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Blue Nile For Back To School — Be It Undergraduate, Graduate, Or “School Of Life”


This post and giveaway are presented in collaboration with Blue Nile

Most back-to-school efforts focus on grade-school supplies — pens, notebooks, backpacks — or college dorm furnishings. But the first day of graduate school can feel momentous too, a new job even more so.

What might we give, to mark these occasions? I’d be inclined towards a talisman, a piece of jewelry that’s not too out there, but clearly personal. Something that could be worn every day, but not without notice.

Blue Nile offers a host of possibilities.

When I started business school I had to break a collection of Indian bangles off my wrist. The turquoise and pink wood one might have stayed, but the six glass circles clicked and clangled so much I distracted myself in lectures. Probably distracted everyone else too, come to think of it. A small gold chain, however, with a piece of laurel circlet, could signify victory, no soundtrack required. Although this does make me think of the music from that running movie, Chariots of Fire. Ga ga ga ga ga gong!

If you prefer the substantial, I like this wrist chain in a panther style.

These days I wear, and rarely take off, two diamond solitaires hanging from my neck. You might want to start  your Knightess of the Round Table off with a very small round pendant. The larger emerald cuts are an investment.


And, for a much smaller budget, these silver circles are beautiful. Much, much smaller, by the way, since the piece is on sale.

As for earrings, I love these little yellow and white gold daisies. Again, almost, but not quite, a simple basic. A reminder of Ferdinand, the bull who loved flowers. Would that more corporate leaders understood.

Or finally, this pair of earrings Blue Nile sent me to review. I’m wearing them in the photo at the top of the post, in case you wondered what I was doing up there.

Twisted 14K gold hoops from Blue Nile

Twisted hoops, a classic, but prettier. Lightweight too. Blue Nile has smaller sizes, for relentlessly masculine work environments, or larger, for more overtly creative offices. I especially like the “artisan hoops.

And since, as I’ve said before, I’ve got my fair share of jewelry already, I’m giving the twisted hoops away to one of you. Yup, giveaway time has come again. So please tell us a story of your first day at school, or your first day in a new job. Did you carry a talisman? Or did you launch unprotected into new waters? What advice might you give someone making the same jump today?

I will assume, unless specifically noted otherwise, that everyone commenting is throwing their hat into the giveaway ring. Do let me know if that’s not true. I’ll announce the winner next Monday, which — in the USA — is Labor Day, appropriately enough.


The earrings will be cleaned with rubbing alcohol, put back into their box, and mailed off with all due ceremony to the winner.

And to Blue Nile, thank you so much for working with us to send one more woman off on an adventure, charmed.


Links may generate commissions. Blue Nile adheres to the Kimberly Process, and has signed the “Golden Rules” of ethical mining.

64 Responses

  1. Love this! I would tell someone jumping into a new job to do so with excitement and enthusiasm. While I do not remember specifically what jewelry I wore when I first started working, I do remember the diamond solitaire that I bought myself when I had my first big promotion. I wear it everyday and it’s a great reminder to myself that “have this” whatever that may mean on a given day.

  2. My first day of graduate school at The University of Texas at Austin in late August of 1974 was an unusual day and also turned out to be a momentous day. Unusual because it was a cold day in August–in Texas. I remember walking out of the door of my apartment in summer clothing and turning around and changing into long pants and a flannel shirt. The day turned out to be momentous because I met my husband on that day. He was a fellow student in my first graduate seminar and introduced himself to me when he came into the conference room where our class was meeting. I had no idea at the time that he was my future husband, but I remember loving his name (which was somewhat uncommon at the time) and liking the sound of his voice.

  3. I jumped in unprotected, buying my first major piece of jewelry with a bonus check I received later, but I think the idea of a talisman is great.

  4. Love this post. Jewelry is important for a finished look. I never leave the house without earrings. I would feel under dressed.

  5. Thinking back on grade school first-day photos, I realize I often wore outfits with orange accents. Well, it was the seventies. I remember how proud I was to have an Archies lunchbox!

  6. Pretty earrings!

    I have vague impressions of my first day of kindergarten. My parents sent me to school at the age of 4 rather than wait a year, so the only school that would take me was a parochial school. I remember blond wood, juice in a Dixie cup, the smell of pine sol and candles, and missing my mom terribly. To this day, if I ever smell pine sol and orange juice at the same time, it takes me right back.

  7. I vividly remember my first day of medical school in 1970. I was older, a single parent with four young kids and wondered if I were crazy to be there. One of the speakers that morning said, “we used to say, look to the left of you, look to the right of you, one of you won’t be here at the end of the year. But that’s no longer the case. You are all capable and we are here to make sure that you can make it.” I breathed a huge sigh of relief and while there were times I struggled, I made it and had a great career. Retired now and still loving life. Enjoy your posts and your take on life!

