WHAT EXACTLY IS ESSENTIAL?
HEIDI BARNETT TALKS LIFE LESSONS & JEWELLERY COMMUNITY DURING LOCKDOWN
It’s hard to believe that almost a year has gone by. It’s hard to believe that we have all gone through so much, made so many sacrifices, and that our lives and livelihoods have changed, evolved, and adapted in ways that we never even imagined that they would. There are parts of last year that I remember vividly, and parts that I have already pushed into the recesses of my mind – most of the feelings I have pushed away are those of fear and despair, but they creep up on me when I stop and think of what we are all still going through and the challenges we have yet to overcome.
Hello, my name is Heidi Barnett, and for thirteen years, I have been the Sales Director and Buyer for a beautiful little jewel box called Single Stone in a lovely neighbourhood called San Marino, which is just outside of the city of Los Angeles. I have had the privilege of working in the jewellery industry since I was 18 – over two decades now – and I am deeply in love with what I do. I never tire of the subject of jewellery, its rich history and decadent beauty, and the fact that I am surrounded by it daily is a fact I do not take for granted. I have been mentored by the most amazing people, and I have met incredible, lifelong friends because we have connected through our shared passion for gems and jewellery. The company that I have the pleasure of working for is family owned and operated, and they have embraced me, and in more recent years, my husband, as part of that very family. We create beautiful, handcrafted jewellery in the heart of Los Angeles, centred on repurposing vintage diamonds in contemporary jewellery. Our ethos is to connect our clients to meaningful and well-crafted pieces that will be treasured for generations, and through this, we have turned clients into cherished friends. Single Stone has always been more than just a business to the owners, and to someone like myself, it is often a respite from the realities of the outside world and what I like to call my “happy place.” I imagine that many small businesses have this feel.
"While it’s true that jewellery is considered non-essential, the connections we create are as essential as it gets."
When COVID hit and we were forced to close shop, it was the first time in my adult life that I was out of work and unsure how I would help support my family. At that time, there were so many unknowns about the disease, how it spread, how long we would be locked out of our stores, and how long all of this would last. And like so many others, the job that I performed was deemed non-essential. I have to tell you – in the beginning, the reality of dedicating my life to something that seemed insignificant in comparison to what others were doing to keep people healthy, fed, and safe, really did a number on my head. And let’s be honest, there is nothing “essential” about jewellery. But in those months that I was out of work and isolated from performing the job that I loved so much and was slipping into hopelessness, I sought jewellery out in other ways, simply because I crave its overwhelming beauty. In seeking out that beauty through platforms like Instagram, I formed new friendships and shared my fears about life and family during this unprecedented and historical event. It was so amazing to realize that there are cohorts of jewellery lovers out there who are equally generous with their industry knowledge and with their empathy. So while “jewellery” is not, nor will it ever be considered “essential,” I would argue that beauty is, and that it is human to seek it out as a means to temper intense stress and uncertainty, when you are simply unable to withstand anything else coming your way. For some, that beauty is heard in music, for others, it is seen in a piece of art, and for so many that I have met, it is found in jewellery.
Luckily, we were able to open our doors again in June of 2020. Being back in my “happy place” has made me realise that life keeps pushing forward, even in times of great turmoil. Our clients have continued to celebrate milestones and burgeoning life events in ways that should be admired because they truly never know what the next day will bring.
The service that jewellers provide when creating the symbols and future heirlooms of our rites of passage not only provide an important sense of continuity for our culture but nourish the trust and connection we create with our clients, and while it’s true that jewellery is considered non-essential, the connections we create are as essential as it gets.
Heidi Barnett has been working in the jewellery industry for over 20 years, getting her start in vintage and antique jewellery in Los Angeles. She is Sales Director and Buyer for the Single Stone in San Marino, California.