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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Aunt Ruth’s Jewels

Why the Amethyst Jewelry?
Opal ring

My great-aunt Ruth had some wonderful jewelry. In looking it over, I have been wondering why in her collection of birthstone jewelry, she had amethysts. Her own birthstone was the opal, and she had some opal rings, or her sister did. Her sister was also born in October.
Opal and seed pearl ring

Garnet brooch and ring
Her mother, Laura, was born in January, so her birthstone was the garnet. She had some beautiful garnets, including a brooch and ring that we were always told had been bought off a Russian aristocrat after the 1918 Revolution.

Jade necklace
Aunt Ruth favored green jewelry, especially jade. She had some beautiful jade pieces. One of her jade necklaces was set in old silver, with each lozenge intricately carved. She had a lot of great costume jewelry in a number of shades of green as well.
Shades of green!
Aunt Ruth also had a several topaz pieces in a distinctive golden color. Topaz is the November birthstone. Both the Boedefeld grandparents, Katherina and Ferdinand, were born in November. Perhaps the topaz pieces were theirs. I have no idea what the actual age of the jewelry is, but the watch chain at least seems to be from the nineteenth century and could have belonged to Ferdinand. What era the pendant is from I cannot tell. I have not been able to find anything like it online and jewelers specializing in antiques are not thick on the ground around here. Same goes for the topaz brooch. But the ring is still in its original box, labeled Elkhart, Indiana, which dates it to between 1896 and 1921, when Ferdinand Joseph Boedefeld and his wife Laura Worsley lived there. It is a very large size, just right for a man. Perhaps Ferdinand bought it and wore it in memory of his parents.

Various costume jewelry brooches, some glass, some jewels, some enamel

19th century rosary
Besides the topaz jewelry, Aunt Ruth had an old rosary in her possession. Since she was not a Catholic, but her Boedefeld grandparents were, this probably belonged to them. The story is that it belonged to old Ferdinand Boedefeld. We also have an old German Catholic prayer book with his name written in it, and his birth date in 1809. It was supposed to have been given to his son Ferdinand Joseph, his namesake. I have to be glad that primogeniture was not the belief of that branch of my family, or I would never have these treasures—there were three brothers older than Ferdinand Joseph.

Amethyst jewelry
The amethyst jewelry is a little harder to figure out. Ferdinand Joseph Boedefeld was born in February, so this was his birthstone, and perhaps the watch chain was his as well. But the pendant and earrings are for a lady to wear. I can make a guess that Laura wore them in his honor, but that is only a guess. I read somewhere that in the nineteenth century amethysts became the rage everywhere, and then again in the art deco period of jewelry making, amethysts again were extremely popular. Maybe the birthstone connection is there, but it does not have to be the reason for wearing such a lovely stone. I would wear it a lot if it were mine.

The earrings used to be the screw type, but my mother found them very uncomfortable and changed them to these clips. I think maybe the two amethyst drops originally hung at the top of the large pendant, but that is because of the style of the topaz pendant. I love the look of the setting. When I was in high school I used to raid my mother’s jewelry box after she had gone to work in the morning. I wore the earrings to school more than once, back when they were still the screw type. I wished I could have pierced ears in those days, but my parents would not give permission. As soon as I went off to college I had my ears pierced. The screw type earrings were the closest thing in those days to pierced earrings.

Finally, in my catalog of Aunt Ruth’s jewels are a couple of delicate necklaces. I don’t wear a lot of silver, but the silver and crystal necklace is an exceptional piece. It is one of the most beautiful in its simplicity and elegance, so I do wear it often. The other, a piece crafted for one of the organizations that Aunt Ruth belonged to, I used to wear when I was younger but not much anymore. Still, it is a pretty thing.

Having made a habit out of watching Antiques Roadshow, I have to look over my pieces and think whether any of them is a hidden treasure, but no. These are all valuable for their family connection, and that is all. Every time I look at them or wear any of them, I think of Aunt Ruth, and that is a great reason to keep them for themselves.


  1. Hi Marci,
    The jewelry is certainly very beautiful. I would, however, get the green glass stuff checked out. One of the additives to get a beautiful green color was uranium and a lot of the old items from before 1940 are actually radioactive. Yikes!!

    1. Whoa! How do I go about getting these things checked?


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