Everyday we learn of an infinite number of jewellery trends. While some are fresh, exciting and intimate, others are perceived as “downright bizarre.” Some examples, in this regard, are the reemerging Y2K bicep bracelets, nose cuffs and even fruit jewellery that are taking the internet by storm. Now, there seems to be another underdog in the mix: breast milk jewellery.
Screen Shot spoke to Sarah, owner of Keepsakes By Grace—an immensely popular breast milk jewellery brand found on Instagram with nearly 50,000 followers—to dish all the details about this wonderfully-sentimental practice. For starters, let’s break down what these little treasures are.
View this post on Instagram
Breast milk jewellery is a specialised ornament that displays a centrepiece stone composed of a mother’s, you guessed it, breast milk. For Sarah, the resultant pieces are a symbol of celebration, “It’s an item that takes a very small amount of your breast milk, which is preserved and made into a stone that you can cherish forever. It’s a beautiful way to celebrate the amazing thing, that is, breastfeeding.”
According to The Bump, although this is not a new phenomenon—the publication details how the trend first surfaced as early as 2013 on sites like Etsy—it’s becoming increasingly popular with a multitude of brands to choose from. The price range of such items depends on the seller, you could either find affordable options for as little as $50 or higher priced ones costing more than $500. Regardless, what do they look like exactly?
Taking a gander through the tonnes of breast milk jewellers available, you’ll find what appear to be opal stones. Similar to the October birthstone, breast milk jewels have a milky yet lustrous pearly shimmer to them. This opalescent feature gives such stones a wonderfully classic quality that has proved incredibly popular. The aesthetic can also be heightened by the jeweller’s decision to add additional ingredients to the outer edges of the stone to make it pop.
There is also a level of uniqueness that comes with each piece. Though “typically the breast milk stone will be white or a very light cream colour, I [have] found that it depends on the content of the client’s milk.” Sarah explained. “Each piece is very unique, and has its own texture and colour.” Simply put, every individual’s breast milk is bound to vary slightly and, thereby, differ in a number of factors. Others may have more of a yellow-y hue, for example.
View this post on Instagram
I’m sure the lustrous pieces above has sparked an endless stream of questions, namely—how do they do it? Does it ‘go off’? And perhaps the most common, why? First, let’s dive into one of the many creation processes.
While the practice may differ slightly from business to business, the typical creation process of breast milk jewellery involves the milk being subjected to an extreme heating and cooling procedure—all the while using a chemical that maintains its preservation. The main goal of this process is to modify the structure of the milk into a more solid form that can then be worked into an actual stone.
Sarah detailed her brand’s successful developmental process to Screen Shot, “The creation of breast milk jewellery involves heating the breast milk [and] mixing it with a chemical agent that then turns it into a paste-like consistency.” For KeepsakeMom, another breast milk jeweller, the method is similar—the paste is formed by combining two tablespoons of the said milk with a preservative—which works to suppress any enzyme activity and block fungal or bacterial growth. “We then gently reduce the milk until the breast milk becomes a paste,” the company wrote on its blog.
“From there it is dried, crushed into a powder, and mixed with materials that eventually harden and turn to stone. There are a few different ways that I seem to do it. The way that I have learned to preserve the breast milk for jewellery, has been used for [over] 20 years. It is the most efficient and correct way to do it,” Sarah continued.
KeepsakeMom also explains the following steps: once a paste is created, it is then transferred into an airtight commercial desiccator—in layman’s terms, a giant dehumidifier—where it is dried over a period of roughly two weeks. On these terms, the jewellery brand also added that “though it requires patience, this slow and deliberate drying process is a critical step in keeping your milk free from bacteria and other contaminants.”
View this post on Instagram
A common concern for those looking into these unique accessories is, do they smell? For Sarah, this is just a result of lack of knowledge in the developmental phases. “Normally, the people that ask ‘does it smell bad?’ Or ‘doesn’t it go bad?’ are the people that don’t understand the preservation process. Which is a lot of people, they just don’t understand how it’s made,” she explained.
