my mother’s sparkling legacy

At long last…a place to share my latest monkey business. Over the past few years, I’ve been learning the fundamentals of jewelry/metalworking at Pratt Fine Arts Center in Seattle (Yes, a bona fide “Praddict”). Since then, I have been folding jewelry design and metalsmithing and into my creative bag of tricks. I now know enough to be dangerous.

My mom inspired me greatly. Jane Dexter Gaiser was a creative generalist who declared a different major every year in college…finally double majoring in Music and Spanish.  A skilled seamstress from an early age,  she was a fashionista long before the term was coined. She was an impeccable dresser. She designed and made many of her outfits as well as ours. Her self acquired knowledge of art, architecture, interiors, and textile design helped her break into the interior design business, but later earned her AID degree when she was in her 60’s. And, oh how she LOVED jewelry! She had a trove which included vintage heirloom pieces, colorful costume jewelry as well as eclectic necklaces and rings from her world travels. I spent hours sitting at her vanity playing with her treasures. She would would often revamp, replate or reset older pieces,  like the sterling silver napkin rings she had engraved and fashioned into cuff bracelets for me and my sisters.  Her original wedding band she had made from a favorite gold hoop earring!

I shared her penchant for creative transformations at a young age. Tucked back in the far corner of my dad’s nightstand, I found a pair of antique, gold/silver coin cufflinks. I told Jane I thought they’d make beautiful earrings and she agreed. Days later, she took me to her jeweler and we designed the perfect setting to suspend the circular, engraved links. They’re probably the most beautiful pair of earrings I own.

Marking milestones with special gifts was important to my mother.  I received a gold, signet (monogram) ring at 12, a birthstone ring at 16, a string of pearls at 21 and diamond studs at around 30, I recall. A splendid, old-fashioned tradition. When she passed away 2 years ago, among the lovely things she left to me was her signature cuff…a 24K gold bracelet with a delicate leaf pattern engraved on it. From Italy, I think. She had it since she was a young woman and you never saw her without it on. It is my single, most treasured object.

Jane’s signature  24K Italian gold cuff bracelet                   One of the silver replica we had made from her cuff

In the wake of her loss, I met with Seattle jeweler, Kathryn Whelan, to have a wax mold cast of her bracelet. My sisters and I went in on a limited edition of 10 antiqued, silver cuffs. The first one was given to my nephew Sean’s lovely new bride, Ruthie…a “welcome to our family” gift. Over the past several years, the remaining cuffs have been given to each girl in our extended family. This seems a fitting tribute to my mother and the whole process inspired me to gather up the skills I need to create these kinds of treasured, heirloom gifts.

If Jane were still here, we’d be creative partners launching this jewelry caper!  I’m very thankful for the gifts my mom gave me…her curiosity, passion and creativity, especially. She continues to inspire me everyday, and it seems most appropriate that I launch this site on Mother’s Day…in honor of her.


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