewelry historian and the proprietor of TruFaux Jewels, a boutique of exquisite costume jewels from the 1920s-1950s. Through her blog, social media, and private coaching sessions, she helps women create their unique, personal styles by accessorizing contemporary fashion with vintage costume jewelry.

Let's Have a Conversation!