September 2008

Of diamonds and new best friends

By Cheryl Jarvis
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Sharing a diamond necklace? Are you kidding? If that's your first reaction to the idea of 13 women joining together to buy a $37,000 diamond necklace, you're not alone. When Jonell McLain came up with the idea in 2004, after falling in love with the exorbitant 118 – diamond necklace in a Ventura, California, jewelry store, many of the women she asked had exactly the same response. But enough were intrigued to make McLain's idea a reality, especially once she talked the store owner down to $15,000, recruiting his wife in the process.The Necklace: Thirteen Women and the Experiment That Transformed Their Lives tells the story of what happened next. In chapter – long profiles of each woman in the group, author Cheryl Jarvis reveals how wearing the diamonds gave each woman the opportunity to feel special and how being part of such a unique group also gave them the opportunity to rethink their lives.

Finding their way together on completely new ground, Republicans and Democrats, businesswomen and teachers, organic farmers and shopaholics figured out what to name the necklace (Jewelia), how to share (each woman gets the necklace for four weeks a year), and why it wasn't just about the bling (fundraisers featuring the necklace have raised thousands of dollars for local charities). Learning to appreciate the value of community in ways they had never imagined, the women flourished: one reclaimed her marriage, another found solace after the death of her sister and decided to pursue her love of singing, a third realized there was more to life than work. Because some of the women are more interesting than others, and the group's triumphs and tribulations do not necessarily feature each woman in turn, the chapter structure of The Necklace doesn't always work. Some women barely feature in their own chapters, and it can be difficult to tell others apart. Overall, though, this is a feel – good and thought – provoking book that will challenge your assumptions about the value of luxury goods.

Rebecca Steinitz is a writer in Arlington, Massachusetts, who does not own any diamonds.

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The Necklace

The Necklace

By Cheryl Jarvis
ISBN 9780345500717

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