The Gladys Necklace – A Tale of Two Grandmothers

by Rena Klingenberg.

Turquoise, amber, and sterling silver

Turquoise, amber, and sterling silver


My Gladys Necklace is a tale of two grandmothers in Arizona. At one time I had four grandmothers.

How did I wind up with four? Well, like this:

  1. My mother’s mother
  2. My father’s birth mother
  3. My father’s stepmother
  4. My son’s great-grandmother (who was actually not a blood relation to me, but I’ve thought of her as my own grandmother for many years).

From this list of grandmothers, two were named Gladys – #2 on the list was Gladys B., and #4 was Gladys K.

Turquoise Nuggets from
Gladys B.

At the end of World War II, Gladys B. moved from the midwest to Arizona, bringing her children with her.

Arizona was a popular place to relocate to during the 1940’s and 50’s. Around the world people loved watching Western movies, and the romantic image of the Southwest captured people’s imagination.

Southwestern-style clothes and jewelry became hot trends too – and turquoise mined in Arizona back then was much more plentiful (and much less expensive!) than it is now.

So when Gladys B. arrived in Arizona, she had fun acquiring several pieces of Southwestern jewelry.

Later, when she passed away, she left her collection of Southwestern jewelry to my sister and me.

One of the pieces I wound up with from Gladys B.’s collection was a strand of brilliant blue, tumbled turquoise nuggets. The stones were beautiful, but they were poorly strung on a piece of fragile string, and fastened with a cheap, faulty clasp.

I took the necklace apart, but couldn’t decide how to use these great turquoise nuggets, so I put them away for about 10 years.

A Turquoise Pendant from
Gladys K.

Gladys K. lived in Arizona most of her life, so she was almost a native Southwesterner.

As a child she moved from Arkansas to Texas and then to Arizona because of her father’s health. (Doctors back then often prescribed moving to the warm, dry Southwestern climate for various health conditions.)

Gladys K. finished growing up, got married, and started a family in Arizona. When World War II started, her husband left to serve in the Air Force in Europe and North Africa.

Sometime after the war, Gladys K.’s husband gave her a small turquoise-and-silver pendant on a silver chain.

And many years later, Gladys K. gave that pendant to me to keep, saying that she was sure I could make it into a beautiful piece of jewelry.

The Gladys Necklace
Comes Together

I realized that the turquoise nuggets from Gladys B. and the pendant from Gladys K. needed to come together into a single piece of jewelry.

I experimented with a lot of different ideas, until I came up with this two-strand necklace.

This design also has smaller beads of amber and turquoise from my existing bead stash, plus two large-hole sterling silver beads from a different necklace that also came from Gladys B.’s collection.

I like leaving the sterling silver on Gladys K.’s pendant a bit dark and antique-y, so it looks like a piece of the Old West.

And I love wearing my Gladys Necklace, which contains the tale of two grandmothers – and is repurposed from jewelry components that also have a bit of Arizona history.

Rena Klingenberg


2 Grandmothers necklace
by: Margaret Gilbert

What a beautiful necklace you ended up with, and your story is a keepsake in itself. Great job!

Loving Grandaughter
by: Patti Hoskins

Wearing your love for your Grandmothers is such a wonderful idea, and the necklace is beautiful.

Thank you for such a heartwarming story.

Gladys Necklace
by: Joan

I’ve always thought the best jewelry is the piece that tells a story or evokes a memory – this necklace does both very well.

Thank you, ladies!
by: Rena

I appreciate your lovely comments.

This project taught me that creating jewelry from family history is an especially neat way to preserve memories of special people.

The Gladys Necklace . . .
by: Anonymous

What a lovely story to share! I just love the nastalgia of times past and history of family. Thank you.

Tale of Two Grandmothers
by: Patricia Rae

I loved this necklace and it’s title. That’s how I got started. My mother had a broken 4 strand crystal necklace and my mother-in-law had given me a broken pink bead necklace that sat in my dresser drawer for several years. I combined the beads from both necklaces and made bracelets for my daughter and my 2 grand-daughters to have and wear as keepsakes of their grandmothers/great-grandmothers.

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  • zoraida says:

    I love the story behind the necklace and the necklace is beautiful itself. I’m sure you think of your grandmothers every time you wear it. This is more than decorative jewelry.

  • Thank you, Zoraida! This project also gave me the idea for helping other people turn their inherited jewelry into something new and more wearable – but still with a story woven into it.

  • Barbie H says:

    Rena – I love this kind of sentimental “love” jewelry.

  • I have created several pieces for clients with a combination of vintage pieces and something modern to make a new piece that works for them. They love it and it is very satisfying for me. Lovely piece Rena! Great work.

  • Sidonia says:

    What a lovely tale, I loved reading it, and so well written! I felt like reading it in a book. It was a lovely experience for me, thank you!


  • Thank you, Sidonia! I appreciate your kind words. 🙂

  • Cat Slavin says:

    Absolutely love it! Great story . . . and beautifully assembled as well.

    How I wish I had the old jewelry from my grandmothers, aunts, etc.

  • Thank you, Cat!

  • Sue Shade says:

    This is a beautiful necklace with a wonderful story to tell.

  • Thank you for your lovely comment, Sue!

  • daisy says:

    What a lovely story Rena and a beautiful necklace. It is wonderful to be able to wear such keepsakes and be able to feel a connection to cherished loved ones.

  • Vicki Entrekin says:

    You wove a beautiful story and necklace. Living in Arizona, I truly appreciate the beauty of AZ turquoise. You made me flash back when you mentioned doctors sending people out here to the desert for allergies and other ailments. I have heard that was why so many older people were here. Then mentioning your one grandma’s “almost a native” after living here most of her life. This is the one place that you cannot be considered a native unless you are born here….. even if you have lived there for sixty years! ???? (Me, I have only lived here for 33 years). ????
    With this beautiful necklace, you will always have two of your grandmothers with you as you wear it.
    Thank you for sharing your story and your necklace! Well done!

  • Thank you so much, Vicki! 🙂

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