The Gold Ginkgo Leaves from New Haven: What My Mother’s Gift Taught Me

18 January 2021
Gold Ginkgo Earrings

I think often about the sentiment we attach to the jewelry we wear.

 For my 21st birthday, my mother gave me a beautiful pair of gold earrings! She purchased the iconic ginkgo leaves from British goldsmith, Derek Simpson in New Haven, Connecticut, near where we lived.

In New Haven, ginkgo trees line the streets in and around the Yale University campus, on Chapel Street, Orange Street and Whitney Avenue. As a young teenager, I would ride the bus downtown, and pursue various adventures, visiting small boutiques, and record shops, and always stopping at Atticus Bookstore with its novel new cafe. I felt so sophisticated, buttering a baguette and drinking my afternoon tea there.

When I was 19, I worked for Derek Simpson in his beautiful small jewelry shop on High Street. It was during my time there that I learned about gemstones and the crafting of fine jewelry. It was the first step on my now long and interesting journey.

On my first day of work, Derek greeted me, handed me two books on gemstones, the keys to the cases and said- “here you are, read these books, familiarize yourself with the inventory, answer the phone- I’ll be at my bench.” 

That suited me perfectly. The showroom was dark and mysterious with its earthy dark brown walls and floor, inset with small, well-lit cases of simply beautiful creations. Each piece, a well thought out, simple design with intriguing details. I was completely intrigued. The sense of adventure was real. As I opened each case, I quizzed myself on the differences between emeralds and tsavorites, rubies and pink tourmalines.

I experimented too on how to engage customers when they came in. I didn’t know how to sell per se, but I loved sharing my new knowledge and enthusiasm with anyone who was interested.

I’d say, “May I show you a necklace Derek just finished?”

“This is a tsavorite garnet- it is very rare and found only in Kenya.”

I rarely sold anything.

But, in the time it took Derek to clean the polishing compound off his hands, I’d have the customers all warmed up and waiting for him.

Yes, a rush of memories comes back to me when I wear the gold earrings my mother gave me. I think about the love and sentiment that came with this special gift. My mother has encouraged the pursuit of my dreams, and acknowledged my accomplishments. These earrings express all of that and more.

The beautiful materials and design are the essence of the expression, but the meaning our jewelry takes on as we receive it into our lives and wear it holds even more significance.

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