  8. Love those. I often wear some meaningful piece of jewelry in a high-stress situation, perhaps something of my mother’s or a piece I associate with positive events. One of my signature pieces I purchased when I finished/survived a tough assignment, and it gives me a feeling of triumph every time I see or wear it.

  9. I have a silver dolphin ring I wore to every exam and standardized test through high school, college, and graduate school. Still have the ring though I don’t wear it these days. You just can’t get rid of something that’s seen you through so many years of education, can you?

  10. I have a small collection of Navajo designed cuff bracelets. Two are from my grandmother’s collection, and one was a 25th birthday present from my mom. They are my power pieces. I always make sure I am wearing one (only one) for occasions in which I need some sort of talisman. One of my grandmother’s for my rehearsal dinner. My own for a first day at a new job, or large presentation. Unique and powerful reminders of who I am and of people who love me.

  11. My first day of a new job I felt ill and fainted in the parking garage. Fortunately a kind person dragged me to a bench and waited with me until I was better, rather than robbing me or worse.

  12. Aah, the first day of school! One of my favorite days every year. New pencils, new notebooks and always planned my outfit days in advance!

  13. Hi my mother wrote letters to me in Hindi (my mother tongue) while I was in college and I cherished those. While I studied in a college that taught in English and spoke to friends in English, her love and concern for me just shone through perfectly in that language. When I went for my first job, I kept a few of those letters with me. It was not jewelry but a reminder that someone is looking out for me. I would often read them while returning home on the bus and it always made me smile after a long day at work. That’s all, I pretty much built all my jewelry myself (ok also lovely gifts from dear husband). For those going out to work or first day at college would be good to keep something nearby to remind you of the family or loved one back home. Makes it more worthwhile especially on those tough days! lots of luck and love chasing your dreams…. Manisha

  14. Wear something that fits you well and is representative of hour career path. If artsy, be bold with colours and accessories. If sedate try a simple but classic dress in black or navy and add some understated jewelry. These hoops would work.
    Smile, be confident and listen carefully to the conversations around you. They will give you a lot of information as to your co workers and office atmosphere.
    Good luck !

  15. I always looked forward to the first day of school – sort of like a new beginning. I always wore new clothes. I remember wearing a small diamond pendant that my boyfriend had given me. I now wear it as an earring. I wear it every day.

  16. The first time I meet with a new client is a little like the first day in a new job. I always dress conservatively except for the high heels, pointed toe (maybe the heels are my talisman). A necklace if it works with the outfit. My advice to anyone making a jump…dive right in but make sure your clothes fit perfectly and break those new shoes in way ahead of time!

  17. Here’s to new beginnings! Lovely jewelry makes everything better. Thanks so much for doing this giveaway.

  18. The women in my family have always gifted jewelry to each other to commemorate life’s passages. These are always personal pieces of jewelry. Some may look down on hand-me-downs but we cherish them. My current favorite is a blue cloisonné ball set free-moving on a ring. My mother bought it a long closed department store in our downtown around the time of my birth. She gave it to me as a talisman for my face for City Council – because that former closed department store now serves as our City Hall. The fact that it spins in its setting gives it a whole “worry bead” quality that was very soothing when I participated in debates!

  19. My first day of kindergarten, I wore jeans and a white t-shirt with a rainbow or something else colorful printed on it. My grandpa took me to school (since both parents were working) and I remember waiting in the hallway with him along with all the other kids and their parents, holding hands, looking down at my Buster Brown shoes, little brown saddle shoes that my aunt had got me in a shopping trip to the mall.

    How fun that my whole family collaborated on this first day!

    And also funny to think that my favorite outfits are still jeans, t-shirts and comfortable shoes. Sturdy Girls FTW!

  20. My first day of kindergarten, I carried a rabbit’s foot for good luck. I did a painting that I loved, and while it was drying on the floor, a boy came over and urinated on it. My advice: I should have known that carrying a dead animal’s foot was creepy.

  21. Today was my first day in a job I have been working and hoping towards for 14 years. It has been a circuitous journey to this day; perhaps the most important journeys of worth are. Usually one for enjoying the swagger of a pair of heels (the joy of which I only discovered at age 35); today it was a sensible pair of pumps that kept me anchored and comforted as I stepped out into the unknown up a narrow Geneva street on the last day of summer. The shoes and a sense of Grace and it’s golden thread through our lives.

  22. The day I started my last new job, the question of the day was “Do you play golf?” which I thought was kind of bizarre. It turned out they were planning foursomes for the annual employee golf day.

    For me jewelry always links to a certain person or time in my life. Not so much as a talisman but as a reminder of my past.

