Dreams of Okinawa: Transforming Heirloom Jewelry into Modern Treasure

Dreams of Okinawa: Transforming Heirloom Jewelry into Modern Treasure

Picture this: it’s 1985, my fiancé (of one week) has been stationed with the Marine Corps in Okinawa, Japan. He will be gone for 6 months. This time passes torturously slow. The upside, which I did not have perspective on at the time: we created that amazing time capsule collection of letters and ephemera that you see above, all from this exact era.

He arrived home after the longest 6 months ever with a gift. We were a young couple on a decidedly young budget, but he brought me this stunning knotted jade necklace. The perfect, most zenned out shade of green jade, like it was plucked out of the thin air surrounding a Buddhist mountain temple. Really - the color of the stone feels like this photo:

A photo of a verdant zen garden in Tokyo, Japan.

I loved it. I wore the heck out of it. I tried to find an old photo from the time, but we didn’t have instant documentary equipment in our pockets back then. It was super long, a pop of color, the globe beads fit my 70’s girl aesthetic perfectly (I feel like the decade your independence begins to crystalize always stays with you aesthetically, even if it's just a little bit). I wore it so much that it broke within a few of years of me having it. I don’t remember the exact year. Carter was born in ’89, it might have seen its last days when he was exploring grabbing and yanking. I put it back in its ornate Japanese bag, tucked it away, and honestly didn’t think about it again. I might have briefly, during my beading days, but I was working with much chunkier stones and glass, so if it crossed my mind, it just as quickly floated on.


A photo of Liz holding the bag that her husband brought the Jade necklace home in, circa 1985.

Fast forward about 30 years and Jerrica, who has started a jewelry business as a disguise for her astrology business, gifts me a strand of knotted carnelian beads - a punchy tomato red that has a ton of energy. She knows I love a pop of color. It jogged my memory — where the heck was that jade necklace…

A long story about my tendency toward misplacing things short (I have the best intentions!), I found it about 6 months later.

I gave it to her and said - whenever you have time. I knew it was a big project — remember, this necklace is looongggg, like a sautoir/flapper necklace or longer, maybe down to my belly button. We soft launched a collaborative collection in the style that this piece would ultimately become, and I waited. I had paired the carnelian with bright silver chain, but for this, I wanted gold.

Just after the holiday rush was over, and we both took a week off to catch our breath, she brought the necklace back to me - and let me tell you - it was worth the wait.

I had her add 18k gold Greta links from our core collection to the necklace - a small link for a relatively small bead. It was indulgent, but the jade was begging for a touch of gold. We couldn’t find 18k gold French wire to attach the chain, so we made our own (!!), a labor of love.

A gif of Jerrica handmaking 18k gold french wire.
The texture of the French wire is one of my favorite things about this necklace now. The gold and green are deep and thoughtful. Layered with the other gold necklaces I’ve been wearing, it feels like this necklace has a whole new life. I love holding it, calling back to a time to being young and in love, longing for my future husband to come home. What a gift to tune into this younger version of myself.

A photo of Liz in her current "everyday" look featuring the minimalist bangles and the 18k gold chain and jade necklace.

I love reworking heirloom pieces like this, infused with memory, story, and lineage. I love breathing new life into something that longs for it — a renewal akin to my own renewal as an artist. How powerful to be reborn. How utterly special to alchemize a languishing heirloom, heavy with meaning, into something buoyant you can’t wait to share.

My daughter visited recently. She’s going through a creative rebirth of her own and I could not be more proud of the artist she is becoming. I showed her the necklace and told her the story - the subtext was, there’s a lot of jewelry around here. This one is special.

An image collage of the jade necklace with 18k gold hand carved links and handwound 18k gold french wire

If you have heirloom pieces with great stories (…or mediocre stories...) that you want to refresh and rework, contact us here. We’d love to give your sentimental pieces the same chance at a new chapter.

If you love the look, but don't have heirloom jewelry that you want reworked, you can shop similar styles ready to ship below.



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