Alexis nestles between the pillows of her bedroom bed with a fresh cup of coffee and the heirloom pearl necklace around her neck. She takes the letter from the bedside table and breathes in the familiar scent of her late grandmother’s perfume.
For the past week, she had to refrain from opening the letter her mother gave her while she was home during spring break from college.
Open the envelope, unfold the letter and start reading.
My dear Alexis,
I hope you enjoy your 19th birthday quite a bit.
Alexis smiles as she remembers her friends’ surprise breakfast that morning with their silly hats and out of tune birthday song.
I have another wonderful story that I want to share with you about Charlotte, your ancestor, and Blythe’s granddaughter. Born around AD 158. During the Han Dynasty, Charlotte had the same adventurous blood in her veins as all of her female ancestors.
Shortly after her 16th birthday, Charlotte left Scotland, where her family had resided since Blythe and Niven settled there decades ago. He wanted to know more about his family’s history and he wanted to walk where they had passed.
Your first stop: Rome and Greece. She was captivated by Roman and Greek architecture and fell in love with the silk robes that people wore, so different from the simple clothes she grew up in. She heard that silk was combed from trees in China, so she decided that her next step would be to travel to China to see these wonderful trees for herself.
At that time, the only way to travel to the East was to join a caravan of merchants on the Silk Road. But there was a problem: the girls were not allowed to travel the route without an escort. Charlotte wasn’t the type to give up so easily, so she decided it was time for a transformation.
She cut her hair, changed her dress for menswear, and introduced herself as Charles, or Charlie for short.
She sold everything she could reveal to be a girl, except for the heirloom pearl necklace her grandmother gave her before she left Scotland. He put them inside a small bag hidden in the folds of his robe.
Charlie convinced a merchant from Constantinople, who was carrying wine eastward, that he needed someone to help him with the camels. During the day he guided the camels and at night he fed them, brushed them and filed their nails. It was hard work, but she enjoyed every minute of the company of the loving animals.
He met many interesting people from all over the continent, each with their own stories, traditions and religious practices, and saw the fascinating products, such as jade, ivory, saffron, tea, incense, turtle shells, peacock feathers, glassware and , of course, pearls.
When they passed through Dayun in the Fergana Valley (present-day Tajikistan) a few months later, a horse merchant joined their caravan with the most beautiful horses in tow. Dayun was famous for his massive, strong, and fast-bred horses, making them ideal warhorses that were highly sought after by the Han army. The horse trader was accompanied by a young man, Tyan, who looked after the horses of the same way she did it with camels.
As the only young men in the convoy, Charlie and Tyan soon became friends. He loved horses. He had never seen such majestic creatures before: their eyes were bright and intelligent and their hair gleamed in the sun. Over time, she developed a bond with one of the mares and sometimes helped Tyan brush her once she was done with her own chores.
One night, while they were busy with the wrappers, the animals became restless. Tyan motioned for him to hide under a nearby car. Moments later, he saw four dark figures charging towards them with their knives gleaming in the moonlight. Scared, Charlie grabbed her relic pearls, as she always did when anxious or scared, and prayed for strength and protection for Tyan.
What the highwaymen did not expect was that Tyan would be a master at knife fighting. The people of his village were descendants of soldiers who fought in the army of Alexander the Great; the village boys were taught to hold a knife before they could walk. It didn’t take him long to overpower the bullies and make them run.
In shock, Charlie’s favorite mare broke loose and fled in a panic. They searched for her all night and finally found her lying in a ditch, her leg badly injured. Fortunately, they were near a monastery and the merchant he worked for had some business in the nearby city. They stayed in the monastery until the mare got back on her feet. Although her leg healed well, she was left with a slight limp.
A few months later they arrived in China. It was then that Charlie learned that silk was actually woven by silkworms and did not come from trees. She was so fascinated by these amazing creatures that she bought some worms right away with the money she earned taking care of the camels.
Tyan’s boss tried to sell the mare to the Han army, but due to her limp, she was not a suitable warhorse. Grateful to Tyan for saving the rest of the horses, he gave her the mare.
Charlie and Tyan fell in love with the culture, traditions, and scenery, so they decided to make China their home. By now, Tyan had realized that her best friend and soulmate was actually a girl, and it didn’t take long for her to propose. She gave Charlie the mare as a wedding gift, which she named Lex in honor of her great-great-grandmother, Alexys.
They settled on a farm outside a small town in the mountains, where Charlie started building his silk business and Tyan raised horses. They lived a serene life and immersed themselves in the culture of their new home.
Both became famous for their exquisite silk and prized horses and soon employed half the people of the nearby town.
As you prepare for your future career, always remember to follow your heart. Like Charlie, you will find exactly what you are supposed to do and succeed in whatever you do.
Pearls themselves will not bring us luck or prosperity, but hearing great stories about our ancestors and knowing that they wore those same heirloom pearls that we wear inspires us to do great things too.
If you don’t yet have an heirloom pearl necklace to give your little girls, visit our store to start your own family tradition.