“Most likely they think I just pour a bit of breast milk directly into a mould of sorts. When really it involves a complicated process that basically dehydrates it so that it can’t ‘smell’ or ‘go bad’,” the expert added. If not done correctly, the appearance of the stone could be compromised. Rather than the iridescent opal, the stone may appear discoloured and brown. So, this is not a lockdown DIY hobby that you can undertake—it’s best left to professional experts like Sarah.
Once the drying process nears completion, the dried flakes are ground into a fine powder that is then cast in high quality resin along with any aesthetic enhancements or personalisations—depending on what you want to add and what the jewellers have to offer. For KeepsakeMom, “Once the breast milk stone is cast, it takes about twelve hours to dry and harden… We remove the stone from the mould, we inspect it for quality and add a transparent protective coating in order to help protect it from UV radiation.”
And voilà, it’s ready to become the centrepiece of whichever jewellery you fancy. For those still confused or perhaps even close-minded to the idea (no judgement here), let’s break down the reason why parents choose this method of commemorating the bond with their offspring.
There are many that don’t seem to understand the appeal of such jewellery, sparking archaic ideas that it’s “gross.” We’re on the precipice of 2022 and you still despise human breast milk? Then you’ve clearly got a lot of growing up to do. The days of hiding your periods and breastfeeding sessions are over, and it’s time society caught up.
View this post on Instagram
Sarah, above, is dedicated to combating ignorant views online about the treasured pieces. “Honestly, I think breast milk jewellery is still considered a fairly new thing. I get a lot of ‘hate’ and rude responses on my social media about my business,” she divulged. In response to such judgement, the skilled jeweller just wants people to be more open-minded, “It may seem odd at first, but a lot of people have changed their tune, and actually become clients. I completely understand how it can seem like an odd idea to some, but when you really know the meaning behind it, and how special it is to these women, you’ll understand.”
This is an incredibly essential part of breast milk jewellery. For those still unconvinced, we’re going to dive into the beautiful, emotional and even heartbreaking reasons why breast milk jewellery is so popular. Sarah explained to Screen Shot that there can be a multitude of different reasons a mother chooses breast milk jewellery and listed some examples.
“For example, they are weaning and want a memento of sorts to remember their breastfeeding journey [or] they are having a difficult breastfeeding journey, this was the case for me, and wanted something to give them a boost of confidence,” shared Sarah. Another more tragic reason could be that “they have sadly lost a child, and still produced breastmilk.” These are just some of the examples Sarah has come across but the list doesn’t end there. She also noted that her clients have come to her for a plethora of other reasons.
View this post on Instagram
Take Kelly and Paul Bramwell, for instance—who spoke to the BBC way back in 2017 about their decision to have breast milk jewellery. Their son Rhys passed away at just under eight months old. “This [breast milk] piece is everything we could have wanted. It means everything… It’s only because Rhys and I worked so hard together at breastfeeding that we have these pieces,” said Kelly.
Paul, who also dons a necklace stated, “It might not be for everyone, but it’s a nice keepsake for me to have. It’s around my neck all the time.”
Kerry Miles, a creator of such bespoke pieces, also told the BBC that such jewellery appeals to those who wish to celebrate their relationship with breastfeeding itself. “Breastfeeding can be such a special journey,” she continued, “Most people want to celebrate that journey, or just kind of say thank you to themselves, or to give to their children in later years, or to have something beautiful to remember their time breastfeeding.”
Although it might not be to everyone’s tastes, it certainly is an extraordinary and wonderful approach to connecting with the breast feeding process and, of course, to the child attached. The sentimental importance of such designs further issues the necessity of greater care for the pieces.
According to Breastmilk Jewellery, there are some serious dos and don’ts when it comes to the maintenance of your treasured items. The company warns against wearing any pieces while participating in harsh chemical-intensive activities such as tanning, dying your hair at home or cleaning. Avoid swimming with your jewellery both in chlorinated pools as well as the ocean. And last but not least, you might want to take your ring off before you apply hand sanitiser.
