Betty’s Flatware Jewelry Project is the story of my mother’s wish to make keepsakes from the silverware set she received when she was married in 1947 and Max Ruggirrello, the artist who made her wish come true.
Betty’s Flatware Jewelry
As luck would have it, sealed in a Tupperware tub, my mother’s flatware found its way to me. It clanked and rattle, protesting its solitary confinement. Staring at the yellow, dirty Tupperware, I knew it was time to finally honor my mother’s wish.
More than 25 years ago, my mother stood in her sunny kitchen showing me her silverware set. It was tarnished and in all honesty, kinda gross. I’d seen the flatware many times and used it to eat countless holiday dinners. “Brenda,” my mother said, “I want to make jewelry from my old silverware.” It was the first time I remember her asking me for help with her the flatware jewelry project.
Betty brought the idea up on countless occasions, not just with me but my sisters as well. Now the damn Tupperware tub was on my counter and the tarnished silverware it imprisoned wasn’t any closer to becoming beautiful jewelry.
The Tupperware tub had to go. I considered my options:
- Donate Betty’s flatware to the Kiwanis. This would undoubtedly get back to one of my sisters and there would be hell to pay. My oldest sister recently sent me links to several Esty sites selling flatware jewelry. “Ideas,” she wrote in the text message. Donating the old flatware was not an option.
- I could make the jewelry myself. After about 10 minutes on YouTube watching videos and scanning Pinterest for DIY websites, I crossed off this option. I am crafty, just not that crafty.
- Find a silversmith. Sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? How many silversmiths do you know? Yeah, now that you’ve counted them, I bet you know as many as I did. In a desperate move, I posted on Facebook that I was searching for a silversmith. Someone suggested a local jewelry store. The next day I visited. “It was difficult to estimate labor for the project,” the clerk said, “around $1,000 for each piece of jewelry.” I stared at them in shock. Maybe it was time to re-evaluate options 1 and 2.
After thanking the clerk for her time, I tucked my bag of tarnished silverware in my pocket. Embarrassed and shocked, I left the store. It was late January and it was cold. It matched my mood. The Bead Gallery was close, so I stopped. I love shopping there and worst case I could buy something new to elevate my mood. As I left, I asked about a silversmith. They gave me a gift, Max Ruggirello’s card.
Max greeted me with a huge smile. I was immediately smitten. He ushered me into his beautiful home where I found a seat at his workbench. Surrounded by lush green plants and thousands of music albums, all I could think, “Chuck would LOVE this guy!” I surrendered to Max, Betty’s flatware. He didn’t bat an eye. When I shared my story about her, he gushed with empathy. After confirming it was solid silverware and not just plated silverware, Max was game for Betty’s Flatware Jewelry project.
Max shared his story. During grade school, he took a jewelry class. He was good at it and liked it. Soon the girls noticed the bobbles he could make and were noticing him. (What teenage boy doesn’t like attention from the girls?) It was a done deal, Max’s vocation was set. For many years Max worked with Mathew Hoffman, a jeweler in Ann Arbor. Today, Max’s clients are by word of mouth. I felt like I had been accepted into an exclusive club. This whole situation was beyond adorable.
Turns out Chuck and Max were both born in Detroit and lived within several miles of each other off Tireman when they were kiddos. At about the same time, their parents moved to the Howell and Pinckney, Michigan area. (No they’d didn’t know each other.) They both share a love for music and are involved in the local music scene. Yes, brothers from another mother as the saying goes.
Betty’s wish had been granted. Max was the perfect person to make it happen. Max created several different pendants, two different bracelets, hooks, and a butterfly pin. Everyone was thrilled! Thank you, Max. We love our flatware jewelry.
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