Over the Christmas holiday, Amanda discovered a lovely series of jewelry at Deseret Book. The pieces purport to be replicas of early churchwomen’s necklaces and bracelets and are sold under the label Zion’s Mercantile Co., Nauvoo, IL. Featured are Emma Smith (Amanda’s and my choice), Lucy Mack, Mary Elizabeth Rawlins, and Mary Fielding Smith.
A sticker on the back of these pieces indicates that they are made by local artisan Sass and Savvy Jewelry. It is unclear from her blog whether the pieces are actual replicas of jewelry these women owned or if the label is simply a marketing tool. Either way, the product was irresistible. I trotted to the store to buy Emma’s locket after seeing Amanda wearing the delicate starling and pearl-studded chain dangling a brass medallion with pink flower.
I like the recreated-heirloom model of history that Deseret Book has adopted with greater fervor recently. For Christmas my dad, the avid coin collector, received a framed series of Kirtland Safety Society notes, denominations from $1 to $20, which now hangs in his office. Although the notes are fake, they have enough purchase in authenticity to make them of value by providing their owner with a sense of connection to that historical moment. My dad owns a bit of the church’s monetary history, and looking at the notes reminds him of his connection to the now-distant past.
This is a potentially fruitful concept for current Latter-day Saint women, particularly young women developing their ideas of what history is, for whom ownership of an “authentic” piece of their own gendered history could be particularly meaningful. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich has made a career out of using material culture as a way to reveal history, and women’s history especially. Deseret Book may be catching onto the trend, and I hope it continues. These kinds of things are at least better than kitsch and can be powerful reminders of women from bygone days who paved the way for women living today.