My Jensen trove includes two rings: my grandmother’s wedding band and engagement ring. Though my grandparents eventually became fairly wealthy, that wasn’t the case in 1935, when they married. There was no way my grandfather could have afforded platinum and diamonds, but silver and pearls were in the budget. My great-grandmother directed the couple to Jensen’s first New York store. By the time I came around, the engagement ring had been relegated to a drawer of “junk” jewelry. No one seemed to care too much when I found it as a kid and started to wear it.
Unfortunately, our relationship was cut short—literally. I had a growth spurt, and the ring got stuck on my finger. My mother took me to a local jeweler to have it removed. He pressed a pair of pliers against my skin and snapped the silver band. I flinched. The pearl popped out and flew across the store’s carpet. My mother, the jeweler, and I crawled on our hands and knees, searching for what felt like an hour. Eventually we gave up. Standing in the parking lot, I burst into tears. The wedding band, however, lasted: I’m wearing it right now.
Recently, my attachment to the band made me wonder whether it or the other pieces in my family’s Jensen collection had any real value. Maybe, I thought, if they fell short on sentimental significance, historical or monetary worth could imbue them with some kind of meaning. To that end, I arranged a meeting with James Crespo, president of Georg Jensen USA. I brought my own pieces and sent him photos of my mother’s. After filling me in on the history of the gems—my great-grandmother’s were designed sometime between 1904 and 1910, he told me, at the start of Jensen’s career—he offered his own take on what might be drawing my mother and me to the jewels. “Owning a piece of jewelry can be like a Band-Aid for memories of a bad relationship,” he said. “When I look at a piece of great art, I don’t think of who has owned it. All I think is, That’s beautiful.”
Crespo went on to explain that many of Jensen’s designs were produced as numbered series. The number 1 on the back of the agate necklace, then, means it was the first of its kind to be crafted. The next day, still high on the Antiques Roadshow–ness of it all, I felt a thrill when Crespo’s name popped up in my in-box. After further investigation, he’d come to believe that the piece was probably the first pendant Jensen ever produced in that line. “These are very early designs,” he wrote, adding, “Hold on to them.”