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13 women, 1 necklace change many lives

September 12, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
How could a very expensive piece of jewelry change the lives of 13 women? It's the subject of a new book called "The Necklace." The idea started right here in Southern California and ended with an experiment that the women will remember for the rest of their lives.They are wives and mothers, friends and daughters, career women and activists -- 13 very different people bound together by a single strand of diamonds.

Their story began four years ago in a Ventura, California mall when Jonell McLain was walking by a jewelry store window. A dazzling diamond necklace caught her eye and sparked an idea.

"When I went into the store and the price was there, I saw the context of what could make a difference in the world," said Jonell. "I was interested in, if there's enough to go around on the planet, and everybody shares, how could that look? What does it mean if people share things like that? And what is this experiment going to teach us about sharing?"

So Jonell starting making calls, pitching her idea to friends until enough women said yes to jointly buy the necklace.

"I was in a point in my life where I was redesigning my future," explains necklace co-owner Patti Channer. "It was just the perfect thing to do."

But there was a major roadblock -- the $37,000 price tag. Luckily, the women found an ally in Van Gundy & Sons store owner Tom Van Gundy.

"I said, 'We can do this price, Jonell, but can you make my wife part of the group?' And it was just a done deal," said Van Gundy.

Cutting a deal, the women paid $15,000 for the necklace and agreed each would wear it for a month at a time. They also started setting up monthly meetings to drum up fundraising ideas. The group wanted to use the necklace for much more than adornment -- they also wanted to raise money for community causes. The group even picked a name -- "Jewelia," after French chef Julia Child.

But wearing Jewelia came with big responsibilities and interesting rules.

"Jewelia had to go to Paris if anyone was going to Paris," explains necklace co-owner Nancy Huff.

And just how do 13 women get the men in their lives to agree to buying a diamond necklace? That falls under rule number two -- bring passion back to the bedroom by wearing Jewelia - and only Jewelia - for your husband.

"It was kind of stupid," laughed Nancy. "But it just happened to work, because we had husbands that actually bought into the idea."

The necklace also brought personal transformations, touching all their lives in new and surprising ways

"In my life, I've really not had tremendous support systems among women. And this group has provided me with a whole new foundation," said necklace co-owner Dr. Roz Warner.

In the four years the women have owned Jewelia, the necklace has been skydiving and golfing, traveled to Paris, and raised thousands of dollars for charity. All of this was made possible by 13 women who came together for an experiment in sharing, but ultimately led to them finding their own individual voices.

 

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