War Stories: Worthless

In response to The Daily Prompt: What’s the oldest thing you own? (Toys, clothing, twinkies, Grecian urns: anything’s fair game.) Recount its history — from the object’s point of view.

Worthless. That’s what they called me when I first arrived to the house in Stuttgart and was placed in the jewelry box. The pearls in their embroidered silk pouch took the greatest offense to my presence, but all the jewels were scornful. They would sneer to each other, “She’s costume, you know. Not worth a thing.” I was the height of fashion in 1935, I want you to know, but they were right; I was merely brass and cut glass, totally worthless.


Now I am old and live in Virginia and I often think back to those days wondering where the pearls, Japanese and impossibly proud, ended up. Were they broken apart and sold off, one lustrous pearl at a time? Oh, how they would have howled. We were the last two pieces left in the box, long after the bombs began to shake us violently out of our sleep.

When I was new to the house, the box would open each morning and the lady would tenderly move us about, choosing one or two to adorn her that day.  But the high drone of airplanes and their thunder began and the lady stopped coming to the box. It seemed that months would go by without any of us being brought out into the light. Early one morning, just before Christmas, the box was abruptly opened and the amethyst earrings removed. They never returned.

We weren’t frightened at first. Jewelry gets lost or given away. Maybe one of the little girls in the house now had the purple gems in her own box, and we would see them glistening in her ears on one of our infrequent outings. But slowly, one by one, the occupants of the box – the gold bracelet, the cameo – dwindled away until it was just me and the pearls. So elegant were they, fine Japanese beauties, glowing with a soft pink sheen and reclining luxuriously in their silken bed. How clumsy and awkward they made me feel.

One gray morning the box opened and the lady, still in her long nightgown, gently removed the pearls, lovingly running her long fingers all along the softly shimmering strand. Clutching them to her throat, she suddenly tossed them roughly back into the box and closed it. It was the first time the pearls had slept outside their silken pouch.

They were r emoved the next morning and never returned. I waited, alone, in the dark for my turn which came, unexpectedly, after many long days of thunder. The lady gathered me up quickly with her papers and some money and stitched me into the lining of her coat. We boarded a train for the safety of the Austrian mountains and stayed there for many long months. I stayed safe in the dark comfort of her coat.

We returned eventually to the house, and I went into a new box. One of the girls, grown up now, had me and she would take me out often holding her hand up to her face in the mirror and smiling. I traveled with her to a new country and as I grew older, it mattered less to me whether I was chosen or not.

And now that girl has grown old too and given me to her own daughter. She doesn’t take me out very often either, but she does cherish me just the way my first lady did with her pearls. I can tell by how she holds me and because I now have my own silken pouch.

It’s nice to know I’m no longer worthless.



About Silver in the Barn

Life in a 1915 farmhouse in Central Virginia. And the odd thought or two.
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38 Responses to War Stories: Worthless

  1. Dianna says:

    Oh, my. This is so beautifully written. My eyes are misty now. How wonderful to give life to this beautiful ring.


  2. A precious story of survival and value


  3. Parnassus says:

    Hello Barbara, It is interesting to think that while monetary value often ensures longevity, sometimes, as in your story of the ring, it is the less valued objects that are overlooked. This allows them to survive until one day we realize their value to us, which has accrued from history and association.


  4. Ninna says:

    I think that ring is really beautiful! I would love to have something like that!


  5. dorothy says:

    Barb, no one expresses better than you. Sometimes things that have no real value are much more precious to those of us who inherit them. I found recently my Dad’s watches that he took with him to the hospital when he had surgery , 43 years later they turned up in a box that was tucked away . The watches are still running , have no market value bu t when I hold them I can feel his presence. There is no price tag on memories.


  6. nrhatch says:

    A beautifully told tale, Barbara. I have a ring that commemorated my grandmother and great aunt’s arrival in the States from Scotland in 1918. If you’re interested:



  7. What a beautiful story, Barbara, and what a lovely connection to your family. It is an elegant piece. I enjoyed reading its story. Best wishes, WG


    • Hello WG! I’m so glad you enjoyed. I’m feeling as though I should pull it out of hiding and wear it a bit now! And your garden doth grow well, I’m sure? It’s raining cats and dogs in Richmond right now.


