Curating A Captivating Caribbean Jewelry Collection

Curating A Captivating Caribbean Jewelry Collection

Caribbean jewelry has a rich history and significance, as is symbolized by an anecdote featuring a Trinidadian woman and famed Nova Scotia missionary, Sarah Morton. When Morton was taken by the beauty of the bracelets of the Trinidadian woman from Princes Town, she asked her if she could buy one. The woman answered that unless she was hungry, there was no way she would ever part with her treasures. “Too much naked arm,” she said.

Indeed, in the late 19th century, many women opted to pawn instead of sell their beloved items, so that these could be recovered after a “guava season.” Historiographers and photographers have captured the beauty of Caribbean and Indio-Caribbean jewelry, publishing photographs of women with stunning items such as churiyaan (bangles), which were worn from wrist to elbow. If you wish to build your own Caribbean jewelry collection, where should you begin?

Discovering The Meaning Behind Popular Jewelry Pieces

Many avid travelers build jewelry collections that remind them of the beautiful places they have visited. The Caribbean, of course, is made up of thousands of islands, of which there are 26 countries. Each has their own traditional pieces that are worth researching and discovering in person. In the same way that bangles symbolize love in Indian jewelry and that different colored beads in Maasai jewelry symbolize different values (such as unity and community), so, too, does Caribbean jewelry symbolize important thoughts, beliefs, and values. For instance, coral jewelry made in Grenada is thought to heal wounds, provide wisdom, and keep evil spirits at bay. Shell jewelry represents the love of the sea and of a free lifestyle, gold represents prestige.

Traditional Pieces

Just a few traditional pieces of jewelry you may decide to shop for include necklaces made from natural origins such as seashells and sea glass, hoop earrings, long beaded necklaces, and stacked shell bracelets. On an island like Jamaica, you can expect to find a host of pieces made from straws, feathers, hemp, seashells, beads, coconut shells, and more. Traditions vary from island to island, so if you will be visiting various islands, make sure to pick a few pieces that can only be found in those regions.

Supporting Modern Caribbean Jewelry Designers

Building a varied collection isn’t just about celebrating the past, but also demonstrating the talent of current Caribbean designers. Just a few creators that are making it big in fashion include Jamaican-born designer Anna Ruth Henriques (who creates nature-inspired jewelry from stunning, colorful gemstones), Monica Varela (a designer from the Dominican Republic who combines traditional metals with 3D printed components), and Josanne Mark (a Trinidadians designer who is famed for the complex textures of her pieces). Mark is famed for pieces like driftwood cuffs, metal and gemstone collections inspired by the sun, and the use of conflict-free diamonds and metals from ethical mine-free sources. 

If you will be traveling to the Caribbean soon, make the most of your shopping sprees by bringing home a collection of meaningful pieces. Start out by inquiring about local spots where you can find traditional pieces, but don’t shy from high-end boutiques and malls featuring the work of current designers. Caribbean jewelry is usually nature-inspired and attention-catching so the items you purchase will surely make for great topics of conversation with friends back home.