Monday, February 16, 2015

Turning Scabs into Jewelry

Anyone reading this who actually knows me would probably confirm that I'm a little bit different. My sense of humor is not exactly "normal," I sometimes (frequently?) act 30 to 40 years younger than my actual age, and I couldn't care less about a lot of things people I know really care about. Etc., etc., etc.

Yes, I'm different. Maybe even a little bizarre.

Even so, the fact that I saved both of my sons' belly button scabs--more scientifically known as "umbilical cord stumps"--after they fell off apparently isn't that strange. A simple Google search for "save umbilical cord stump" yields more results than you might think. One of those results is a blog post titled "How to Preserve Umbilical Cords" on a website called ModernMom (whose CEO is actress/dancer/model/TV personality Brooke Burke).

In that blog, ModernMom suggests:

"Save just the umbilical cord stump, if you do not want to save the entire umbilical cord. . . .Make a keepsake out of the cord that means something to you. Options include mounting it in a shadow box with photos of your newborn or placing it in the baby book or scrapbook. Some people choose to keep the cord in a special box or satchel."

First of all, let me just say that saving your baby's entire umbilical cord is even odder than saving just the scab. People really save the entire umbilical cord?? Geez, maybe I'm not so crazy after all.

On the other hand, I don't think there are a whole lot of people out there who saved their children's dried up navel scabs and then decided to have them turned into a piece of jewelry. So maybe I am a little "off."

When I saved the my older son's belly button scab a little over 25 years ago, I really didn't know what I'd do with it. When it fell off, I felt like throwing it away wasn't the right thing to do. So I stuck it in an empty prescription bottle and stuck it in a cabinet.

Six years later, my second son was born, his umbilical cord stump fell off, and my thinking was the same: I couldn't throw it away. Into the prescription bottle with his brother's scab it went.

Those precious little scabs sat in that bottle in a cabinet for years and years. They had no purpose. They were just there. When we moved ten years ago, the scabs moved with us. They were part of the family.

A few years ago, I decided those stumps deserved a new life. I got this crazy idea to have them gold-plated and turned into a pair of earrings for my wife. I thought my idea was a good one, but I knew that it was maybe a tad on the grotesque side. So much so that I felt uncomfortable walking into a jewelry store with my little bottle of human DNA to ask, "Hey, can you make earrings out of these?"

The safer alternative was to email jewelers with my idea. That way, they could say no and I wouldn't have to be humiliated in person.

Over the course of a few days, I probably emailed a dozen or more jewelers with my idea. Not surprisingly, I didn't hear from most of them. And the few I did hear from just offered a polite, "I'm sorry. We can't do that for you."


I had forgotten all about my idea until right before this past Christmas. I was doing some rearranging of the contents of my kitchen cabinets and came across that little prescription bottle. And when I did, a light bulb went off.

Matthew Hoffmann and Kris Keller at Ten Fine Jewelry & Design (in Ann Arbor, Michigan)--the jewelers who had recently taken my wife's engagement ring and wedding band and created a brand new, stunning 25th anniversary ring out of them--were just the guys to create something out of my sons' belly button scabs!

I immediately sat down at my computer and cranked out an email to them. With the subject line "Crazy, crazy jewelry idea," the email described my idea as "very bizarre--and maybe creepy." I ended my email by saying "Nobody I approached years ago would even consider my request. But I'm thinking you guys might just be the ones to do this. If it's even possible. If you think I'm crazy let me know."

Lo and behold, it only took about a half hour for Kris at Ten Fine to reply: "I love it! We will be able to make something from those. Let's talk after the first of January and make a plan!"


So my wife and I took the goods on a field trip to Ann Arbor in early January. After some joking around with Matthew and Kris--after all, this was the first time they'd ever had someone ask them to make jewelry out of scabs--Matthew sketched a little drawing of a pendant he was envisioning: Belly button scabs cast in white gold, the incorporation of each of the boys' birthstones, etc.

I can't even explain how excited I was that this was actually happening after all these years. My wife and I gave Matthew and Kris carte blanche on the design, knowing that they'd come up with another one-of-a-kind creation that we'd love.

Fast forward to this past Saturday, which just happened to be Valentine's Day.

My wife and I went to Ten Fine Jewelry to pick up the newest member of our family. And when Matthew opened up the box and showed us the pendant, our jaws dropped open. It was absolutely amazing, and far beyond anything I could've ever imagined back in the day when I first got my crazy idea.

That crazy idea turned out to be a damn good one.

We are certainly not the first people to have belly button scabs turned into jewelry. In fact, there's even a blog post out there from last December titled Trend Alert: Don’t Throw Away Baby’s Dried-Up Belly Button, Turn It Into a Necklace. Who knew? But even though we're not the first, I know my wife's new pendant is truly unique.

Many thanks to Matthew Hoffmann and Kris Keller for taking two scabs and turning my crazy idea into reality. They are true wizards when it comes to making badass jewelry. (Check out the before and after photos below.)

They cut the umbilical cord, give you a slap on the ass, and presto! you're out in the world, adrift, a ship without a rudder." --Henry Miller

BEFORE: My younger son's scab is on top; my older boys' is on the bottom.
Pretty gross, huh?

AFTER: Again, younger son on top, older son on the bottom.
The birthstones are a Cambodian blue zircon (December) and a Rhodolite
garnet (January). Not so gross, huh?

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