Jewelry Through the Ages (Newsletter No. 14)

My unscientific theory for which piece of jewelry most represents which stages of Self-Concept.

Ring: Toddlerhood to Kindergarten to Early Primary School. This is an age that, whether you grow to like jewelry or not, a child is most fascinated with little treasures, trinkets, doodads. Marbles, rocks, feathers, pennies, glitter, leaves, tiny Lego people. A ring is the perfect extension of that curiosity. A tiny shininess, it’s first and foremost for the wearer to enjoy, and the epitome of preciousness to hold and wear. Easy to stare at, all you have to do is look down—which you’re doing anyways to pick up the aforementioned treasures. At this age, you’re at once soaking in the world, looking outwards, finding things, lacking self-awareness (literally, awareness of self), yet wholly absorbed in your own bubble of imagination.

Bracelet: Preteen to Middle School. A bracelet, while still easily enjoyed by the owner, starts to reflect the transition from amoral observation & self-absorption to an awareness of peers. That not only are you perceiving the world, but the world is perceiving you. What are some of the most well-known bracelets? Charm bracelets, friendship bracelets. Something to enjoy for yourself, but also express yourself. The very hints of Self-Image, Self-Worth start to sprout.

Necklace: High School. How do you perceive yourself as a character about the world? You can still fiddle with the chain or pendant, but the full beauty of a necklace is enjoyed by others. What does a high schooler want to express—uniqueness, effortlessness, daintiness? Caring about Self-image and Self-Worth is fully blooming, caring about Ideal Self is likely developing, fast.

Earrings: 18 and on. As the jewelry moves upwards along the body, the less it’s for the owners’ enjoyment, and the more it is about the persona you want to project, regardless of accuracy. It might be the subconscious reason that diamond earrings, gold hoop earrings are used to mark entrance into adulthood. Closest to your face, earrings are the closest jewelry piece to being like makeup, closest to affecting how your face is perceived as a reflection of who you are and therefore how you seem. Caring about Ideal Self reaches peak inflation and hopefully settles down.

"Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)”

  • Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

Kristy Lin