Guest Blog by Michael Giulietti (aka Paolo)
I was ten and at an Italian ski resort the first time I gave a ‘woman’ jewelry. She was eighteen and to prove my love, I left a gift of dark purple shiny beads by her door, which I was sure would make up for our eight-year age difference. She sweetly accepted the gift but turned down my proposal of undying devotion. Heartbroken, I wasn’t aware that this would be the one time that I’d give jewelry and declare my feelings without trepidation to a special woman.
Buying jewelry is a stressful proposition. Is there a pecking order: should silver come first and then gold? Is there a way to signify stages? feelings? Cooly inquire about men who have bestowed gifts before? Eventually, it was time to stop questioning and boldly go where I’ve never gone before—into a jewelry store.
I began dating Jen, an American dancer, living in my native Milan. I apprehensively looked at rings and quickly decided that they represented a commitment I wasn’t ready for. Instead, I chose an ornate crystal choker. Jen admitted it was so tight that cut off her air supply. She had left magazines opened to the page of her favorite designer and his simple sculptural jewelry, which was graceful like her. I learned two lessons: follow the signs and look for the right match. We broke up six months later.
Later, I met Arianna. For her birthday, I purchased a Turkish crafted sterling silver necklace, modern and tongue-cheek in its design. More of a wearable piece of sculpture than traditional jewelry, upon closer look the piece revealed a naked human with open arms. I was aware of the possible meanings to be read into this symbol of an extremely manly man, attached to my girlfriend’s neck. “Was I showing sexual insecurity? Did I have any taste whatsoever?”
But when I gave it to Arianna, she was thrilled and I was relieved. Eventually, I realized the naked guy carved out of silver, which she wore so close to her heart, would remain in her life long after me.
My international marketing career had me transferring back and forth from the US to my native Italy. While working in New York for a year, I started seeing Bettina. A writer and jewelry expert, Bettina introduced me to a world with which I was unfamiliar. “I don’t want to see a bunch of jewelry,” I said snobbishly about a Castellani exhibit that she dragged me to in Manhattan.
“But it’s as much of your heritage as the Vatican and as much of an art as its frescoes,” Bettina said as I marveled at the intricate pieces behind the glass cases.
Although I wear cufflinks, I’d never understood the beauty of French enameling or seen certain gemstones. For Christmas’ and birthdays, Bettina would either find beautiful antique styles or have links made out of exclusively cut stones. I not only got an education of different time periods and great masters, I was now the receiver of jewelry.
Bettina and I continued to see each other long after I was transferred to Rome. She’d come to Italy for her work and I would go back to New York for holidays. I knew she had a penchant for antique pieces, and I searched shops in Milan, Rome and Manhattan.
‘Jewel’ in Italian is related to the word ‘joy’. How to give that gioia di vivere to Bettina, not merely a mortal woman whom I cared for deeply–but also my teacher—with impeccable taste-who reviewed and designed jewelry for a living? You might have been just a tad apprehensive too. Every time I spotted a pair of earrings, rings or bracelets I thought she would appreciate, I’d get so close to purchasing it and then would totally loss my nerve.
Although my time with Bettina was the closest I’ve come to purchasing a significant piece of jewelry for a woman, I still hope to recapture the courageous young boy who was able to declare his feelings with audacity and present a gift of love with a completely open heart.
Just a note for my readers (some names have been changed for the purpose of the guest blog—including, well, mine) But you can learn a lot more about all aspects of “Paolo” and… what he finally does purchase in the way of jewelry… in my memoir: “My Charmed Life: Rocky Romances, Precious Family Connections and Searching For a Band of Gold, NAL/Penguin, July 3, 2012.
In the meantime, I would like to thank Michael/Paolo for contributing a post to this blog and sharing his experience and feelings so openly, And…for giving me a breather (after my computer crashed and I was told my hard drive was “toast”—and asked by my favorite apple techs “why in hell hadn’t backed up for a week”) … Hopefully I’ll get through “the recovery” and back in action again next Monday with a new post.