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My love and fascination for jewelry began at a young age, largely influenced by my mom and grandmother. I remember “playing” in their jewelry boxes, trying pieces on and hearing their stories. They were always so much more than pretty objects. They were gifts given for sweet 16s, graduations, and anniversaries; memories of distinct times and travels; treasures passed down through generations. Antique jewelry has always been my favorite because of that history, because it was a part of someone’s story.
I never got to meet any of my biological grandparents, but my mom’s aunt was Grandma to me my whole life. Touching jewelry that my great and great grandmothers wore—and seeing the photos of these legends in those pieces—made me feel connected and aware of my lineage. Going through my grams’ jewelry box, she would always say “I don’t have a lot, but what I have, I love, and that’s the way it should be, Katherine.” Opals were her favorite, and I absolutely can credit this one opal and diamond pinky ring of hers for my infatuation for gems and jewelry (and is probably why opals are my favorite gem!)
Growing up, I learned that my great great grandmother in Poland had a really long strand of pearls that she divided up into nine smaller strands for each of her daughters, my great aunts. After World War II, only one strand made it out—and was passed to my mother, who gave it to me. Even though the pearls are dinged up and the gold clasp no longer works, it is one of my most prized possessions, because it tells our story.
My mom’s dad, Sigmund Cooper, left Poland right before World War II, and, like many immigrants at the time, came to New Jersey with the hopes of creating a new life. He took night classes, learned English, and eventually opened a plumbing supply store called Cooper Supply. He employed other new immigrants and family members, offering them opportunities as well. He was the kind of person who continued to help run the business even after he had a stroke. Now, with Stone Cooper, I can see how much I am a product of and reflection of my grandfather’s perseverance, courage, and entrepreneurship. To me, “Cooper Supply” is not only my namesake, and a family business, but it’s an homage to those that came before us, and the legacy they leave behind.
Jewelry is so deeply personal. It can symbolize milestones and love, personal taste and historical trends, and the lives spent appreciating these tiny objects of beauty. Cooper Supply, as it is today, is our annual antique collection, composed of repurposed antique chains, charms, and relics of the past. We spend all year treasure-hunting for these bits, and save them so that we can create the most unique, re-imagined future-heirlooms, ready to tell the story of the next generation.
Photo 1: Ancestor baby photo, Ethel on right wearing a locket inscribed 'EA' and a cuff bracelet.
Photo 2: A few of my personal family heirloom jewels: A necklace I had made for my mom with Ethel's locket and one that she had received as a child from her Grandpa Harry; a heart pendant that was a gift from Jerry to my Grandma Mayo; and the pearl strand mentioned from the story above.