Fine vs chunky: which jewellery style are you?

In favour of fine jewellery: Alice Birrell

I have a secret tactic whenever I need an emergency boost: my antique necklace with a thin-as- sacramental-bread Saint Christopher pendant is but a pinch away. I’m not entirely convinced of his power to stave off lightning, travel ills and toothache (who knew?), but when I’m far from home I can be brought back to calm and comfort in a superstitious blink.

How many other objects can we imbue with such mysticism? Not bulbous dangling earrings or bib necklaces bigger than a dress’s yoke: it’s the subtly exquisite jewellery with minute handiwork we reach for every day. Or, more accurately, never take off. Those pieces, like a friend’s custom-made ring with a personal aphorism, or my mum’s heirloom art deco necklace I was fascinated with (What kind of dinner parties did it jangle off to? Who was there? Who did it ensnare?), are the bijoux equivalent of a well- tailored pair of pants: they don’t drown out the wearer’s style and go anywhere.

There’s also plenty of room for personal expression in signet rings, lettered chokers or zodiac talismans. The only thing more personal is a tattoo, which, incidentally, looks indelibly intriguing beneath jewellery. Give me Alighieri’s pummelled gold-coin trinkets seemingly freshly unearthed from an Etruscan midden, or Spinelli Kilcollin’s glinting stack rings. I’m still undecided on the afterlife, but wherever I am in the world, I can reach to my collarbone, pluck the slender disc from my neck and feel nonsensically, giddily safe and like no-one else but me.

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