New Orleans, Saints & Jewelry

By Benjamin Mann
New Orleans, La., Mar 17, 2011 / 08:03 am
EWTN New Orleans, famous for its celebration of Mardi Gras just before Ash Wednesday, has another Catholic tradition that falls during Lent. The “Saint Joseph altar,” originally a custom of Italian families and parishes, has become woven into the culture of the American south.

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Two things weather the storms of life – Love and Diamonds

Volumes of stories have been told at New Orleans jewelry counters over the years; it is as if the diamonds and gemstones I deal in are recorders of history – my customers’ rites of passage.

Engagements, birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, as well as the difficult times such as divorce, death and inheritance often require my expertise as a jeweler. Jewelry is arguably the most spiritual of all physical products in the marketplace this is true for all races, religions, cultures and periods in history.

My job description often falls somewhere between a priest, bartender and party planner, currently writing the final pages of my first book in which I recall many jewelry stories. One story many years ago is of a young man that struggled with walking and slurred his speech. It made it difficult to understand as he purchased a ring for his girlfriend.

Months later his older sister (a saint and prominent attorney) would find her way into the jewelry store to thank me…she told me his story – a brain injury (automobile accident) and how he had sold his television to purchase the ring for his girlfriend.

I put together a selection of rings for the man to choose from… the sister realized his money would not have covered the cost of the ring chosen and she wanted to pay me the balance. With laughter and tears I embraced his loving sister and explained that I had earned something you can not buy with money.

Another…..Just this week one of my very best customers (friend) surprised me with a bottle of champagne, picking up a long awaited purchase. A stunning diamond necklace definitely not for everyday wear but one of those “special occasions only” jewelry items (50th birthday gift), we popped open the bottle (the cork went flying) we toasted and enjoyed the bubbly.

Later, I reflected on the many events in my customer’s lives, personalfamily events that through jewelry I had been a part. Each of the many fine jewelry items over that period represent chapters in their life, as if the diamonds, rubies, emeralds, pearls and gold were “story keepers” – that is what makes these stones and metals – “precious“.

Saint Joseph Abbey Retreat

Covington, Louisiana

June 26 -28th

During a retreat at the Saint Joseph Abbey Monastery, Immaculée shared her miraculous story of how she survived during the Rwanda genocide in 1994 .

It’s an amazing story.  Immaculee was 22 years old and home for Easter Break from her second year of college when the Genocide began. She survived by hiding in a Pastor’s tiny bathroom 4′ x 3′ feet for 91 days with seven other starving women.

After reading her book, Left to Tell, which is life altering, I was inspired to create a piece of jewelry for her as a reminder of her spirit, mission of love and forgiveness.

The piece is called “Jewel of Africa”, consisting of a silhouette of Africa in gold with a diamond set in Rwanda.

Engraved on the back are the names of her father, mother and two brothers who were killed during the genocide.  I was moved to tears when she turned the piece over and read their names from her heart.

Immaculée shows us how to embrace the power of prayer, forge a profound and lasting relationship with God, and discover the importance of forgiveness and the meaning of truly unconditional love and understanding — through our darkest hours.