Comfort food in jewelry form

Cross posted from

Have you ever taken a walk on the beach and not gone home with your pocket jingling with stones and shells? Gone hiking in the hills and not found an interesting piece of rock that ended up in your backpack? Visited a faraway country and not been tempted to bring a tiny piece of it home?

I call those memory rocks — stones (or shells, or fossils or beach glass, or the odd piece of something-or-other) that I pick up on my travels. I often come back from a trip with a sack full of rocks — a habit I got from my mom.

(I’ll never forget seeing her through airport security once after a trip to Scotland. My beautiful, delicate-looking, elderly mom — hardly terrorist material — was pulled over and her heavy carry-on bag searched because the scanner couldn’t determine what was in it. I stifled a smile because I knew what they would find. Rocks. Just rocks that had appealed to her and that she had packed up as a way of taking a bit of an amazing vacation home with her.)

I think of my mom when I make jewelry out of memory rocks. In fact, the first memory rock ring I made was from a Lake Michigan beach stone, smoothed by sand and waves, that I picked up on a walk along the beach where her ashes were scattered. That’s a ring I cherish and it fills me with warmth and joy to wear it. She’d have wanted one too, because it’s a piece of the beach she’d loved all her life.

My earliest memory rock jewelry came from that same beach, where as kids we’d collect what we called, without a hint of political correctness, “Indian beads:” crinoid fossils, millions of years old, that I would string into bracelets with bits of beach glass. In the cold days of a New York winter they brought back the sun and sand and good times of a happy vacation. Memory rocks.

Almost all my personal jewelry has some sentimental (in the best sense of the word) connection to me. When we lost a beloved dog I wanted a physical way to keep her near my heart. I contacted the phenomenal Jennifer Dawes of Dawes Design and asked her to make me a “dog tag” with an engraved name and a small sapphire slice to honor every one of our pets, past and present. Those are memory rocks too, though of a different sort. I wear that gorgeous necklace almost every day.

Before I started designing jewelry (and still, for that matter) I was a food writer and I tend to see the world on a plate. Memory rocks are the comfort food of the mineral world, something that has the power to warm our hearts and send us home no matter where we are.

If you have a memory rock that means something special to you and you’d like to have it made into a pendant or a ring (or a key chain, for that matter) — something you can hang on to and savor, send me an email and a picture and we can discuss it. There are some rocks that just don’t work as jewelry (and I’ve learned that it’s wise to listen to the rock!) but let’s see! There’s nothing more satisfying than turning the best trip of your life into a bit of wearable art.
Email me at

March 24, 2015 by Christine Barbour

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