I’m not a woman who values jewellery very highly. I can appreciate the beauty of the stone, the courage and strength of the miner, the skill of the workmanship, how it enhances an outfit. But why should a small piece of mineral be worth hundreds and thousands of pounds when it’s of no practical use whatsoever?

I do own some nice pieces of course – items given me by my husband to celebrate events, or just pieces he brought home from somewhere he’d been – and I enjoy wearing them. I have lovely necklaces of semi precious stones, sometimes finished off with a more expensive pendant bought by John on our holidays, designed specifically for me and a particular outfit by Joanna, and I remember her skill, her knowledge and her big hearted generosity every time I wear one. I also have a pendant of the Mary Rose, bought by Elisabeth in a gift shop on a school trip to the Isle of Wight, which hangs beside the malachite, the biwa pearls, the turquoise, the amethysts and all the other objects I own. But while a gift has emotional value – the love with which it was given – I tend not to invest the object itself with that value. So I will stop wearing necklaces if they make my neck itch; I’ve all but given up bracelets because my tendency to shake when tired makes them noisy, and for years I’ve worn no rings at all as I found them wearying on my fingers.

But last week I tried on my rings and found them to be OK, so I’ve been wearing them.

Years and years ago, I bought a ‘fake’ ‘sapphire’ and ‘diamond’ cluster ring in Asda of all places for the princely sum of £5. My companion was a lady of more traditional outlook than myself.

“Anyone who knows you,” she declared, “will know that you could not afford it.” Well blow you, I thought, promptly deciding to acquire it and replying, “Surely you realise that it is we who are the valuable objects, and not the baubles we wear.”

Besides, she was wrong. I went to a party, wearing the Asda ring, and encountered an acquaintance whose jewellery collection was much more valuable than mine. She could not keep her eyes off my ring. I thought, if she admires it, I’ll take it off and hold it out to her and invite her to guess how much it was and we can laugh over its lowly provenance, She however did not comment on my ring which never the less held her spell-bound, so I said nothing either. When I next met her, she was sporting a similar ring of gold, with a dome of small diamonds and a spattering of sapphires. I’m sure she went to a proper jewellers and that their version of the sapphire and diamond ring had cost them much more than ours did.

Anyway, decades have passed and the ring has languished in my ring box. Last weekend, on a whim, I put it on my right hand and we went off to meet Elisabeth and Rob at Wisely. We had a lovely day. In one of the ‘model’ gardens, my ‘sapphire’ ring slipped off my finger and fell silently into a patch of undergrowth. Diligent searching on their hands and knees by John, Rob and Elisabeth failed to find it,

But I thought, Easy come, easy go. I’ve had far more than £5 worth of fun out of it.


Looking at a photograph, part of the coverage of the recent death of the Baroness  Thatcher showing the lady seated at her dressing-table, I reflected that I had never used one.   My own mother, as I recall, though attentive to her make-up and appearance, never sat down at one either.   In fact I have no recollection of my mother putting on make-up at all so presumably she did so in some private place.

My only criticism of the photograph of Margaret Thatcher is that it is a portrait of the lady in full public attire, where normally such an illustration would be in an intimate and delightful dishabille – a private moment which, though obviously contrived, pretends to be stolen.

I often regard with mild envy other women’s charming tables at which presumably they sit, with little drawers and shelves for their make-up, boxes for their jewellery, bottles of perfumes, glass dishes, flowers, all the delights of feminine frippery.    One imagines the lady of the house, attired perhaps in a silk and lace peignoir spending a leisurely private half hour getting ready for whatever her day promises.   (I can hear hollow laughter, but we can dream surely?)

Yet I know, even if I got one, I won’t sit at it.

When I was very young, I worked for a man in charge of a factory employing about 500 people.   I would lay out my clothes, jewellery, shoes etc the night before, and I could exit from bed to car in about 10 minutes.   The boss found it most productive if we could have an hour or so together sorting out his day before anyone else arrived.    I’d always been a morning person so it wasn’t hard for me to accommodate him in this way, and it had the added advantage that since I started work an hour or more ahead of the official time, going off to the hairdressers or for a long lunch was never a problem.    When occasionally I encountered the resentment of other women over this, I would wonder irritably where they were when the boss and I would slip into the empty car park in the grey light of dawn (in our separate cars.)    We’d have our session, both of us glaring so hard if anyone interrupted that people only did so in dire emergency.    Then he would put on his hard hat and  protective coat and retreat into the plant, and he’d say to me, ‘You go and put  your face on now.’    I’d take my  bag of tricks to the empty ladies’ loo (and get decidedly disgruntled if anyone came in before I was finished).    There I’d stand over  a sink and use the mirror above.   I suppose I developed  the habit of standing…

Now a desk, a proper desk, with a notice board and shelves above, and drawers and a waste paper bucket, that is for my exclusive use – well, now you’re talking.  I’ve always had one of those, and I can’t imagine being without it.