by Katie Gutierrez
As someone who has been immersed in the jewelry industry for more than 20 years, from working as a jewelry designer and consultant to owning her own jewelry line, Beth Bernstein has certainly earned her place as a jewelry expert. She wears another hat, writing articles for various fashion and women’s magazines on topics ranging from love and dating to fashion and style.
Bernstein recently concluded her book tour promoting her memoir, “My Charmed Life: Rocky Romances, Precious Family Connections and Searching For A Band of Gold,” with a reading and cupcake reception at Ylang-Ylang Fine Designer Jewelry in Plaza Frontenac. Ylang-Ylang’s intimate gallery space proved to be the perfect space for the event, allowing all 20-30 guests to feel a special connection with Bernstein as she spoke about her memoir and the life experiences that inspired it. In “My Charmed Life,” we follow her multiple romances, the unexpected death of her mother and the ups and downs of her career—all narrated through various influential pieces of jewelry in her life.
In addition to the reading, Ylang-Ylang featured two of Beth’s favorite jewelry designers throughout the store: Just Jules Jewelry and Cassandra Erin Jewelry. Both designers displayed pieces with elegant, simple designs—qualities which Bernstein admires. Ylang-Ylang also held a drawing for the chance to win a one-of-kind Cassandra Erin 18k gold pendant adorned with black, raw diamonds. I caught up with Beth before her reading to speak with her about her memoir and her writing process.
ALIVE: How do you describe “My Charmed Life”?
Beth Bernstein: This book is my life as seen through different pieces of jewelry that were given to me (or not given to me) that are sentimental—more sentimental than “blingy” types of jewelry. I think if you look at a woman’s jewelry box, whether it’s a piece of jewelry you made your mom or her engagement ring, it really tells the story of her life. I think jewelry tells the story of a woman’s life more than any other material possession.
ALIVE: Can you describe your relationship to jewelry?
BB: I have a real passion for jewelry. I see it not as a material possession, but something that is more sentimental, symbolic, spiritual and meaningful. Sometimes so much so that I have thought jewelry would help me land a plane, as seen through the superstitious charms that I wear. I don’t wear big diamonds or things like that, I wear pieces that reflect a sentimental attitude. The jewelry I wear has to speak to some sort of meaning to me.
ALIVE: Tell me about the transition of going from jewelry designer and consultant to published author?
BB: Well I originally started out as a writer in school, when I wrote poetry and short stories. Then, I wrote for women’s magazines for a really long time, where I wrote about fashion and style. I still write about jewelry all the time. Writing was always my first career and jewelry was my second choice. It was kind of a blending of the two. The book was really a labor of love, because it combines my passion for jewelry with my writing career. Writing a whole book was a different story than writing for a magazine, though. It seemed at times that it was a labor of pain! It was a different process than anything I had ever done.
ALIVE: What gave you the idea to pair significant pieces of jewelry with life events as the theme for your memoir?
BB: Well, my mom passed away unexpectedly when she was 55 from a brain aneurism, and I had to go through her things. It took me about three months to do it. She was my best friend. When I started going through her jewelry, I realized these pieces told the story of her life, my grandmother’s life, my great-grandmother’s life and my life. After I started designing jewelry and writing about it, it all came together and made sense. How I should write about my life as seen through these pieces of jewelry. I read a lot of memoirs and I noticed there are a lot of women telling stories through recipes, fashion and even shoes but nobody ever told a story through jewelry. And to me, jewelry is so much more important. Jewelry can be handed down through generations.
ALIVE: Did you find that when you were going back and writing each chapter that certain pieces were harder to discuss than others?
BB: Yes, definitely my mother—the part about the Ziploc bag of my mother’s jewelry that was given to me from the hospital. That was actually the last part I wrote. The introduction was the last part of the book I wrote, because it was so hard to write about. The chapter about her passing was very hard, also. Another hard chapter was the part about how the engagement ring was given to someone else instead of me. There were fun chapters to write about too, even if the relationships never turned out the way I expected.
ALIVE: A lot of what your memoir covers is your ups and downs in the dating world. Are there any new advancements you can share with your readers?
BB: I’m still having ups and downs in the dating world! I’m still talking to “The Italian” from my book. He even came to my birthday party recently. He is still in my life as a friend, which is kind of interesting. I haven’t found the band of gold I’ve been looking for yet! I haven’t given up hope though.
ALIVE: Do you have any particular St. Louis stores or designers that are absolute go-to’s when you’re in town?
BB: They both are here tonight actually, Just Jules Jewelry and Cassandra Erin Jewelry. Actually, when I first met Cassie (of Cassandra Erin Jewelry), I told her about my mom passing away and she takes letters and engraves then onto personalized pieces of jewelry. I gave her letters from my mom and she was able to get my mother’s exact handwriting on these two pendants she made for me. I wear them close to my heart. She’s St. Louis based and she’s definitely the St. Louis designer to go to.
“My Charmed Life” can be purchased at Ylang-Ylang Fine Designer Jewelry or at your local Barnes & Noble.