I’ve known for a long time that there’s a connection between women and jewelry. In fact, that’s probably a connection I made at about age three. Was that when I first admired Mommy’s shiny baubles? Hmm. I think by then, I was actually asking for baubles of my own.
One of the earliest pieces to grace my collection was my very first charm bracelet. How I loved its shiny silver trinkets with their magical moving parts! Each time my parents took me someplace special, a new charm was added, until from every single link dangled a treasured memento: the Rockettes kicked up their legs all in a row; five candles poked through a birthday cake with pink enamel icing; a split oval twisted to become a heart. My love of jewelry has continued to evolve through the years, and has circled back to charms, which have themselves evolved. Though the classic dangling style are still to be found, the latest iteration are bead charms—just as much bling and delightful detail, but with a hole through the center which keeps the charms from clanking on keyboards and snagging on sweater.
It seems the love for charms even surfaced in my Christmas story Whose Angel Key Ring which was published as a short e-book last week for Kindle (FREE during the holidays), Nook, and all readers. Check out the cover image. There you’ll see a dangling cherub by artist Mary Helsaple, which is nothing if not charming.
The most important thing about a charm, no matter its style, is the story it tells. When I look at my childhood charm bracelet, it’s more than the shiny silver I enjoy. What comes back to me are my fifth birthday party; that night at Rockefeller Plaza with my parents and later, waking up just enough to feel Daddy carrying me to bed. My new charm bracelet commemorates more recent events—last year’s lighthouse trip with my husband; the amazing weekend I spent with nine close women friends; and now—the first novel in my series.
On the face of things, a piece of jewelry is about decoration. We choose jewelry to enhance an outfit, bring out the lights in our eyes, draw attention to a good feature. But I have yet to ask a woman about a piece of jewelry—especially a really good one—without hearing a story. “My husband bought me this when our second daughter was born.” “I found this on our trip to Rome.” “This was handed down from my grandmother.”
It was this inherent story-connection that inspired me to work with a jeweler to create a charm to coordinate with book one of my series. When my publishers and I were discussing the dingbat—the symbol to appear at the start of each chapter—I thought a seashell would best represent my coastal series. Then I realized that each book in the series should have its own shell. After plunging into seashell research, I discovered the uncannily perfect one for What the Heart Knows: the heart cockle shell. And this beautiful shell—heart-shaped, with beautiful curved ridges—that’s the inspiration for the heart cockle charm.
On Sunday afternoon, what fun it was to watch guests arrive at All That Glitters, a beautiful jewelry store that’s been doing business in Colorado Springs for forty-six years. Owner Cretee Nemmer had transformed her gleaming cases into seaside dioramas: shells rested atop turquoise tool, draped with pearls and aquamarines, abalone and blue tourmalines. Lighthouses rested atop the case that held a special display of slinky silver chains along which had been strung the brand-new silver heart-cockle charm.
Expressions on the guests’ faces reflected eager curiosity, as though each was on a treasure hunt. Why were there books standing here and there on the cases? What was the connection to jewelry? And then they began to put the pieces together. The heart cockle isn’t only a charm; it’s the icon for What the Heart Knows, a symbol used as an ongoing visual from chapter to chapter, with an explanation given in the Colophon, a special page describing the graphical elements of the book.
At the back of the book there’s another special page, titled “Secret Of the Shells.” Remember what happens when you pick up a shell and hold it to your ear? Well, for those who read the Milford-Haven Novels, the literary shells allow you to listen to your heart. For perhaps the most important stories of all in Milford-Haven are those your own heart tells you.
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