I didn’t always like gold. A jewellery obsessed teenager of the 1990s, I would spend my money on silver jewellery from a small stall in the covered market. After school we would go and pour over the trays of earrings, bracelets and pendants. The necklaces we wore were beads on leather thong, I had a perfect replica of Damon Albarn’s, handpicked from small wooden square boxes on trips to the Covent Garden bead shop.

Hailing from Kent, the birthplace of the “chav”, gold versus silver was not only about aesthetic pretensions but it was a symbol of our beliefs, our culture and our future. With naïve, polarised views, these were the rules: Team Silver listened to indie music and bought their clothes in charity shops and Team Gold listened to dance music and wore sportswear. I am very embarrassed to admit this now but those of us on Team Silver seriously believed we were better people, that we had a better future laid ahead of us, the stereotype of the “chav” permeating our ill-formed opinions. For a short time I dated a guy called Luke, he was kind (and an excellent kisser), yet when our gold and silver ringed fingers entwined we were like star-crossed lovers, we were on different teams and had no right to cross the enemy line.

Then a pivotal moment happened: the video for Kelis’ Milkshake. I was smitten. She shook everything through that all-American diner, but my obsession was for the layered necklaces, the gold necklaces that shone and shimmered. These were new feelings. This was against everything I had stood for and I fought to deny my lust. Suddenly gold was everywhere I looked; Jamal Shabbaz’s photographs of 1970s B-girls with chunky chains, Egyptian collars and Victorian curb chained lockets. I inherited a fine gold chain from my Grandma, the first in my collection, copying Kelis’ style I started to wear multiple chains and then like any addict my use got harder, chains got thicker, gold creole hoops and gate bracelets joined the gang. One of my students, when jokingly trying to bribe me for high marks, said I would be easily swayed, “it would just take a big cheap pair of gold hoop earrings. “My staple look was born.

I’ve talked about gold as if it was one thing, yet when you really look it spans a whole spectrum. Gold is not just gold, it has so many different tones; the rich yellow gold of Greek mamas, matt and milky gold of India, the pink warm hues of rose gold, the shiny brash gold of the 80s yuppies. It speaks to us of wealth, myth and fantasy, of lost Inca kingdoms and jewel encrusted tombs of Pharaohs. It is the colour of the sun, vital to its core.

One of my favourite books is Victoria Z. Rivers ‘The Shining Cloth’; within it the author addresses our primal urge to surround ourselves with shining materials;

“Since the dawn of humanity, tremendous energy and imagination, coupled with every conceivable light-reflecting material, have been harnessed to capture the gleam of the sun, the moon, and the stars…the shine is what delights us…it gives us hope. Glittering things are not essential to the body’s survival, but they are perhaps the key to the nourishment of the soul.”

For me transferring to gold jewellery was like a rite of passage from child to womanhood, but whether my gold is 18karat or a plated alloy, when I wear it my soul is soundly nourished.

Quote from: Victoria Z. Rivers, 1999. The Shining Cloth: Dress and Adornment That Glitters. 1ST Edition. Thames & Hudson.