Guess what my darling little Travel Baggers?... I'm a jeweller. Well I was for a day anyway. If you are like me and love gems, unique experiences and falling totally love-at-first-sight in love with a piece, then you'll understand how making your own masterpiece is one of the most gratifying experiences in the world. The blood, sweat and tears are worth it! Okay that's a fib, it was more like... laughing with friends over freshly made Mayan hot chocolate from hand ground cacao beans in between bouts of grinding and polishing.
But when it's finished ... I swear I looked like one of those cartoons, you know the ones, where my eyes stood out on stalks with those little love hearts like the emoji. Yes, that was me making my jade pendant. See, Guatemala is famous for its Jade or haa-dee as they pronounce it, and the process is quite a spiritual one.
First, you select stone, it can be your favourite colour or a stone that 'speaks to you' when you choose one piece out of Guatemala's 27 different shades of Jade. Ranging from a Lavender which is white with light violet streaks marbled through it and sometimes contains some turquoise sky blue if you are lucky, through to almost black, Guatemala is famous the world over for their Jade.
Every shade of green is present as well, and the only advice given to you is 'go with your first instinct'. That first piece you lay your eyes on and have the urge to reach for, then that piece is meant for you, so our master jeweller Fransisco says.
"It's instinctual, the stone speaks to you, chooses you and when you connect with the stone you are drawn to it".
You see, in Guatemala, and all through Central America spanning the Mesoamerica Mayan empire from Mexico to Honduras, Jade is sacred. Kings and high priests were buried with it, nobles had holes drilled into their teeth to wear jade in their smiles and it is still to this day, highly prized and treasured.
They believe that the Jade chooses you and that it speaks to you. That is how you find the one that is meant for you and you alone.
Jade is said to hold healing properties and the ability to protect you from harm, so choose wisely.
For me it was easy, the moment I laid eyes on a deep green piece the urge to reach for it was so strong it was in my hand before my brain had even registered that was 'the one'.
Now, you can call me a believer. If someone had told me that is how your 'meant-to-be' Jade chooses you, without experiencing it myself, well there may have been a speck of disbelief. Not in the process, but in the almost magnetic pull drawing you to that particular piece that was described. It was, for me, automatic. One moment I was looking at Francisco, the next it was in my hand.
Happy with your choice, next you grab a pencil and get designing, Creativity flowed, and don't laugh, but I asked my Jade, 'what do you want to be?' Yes, I am aware that sounds peculiar, speaking to a slab of gemstone, and if an image of a swan popped into my head I would have laughed out loud and checked myself into the looney bin. But a beautiful, smooth image formed in my mind that I found aesthetically pleasing and warmed my heart. Already drawing the shape, I was left wondering if the gods themselves weren't guiding my hand and if I had any choice in this at all or if my magical Jade was doing it all for me and I was just along for the ride.
Once drawn, I gave it to Fransisco who upon seeing it, looked at me for a few seconds, smiled from ear to ear, nodded and turned to cut. But he didn't do much, just cut the rough shape and the rest was up to me.
Handing it back to me, he said 'this is a special one' his wizened eyes crinkling at the corners as he pointed to the grinding wheels for me to begin the long process of shaping my jade. I won't bore you with the details, but what followed was hours of gradually going from one wheel to the next, finer each time to grind down and polish my piece.
There is nothing quite as exquisite as watching a creation take form. It's exciting watching it take shape. Methodically, diligently working to create your masterpiece was a new experience for me I found quite therapeutic.
The mastery of it, the rhythm of it, the whole process seems to lull you into a relaxed almost hypnotic state that saw hours fly by and before I knew it my Jade was done.
Of course, Fransisco has the last say as to if it's finished or not, and you may be sent back time and again to continue because until that stone is a smooth shining masterpiece your work is not finished.
I adore my magic jade as I have come to call it. My heart stills every time I touch it, its cool smoothness soothing something in me as my fingertips run over it. I do believe the Maya were right. Jade is a special powerful stone.
In fact, all the ancient cultures across the world hold it in sacred awe. The bright apple green jade of Asia has been sacred to the Chinese for centuries. The greenstone jade-like stone of the Pacific is sacred to the Maori and this jade of the Americas is still to this day sacred to the Maya and their Aztec ancestors before them.
As you can tell, my jade is sacred to me. I adore it and do truly believe Francisco when he said it chose me and what better way to commemorate the two wonderful years I lived in Guatemala, than to make a magical jade to take with me for life and protection on my travels.
This day, I will treasure, as I will treasure the time spent with Francisco and his wife along with sweet little Candi, their silky little spaniel that spent a good deal of the day curled up near me or under my feet. For me, this was the perfect way to say goodbye to one chapter of my life which I could take with me. A magical experience in a foreign land.