There’s something magical about a necklace. Thirteen women in Ventura, CA recently embarked on an adventure that transformed their lives when they collectively purchased a $37,000 diamond necklace. Appearing on “Good Morning America,” they promoted their book “The Necklace: Thirteen Women and the Experiment That Transformed Their Lives.” Talks for a movie are in the works.
When the perfect strand of diamonds caught Jonell McLain’s eye at the window of Van Gundy’s Jewelers, a spark was ignited. Not one that would normally invest that amount on a luxury impulse buy, Jonell nevertheless couldn’t get the necklace out of her mind. She started thinking creatively. What if some friends were interested in sharing it? A plot was hatched. Thirteen women would share the necklace, each having it for one month - a time-share for jewelry - including Priscilla Van Gundy, the store owner’s wife.
“Jewelia,” the newly-named necklace, would be used for fundraising efforts to support charities. The thirteen women, ages 50-62, discovered a newfound fellowship that deeply touched and transformed each of their lives.
Jewelia re-ignited routine marriages. “It made me feel sexy again.” The necklace was worn for special occasions - “it made me feel like a movie star” - as well as boogie-boarding in Hawaii. It gave a sense of hope, of second chances, of a new life, of rebirth. “I felt alive.” It bonded the women together in unexpected ways. “What had been a symbol of exclusivity became a symbol of inclusivity.”
The story touches a nerve. It taps into the current trends of women buying their own jewelry, of jewelry being used to promote charities and of innovative techniques for people to own a piece of something spectacular - renting designer dresses, handbags and jewelry.
This is not the first story of the transformative value of a special necklace. De Maupassant’s classic “The Necklace” tells the story of a wife of modest means who, craving something more, borrows her neighbor’s diamond necklace for a special party. In a Cinderella moment, she metamorphoses into the belle of the ball. Every eye is upon her.
As she returns home, she is mortified to discover she has lost the necklace! Biting the bullet, she and her husband take out a massive loan, replace the necklace (they are too ashamed to reveal they have lost it), and spend the next decade of their lives working to repay the loan, sinking into a life of drudgery and near poverty. A chance meeting when the loan is finally repaid uncovers an ironic twist. The neighbor reveals the necklace was paste. The couple’s lives had been determined by the unnecessary repayment of a debt which was not due.
A necklace can not only transform the life of an individual or a group, it can even transform a society. “The Affair of the Necklace,” the 2001 movie starring Hilary Swank, reveals the real-life scandal involving Marie Antoinette that helped precipitate the French Revolution. It’s a colorful tale involving romance, scandal and intrigue that could hardly be imagined if it weren’t true!
In 1772 Louis XV commissions a spectacular necklace for his mistress, Mme. du Barry. The Crown Jewelers Broehmer and Bassenge take several years to assemble a world-class collection of large diamonds and fashion them into a magnificent elaborate design. Unfortunately, Louis XV’s untimely death almost bankrupts the jewelers who have not yet been paid for the piece.
Enter Jeanne de La Motte-Valois, an orphan who, fighting to restore her name and place in society, hatches a plot to sell the necklace to Marie Antoinette. Jeanne collaborates with Cardinal Prince Rohan, an out-of-favor courtier. The fascinating plot involves a famous mystic, Count Cagliostro, romantic intrigues - including Jeanne’s affair with the Cardinal - and secret meetings with mistaken identities.
Although Marie Antoinette ultimately refuses the necklace (perhaps she did not want a piece designed for another woman, and a mistress at that!), she becomes embroiled in the widely publicized trial which further tarnishes her reputation, already weakened by gossip and scandal. The resulting strain on the monarchy hastens its collapse... the French Revolution.
So the next time you put that special necklace in your display case, think for a moment. How will this transform someone’s life? The truth may be magic.
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