While Sarah’s products are exquisite and made of high quality, she offers some advice to clients to help protect the pieces from consistent activities that may damage them over time, “The materials that the stones [are] made of [are] sturdy, but shouldn’t get exposed to certain things consistently,” she stated in response.
View this post on Instagram
“For example I request my clients to remove their jewellery before showering, before bed, before putting on perfume, before spending a lot of time in direct sunlight etc. Now, this doesn’t mean that their stone will fall apart the minute it touches water. In fact, they are made to be water resistant. But not waterproof. So, if a client will consistently wear their necklace in the shower, overtime the stone will begin to discolour,” Sarah detailed.
When it comes to storage, it’s best to keep it out of direct sunlight. That as well as polishing it lightly with a dry cloth helps to maintain its quality over time so that you can always wear it with pride. And that’s what it’s all about for visionaries like Sarah—challenging those societal judgements and normalising our relationships with breast milk.
She ended with some wonderful parting words, “I think breastmilk jewellery is important because it is a celebration of something that needs to be normalised more than it is. We have come a long way over the last few years in regards to normalising breastfeeding in general. But this particular type of keepsake jewellery only highlights it, and brings even more beauty and remembrance to it!”
Cherries? Check. Watermelons? Check. Bananas? Check. Lemons? Check. Tomatoes? Triple check! What sounds like my grocery list is actually what’s been donning my ears, neck and wrists for some time.
You would think the fruit jewellery trend would have been over by now. Something that’s been seen on the limbs of Repeller’s founder Leandra Medine, designer Susan Alexandra’s beaded bags and supermodel Gigi Hadid since 2017, has superseded any ‘usual’ amount of hype time. Especially when trends these days don’t last as long as your latest lockdown boo.
Am I surprised? Of course not. There’s a rationale behind a stud shaped like an aubergine, an unnecessary but ever necessary lime charm added to your classic hoop earring and pearl necklaces becoming eccentric through vegetables you’d usually find in your soup.
In a time where time itself has both slowed down and sped up, where every decision feels both final and irrelevant and when we are constantly being reminded of how precious life is all around us while also being ultimately temporary, jewellery that resembles a picnic spread is fun—something that we all need at the moment.
Fun nowadays is a concept that’s so simplistic, and wearing fruit jewellery is the perfect example of exactly how simple having fun has become: it is not based on exhausted and played out reaction but rather it’s a breather from everything else. In other words, fruit jewellery is about allowing yourself the superficial joy, the ultimate act of just being, without the politics.
It’s why after all these years, Carrie Bradshaw’s style lives on. We all know Sex and The City is outdated in its views but there will always be something freeing about witnessing a woman dress her body for her and herself only. Not even necessarily for the other women in the room either but as a middle-finger to the growing obsession we all have with looking ‘perfect’.
In 2020, it would be weird to upload every single bad image of yourself and your drunken friends from a night out (who’s really going out-out anyway?). Now, if your skin isn’t as smooth as your captions, that doesn’t automatically and mathematically as well as spiritually, emotionally and logically fit into your public image, which is why now, rarely anything is shared without being curated beforehand.
Fruit jewellery isn’t originally punk. It doesn’t initially scream rebellion but it does say one’s carefree and unbridled from an image of what a grown woman should be. It oozes the message that looking feminine doesn’t have to be balanced with a handful of masculinity to be taken seriously. Which is undoubtedly punk and rebellion in its most simplicity.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a logic in how to wear fruit jewellery. It tends to be playful—executed in layers and mismatched to represent that none of us knows what they’re doing with their lives. Yet the act of playing has momentum and like all things style-related, it bleeds into how you take on the day. Dressing up your wrists in the morning and bringing the essence of summer into your autumnal months isn’t something to let rush by. In fact, when tallied up, it’s part of one of the bigger domino effects of the day.
So layer up your baguette of rings, the 5-a-day singing a haiku across your hands. Be purposefully silly and fun, because why not? Because if we can’t do that, then what can we achieve wholeheartedly?