  23. Loved the first day of school. New binders,pens, notebooks. I still love stationary to this day. I would also plan out one of my new outfits to wear. There was always a problem in the Bay Area, however, since September was always warm and the clothes tended to be more for cooler temps. Funny.

    Like you, I don’t need any more jewelry.

  24. Very nice give-away Lisa. I have a small diamond pendant that was once my grandfather’s stick pin and I wear it on a thin gold chain, a gift from my husband. It is the shape of a steer head (he was from Kansas). My grandfather was a jeweler and chose the stones and designed it him. I had a jewelry designer turn it into a pendant for me. It looks, from a distance, very much like a small cross. I wear it almost everyday of my life and feel absolutely lost without it. If there ever was a good luck charm, this is it. I had it on the day my husband of almost 46 years proposed to me. He is the love of my life and that day I know I hit the jackpot. Was it the necklace? I’ll never know, but I prefer to believe it was.

  25. Lovely earrings! I have a silver pair that’s similar.

    I did wear my “lucky” gold unicorn charm necklace for the first (and most every) day of graduate school. Still have it – very dainty, small chain. College grad gift from my mom.

  26. For me, September has always felt like a new beginning. That somehow, anything is possible. So cheers to all your readers,wherever their paths lead. PS: Love those earrings…big thanks for this giveaway.

  27. I remember my first day on a new job at an investment management firm in Los Angeles, October 1987. As I drove into the office, feeling spiffy in my brand new and too expensive Ann Taylor suit (black/white glen plaid with knife pleated suit), listening to the news on the radio in my brand new Chevy GEO – no A/C, manual transmission (which I learned to drive the week before). The news …. Not good. “Black Monday”. Huge stock market crash. I arrived convinced that I’d be instantly unemployed. Fortunately, I still had a job. It was a fantastic place, and I looked pretty, spiffy!

    1. @Maryblair, I started at an investment management firm in Boston in October 1987! I got a call from them, on the morning of my first day – thought for sure it was a “don’t bother coming in call”! It turned out to be the day all the crash trades settled and they just wanted me to wait a few hours. Whew!

  28. When starting something new, I always wear a piece of jewelry from. my grandmother. She was a fearless woman and I like to think I’m carrying a piece of that fearlessness with me.

  29. I would tell anyone starting a new job to be themselves and be confident. If you give your new job a try and don’t like it, or find that you don’t fit in, find somewhere else to be yourself.

  30. I started a new job years ago after a good interview. On my first day I was informed I was, in addition to the other female employees, expected to wash coffee cups, plates etc. for the male executives. Each day more bizarre demands, ending with I was not to say Good Morning or Evening to fellow employees when arriving and departing for the day. I walked out within two weeks which I had never gone before or since. I truly believe the saying “things usually happen for the best”, my next job was in Human Resources which became my lifelong career. Never stay where you are not treated with respect, there IS a company out there that will show you the respect you deserve!

  31. As a professor, I still look forward to the start of every school year. And always with something new, usually jewelry!

  32. when I started my current job–a few years ago–I was having trouble with my fingers swelling, so I’d removed my wedding rings and was wearing them on a change around my neck, along with a heart-shaped diamond pedant. My advice for new employees and first-year students: be flexible but be yourself.

  33. Lovely jewellery. And beautiful stories. I don’t wear earrings,so,out of a competition:it is interesting concept to give jewels for a beginning,I like it very much and am going to adopt it. We,in the family,are gifted jewellery but usually for an end of something (scool,work),but also for beginnings, for birth,weddings,communion… mark it. But,when I think now about it,end of something is the beginning of something new,no?
    Lucky days of lot of bangles!

  34. I wore the same jean skirt and white button up shirt the first day of all four years of high school. Seemed like a good luck charm at the time. Many moons ago!

    Love the earrings!

  35. So interesting to read everyone’s comments. Of course, new clothes for the first day of school!

    But as for jewelry, the only time I’ve worn a specific talisman was at my wedding–I wore the same fleur-de-lis pin that my grandfather had given my grandmother as a wedding gift and that my mother (their daughter) had worn on her wedding.

  36. Most of my big first days memories are so clouded with emotion that I can’t remember details! But there’s a poignant photo of me sitting on the bed in my freshman college dorm room. The walls were painted hospital green, and two beds were crammed under the dormers of the small space. I don’t look happy. More happily, things improved, I found my tribe–because most of us were high school misfits–and I thrived, more or less. And just a few years ago I happily reconnected with the occupant of that other bed.

  37. Love the earrings, but I can’t wear hoops – too many years on the phone, working on an equity sales and trading desk, wearing door knocker earrings.

    I just wanted to say that I love that photo of you!!

  38. My only advice is ‘try not to throw up, but it’s ok if you do.’ I get very ill from nerves, and am always reassured by reading about how various famous folks threw up from stage fright immediately prior to doing something amazing.

