Parents of yesterday kept their baby's hair and the first tooth their kid lost. They cherished them in boxes or taped them inside baby books that were kept in closets or the garage.
Today, some parents are taking that sentimentality to a whole new level.
Like turning their offspring's umbilical cord — you know, the crusty nugget that falls off a few days after baby comes home — into a piece of jewelry.
Kind of strange? OK. But more celebrities by the day are blending the sleep sac of their newborn into placenta smoothies. So keep that in mind.
From crunchy to stunning
What's more curious is that these jewelry pieces can be quite stunning. You know, for having been created from what looked like old food found between the couch cushions. Case in point, this piece from Speckled Milk:
Does the umbilical cord have to be new?
Actually, no. Artisans say the age of the umbilical stump doesn't matter. It can be from an infant born a month ago or decades earlier.
Speckled Milk jewelry maker Nianna Rodriguez created a piece of umbilical jewelry for a mother who had stowed the stump in a baby book for 17 years.
"It was just as beautiful," Rodriguez told All the Moms. "It's amazing how you shave off the top layer and that's where you get this beautiful amber color that translates wonderfully into jewelry."
Pick a design, stick the stump in the mail
Crafters like Rodriguez sell their wares online. Mothers interested in a wearable memory choose from one of the artist's designs and follow the packing instructions for the stump and send it off in the mail.
Jeweler Ruth Avra of Sarasota, Florida, fell into making the organic jewelry by accident. A mom friend asked her to create something using her baby's umbilical cord stump. The jeweler since 2003 had no idea what to make. Then, she placed it beside her son's own stump on a table.
"It was sort of like a lightening bolt struck," said Avra, who owns A La Avra. "Now I understand what I'm supposed to do."
Avra created her first piece of cord jewelry in 2012.
Now, demand is rising on the time-consuming pieces. At any one time, she can be working on as many as 10 orders, she said. Each one takes four to six weeks to complete, from the time parents send off the stumps to when they get jewelry back.
Avra uses a process called lost wax carving to create a singular piece using the shape of the stump to determine the jewelry's design. She also has begun taking requests for shapes, such as a heart.
She makes rings, bracelets and cufflinks, but her silver umbilical cord necklace, which sells for $195, is her best-seller.
No client who calls her on the phone or sends her an email is typical, she said.
"They're actually from all over. A lot are from the U.S. but a lot are international, too, from as far away as Hong Kong and Australia and Europe."
'They are close to my heart'
Marialejandra Beltran from Miami has been Avra's client four times.
Beltran spotted Avra at a booth at a baby-wearing festival and decided to buy a necklace made from her then 9-month-old son's umbilical cord stump. Two years later, she held the necklace in the delivery room with her as she birthed her daughter.
"I was having a C-section and I was so nervous and it helped me to feel that connection with my son while I was in there," she said.
Avra combined both her children's umbilical cords into a single necklace.
For the third time, she returned to have angel wings etched onto the necklace of the child she miscarried before her son and daughter were born.
She never takes the necklace off.
"I have a connection with my children wherever I go. Whatever they are doing, they are close to my heart," Beltran said. "Holding the necklace makes me feel calm. It's something so beautiful, so simple, that's part of the human body."
When Beltran's sister visited from Venezuela, she connected her to Avra who made a piece of heart-shaped jewelry from her niece's umbilical cord.
Remember those baby teeth?
Avra says she's found there exists a jewelry market for those, too.
Although we're not sure how parents explain to young children who thought the tooth fairy whisked their teeth away in the dead of night when mom's wearing one on her finger.
"This is just sort of a fun way to treasure the bond between parent and child and do something with those things that are special that you just don't know what to do with," Avra said, adding, "It's not for everyone."
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