      • Yes, we’ve been watching channel 12/70 to see the storms coming across you and into Richmond. Hope you haven’t been troubled with strong wind or lightening. We are appreciative for the rain. I have an antique ring from my grandmother, who passed shortly before I was born. I wore it when I was much younger, but keep it safe in “the box” these days. Mine isn’t as ornate as yours, but I always treasure it as a connection to her. The garden is coming along- this rain will help 😉


      • When you come to visit, you wear yours and I’ll wear mine. Deal? An homage to our grandmothers.


      • Absolutely! Emily is in Richmond today at Grandson’s graduation. She is looking forward to us making the trip together to visit with you. Do you have any days free in the next 2 weeks? I’ll inquire whether Emily has a family piece to wear, too. 🙂


  8. dorannrule says:

    Oh, this is a perfectly beautiful story Barbara! You are a fabulous writer and I am greatly impressed.


  9. Donna says:

    Beautiful story behind this ring. The value is truly in the history and previous owner’s life. Well written my friend!


  10. What a beautiful story. You have me wondering why they were smuggled out of the country, stitched in her coat. It seems you acknowledge the answer to that question from one of your commenters, Parnassus. Thank you for sharing this, Barbara. 😉


    • Thank you, Judy. When evacuating Stuttgart as refugees to Austria, they bundled up everything they could into their coats and anywhere else. Being robbed and/or molested on the journey into the mountains was the overriding fear. Not afraid of the American GIs….it was the Russians, my mother remembers.


  11. bkpyett says:

    A delightful post exposing a loving glimpse of this treasure!


  12. Your perfectly chosen words evoke such detailed pictures and emotions. You are a very gifted writer, Barbara. Thanks so much for sharing your grandmother and mother’s story.


    • I’ve never participated in the Daily Prompt before (what? write a post in just one day? how could I possibly achieve my dozens of revisions in that short of a time span?) and it was fun. It helped to have the perfect object to write about. Alison, I so appreciate your very kind words and I’m glad you enjoyed the ring’s story.


  13. Sheryl says:

    Lovely–A beautifully written piece about a beautiful piece of jewelry! I like the way you took ownership of the writing prompt to tell a really interesting and personal story.


  14. Tears in my eyes and a sad smile on my face. What a beautifully written story with a such a melancholy ending. I loved it. I simply loved it.


    • Mary, that is very kind of you to say. Isn’t it funny that we both felt compelled to write something about the same time period but with such different players. I appreciate your generous comment so much!


  15. Jennifer Howe says:

    Reading this was such beautiful experience. I have stories like this…attached to the vintage objects that were passed on from those who came before me. Reading this made me remember my own history. Reading your beautiful words made me cry…..Thank you for sharing and I am so glad I found your blog today! Have a great day and a good weekend! ~Jennifer in Nebraska


    • Hello Jennifer in Nebraska! I am so glad you found my blog today as well. Thanks for your reassuring words that my little story wasn’t complete drivel. Hitting the “publish” button is sometimes extremely hard for me to do, so you’ve given me a lovely little boost! — Barbara


  16. Merci pour cette émouvante histoire, elle est belle et si tragique, et pleine d’espoir. Merci.


  17. David McCullough says:

    I happened upon the photo of your ring in your Instagram gallery. Something made me look closer. I like tangents, and “wasting” time. Think one of your IG followers mentioned “side jaunts” as a fruitful pursuit.
    So, reading the comments I saw posted about the ring has brought me here to get the whole story. And I’m glad I did.
    I get the gist of what happened and why the simple costume jewelry ring – so steeped in personal angst – has such importance to you.
    Thanks for the story. Love your gentle perspective.


  18. Pingback: War Stories: The Painting | Silver in the Barn

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