  39. Audrey & I are talisman jewelry sisters! My parents gave me a Navajo turquoise & silver sandcast cuff for my high school graduation in 1977. I’ve always loved it & worn it for daily wear & special occasions. The antique dealer they bought it from told them it was an old pawn piece, but I recently learned from a Native American jewelry expert that although it’s now vintage, it was made in the 1970’s.

  40. My first day of work after having stayed home as a full-time mother for nine years was a bit scary. I had to pump myself up and for added “protection” I wore the Egyptian cartouche that my husband had brought back from a work trip to Cairo. I persevered and succeeded through many challenging times for twenty-six years. Thanks for reminding me of how jewelry can act as a talisman.

  41. I went back to school at age 41 and finished exactly 5 years later. Last October I landed a permanent job in my field. On the first day I took with me a blue and green rainbow loom bracelet that my 11 year son had given to me. It was a symbol of his encouragement and love and how happy he was that I was all done with the dreaded homework!
    I would tell others to take something they love on that first day and wear it for luck and courage.

  42. Our family enjoys giving/receiving jewelry for special occasions. Birthday gift today for my ten-year old granddaughter — a very simple sterling silver charm bracelet which included charms from my younger self’s bracelet. I love to think that what brought me much joy might do the same for my lovely granddaughter. I believe it will.

  43. First day of work – I would make sure my hair and make-up look as professional as possible, and wear a slight step up from what I would plan to wear on a daily basis. I.e. don’t wear a full suit if everyone is wearing jeans, but maybe wear nice slacks and a cardigan. Love the earrings!!

  44. First day of work advise…… Check the information you get from your employers o. Joining information….. Don’t do what I did and turn up at a hotel for an induction course to discover they had rescheduled the training and not informed me!

  45. Last weekend was a really important first day of school for me. I delivered my only child to college, 11 hours away, for the first time. It was happy and hard and breathtaking. I needed all the strength I could find. I wore the first piece of jewelry his dad ever gave me – a NYC subway token on a leather cord. It reminds me of the time when it was all he could afford, and it also reminded me that my baby can always find his way home.

  46. Love the earrings, which made me think I’ll need to get something for my daughter when she finds her first real job out of college.

  47. On my first day of school as a child I would wear a silver ring my mother had given me. By the time I entered college I would wear it on my little finger. It is always good to remember you are really, really loved by someone when you are afraid of something new. Like the feather Disney’s Dumbo would hold, that feeling of being loved allows us to fly.

  48. Talismans are absolutely necessary!
    I started grad school in my 50’s and wore a favorite obsidian pendant for good luck…..I was lucky to be accepted by the other students and made some great friends that I have to this day.

  49. my first real job was working as a receptionist in my friends dad’s law firm. This was the summer before I went to college. I had to dress like a grown-up so I wore all of my mother’s clothes and shoes including these fabulous beige woven Ferragamo pumps.

  50. My first day on my current job: makes me think of the sound of parrots, getting dressed quietly in the dark, putting on the necklace I had made for my wedding using my (deceased) mother’s engagement diamond. I’d switched careers (out of academics, into business) and was feeling nervous and also excited. I’d also moved from the US to Australia for this job, to where my husband grew up, and as we hadn’t yet found a place to live we were staying with his parents. I had to get up at 4am since my first day was job training in a different city and I had to get to the airport early. So I got ready in the dark, trying to be quiet as possible to let everyone else sleep. Cherished the moment in solitude of the kookaburras and parrots starting to chatter in the pre-dawn darkness. Thankful for the feeling of having my mom “with me” in spirit as I put on that necklace.

  51. I have a lifetime of 1st days of school, beginning at age 3, in my parents college lab-school. I have had 32+ years of 1st days teaching and many more 1st days earning a Doctorate. Each year, I wore some form of talisman. In high school I wore my mother’s “grown up rings”. In college, her gold locket. Later, I wore diamond studs she bought for graduation. My parents thin gold wedding band fit with my own diamond band. One year, I wore a prayer box with prayers for my struggling son. Now, when I travel to teach, I wear a band we bought after so many years together. Each talisman has brought and continues to bring family into the classroom with me.

  52. Awww Ferdinand! That’s the second time in as many weeks I’ve seen him mentioned.

    As far as Talisman’s go, I almost always have a Mignon Faget pendant on, either a aleur de lis or the an Animal Crackers rhinoceros. Then I helped my sister pick up some jewelry she got repaired at Shah and Shan. I walked out with a sweet little gold disc with a skull and cross bones in tiny diamonds on it.

    Now I have 3 talismans.

  53. I wore a pair of gold earrings that I was given as a gift from my mother when I was 16. I lost one a few years ago (long, long way past 16) and haven’t found anything similar. These look like a worthy replacement. And it’s Labor Day (a little behind in my emails)

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