- Ellen Hunt
Jewelry and Politics
Some will argue that every act is political, and the purchase of jewelry certainly is. There are endless articles about the true value of diamond engagement rings, how and when to recycle metals and the spread of ebola in diamond and gold mines in Africa.
And then close to home we have one of the most political statements, the border fence, or wall, however you see it. I am fascinated by the no-man’s-land between the Rio Grande and the fence, in some cases including entire properties, family homes, cemeteries and animal refuges. The fence can be up to a mile away from the river, and the huge rolling door that lets residents into their property on the “wrong” side of the wall is a strange and necessary addition to a barrier. Since before the last election, this area has fascinated me. I’ve been thinking about jewelry that describes this strange situation, Americans living on the Mexican side of the wall. What metals can describe the river? Is it golden, a source of life? Is it enameled color, literally blue and brown? And what about the wall? Is it tarnished or blackened with either the heat of the sun or is it bright with the ideals that America is for Americans?
I am the granddaughter of immigrants who came here both for economic gain and to flee religious persecution. My grandparents started businesses, put their kids through college and learned English. They assimilated as much as they could and still stay true to their beliefs. In all, this country has benefitted from their adopting the US as their new home. There wasn’t legal or illegal immigration when they came here. The US needed bodies to do work and welcomed healthy people to our shores. My maternal grandmother was a seamstress in sweatshops in NY before she married. My paternal grandfather was a goldsmith who started a paper distribution company. My maternal grandparents built a modest cabin colony on a lake in NH that had visitors that returned year after year. My cousins are lawyers, doctors, teachers, artists, professors, nurses, dentists, etc. They occupy every job and interest, and they’ve had the freedom to choose to do the work they want and contribute to our country.
No one should have to live in a no-man’s-land, shut out physically from their own country, living in the shadow of a wall that separates us from our neighbors. And immigrants have provided this country with the energy and ideas that have made us unique. Stay tuned for my work on this politically informed jewelry.