Maine Tourmaline Necklace, MSM 77.33.1. Photograph by J. Scovil.
One necklace in Maine shows great vision for the future as well as some degree of short-sightedness.
The necklace, officially titled the Maine Tourmaline Necklace, was beautifully crafted by Maine artisan Addison Saunders using local gold and tourmaline. In 1977, the necklace was donated to the State of Maine and presented to the Maine State Museum “for the First Lady’s use at official functions.” In line with that purpose for decades after, governors’ wives, or in one case, a governor’s mother, wore the necklace during their husband’s or son’s inaugural celebrations.
Forty-six years after its creation, the necklace recalls a moment in the state’s history, not so long ago, when people could not imagine a female governor. Now, with the election of Maine’s first female chief executive, all that has changed and with it, the official function of the Maine Tourmaline Necklace. In 2019, Janet Mills became Maine’s first governor to wear the famed necklace to her inauguration. Again last month, she donned the necklace for her inaugural celebration at the start of her second term.
The necklace’s creation was a labor of love that relied on many generous contributors. James Vose, past president of the Maine Retail Jeweler’s Association, originated the idea after a 1972 excavation unearthed the largest tourmaline single strike to date in Maine on Hall’s Ridge in the township of Newry. Located in Oxford County, Newry has the richest tourmaline deposit in North America.
Tourmaline is Maine’s state mineral. Although it can be different colors, the rich pinks and greens that shine in the Maine Tourmaline Necklace are the most distinctive. Newry, in Oxford County, has the richest tourmaline deposit in North America.
The Maine Tourmaline Necklace shows off the color and clarity of tourmaline with alternating pink and green stones in a chain. They lead to three pear-shaped gems above a large 24.58 carat piece of pink tourmaline contributed by the Plumbago Mining Corporation.
Additional local luster comes from the gold chain and nuggets in the necklace. Most of the gold was provided by two couples: Elinor and Alton Bradford of Norway and Margelia and Norman Hamlin of Otisfield. They panned the Swift River in Byron for 27 years. The 16 gold nuggets surrounding the central gems symbolize Maine’s 16 counties.
Sketches of the necklace design by Addison Saunders. The image of the completed necklace, on the right, includes the matching earrings donated by Cross Jewelers. They are also made from Newry tourmaline.
Addison Saunders, a goldsmith in Ellsworth, Maine, was selected to create and design the necklace. He halted his own work for a year to craft the necklace and donated all of his time. According to James Vose, the design was inspired by the Shah of Iran’s crown. The Pahlavi Crown, part of the Iranian Crown Jewels, was crafted for the coronation of Reza Shah Pahlavi in1926. His son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, wore the crown at his 1967 coronation.
Today, the Maine Tourmaline Necklace is cared for as part of the Maine State Museum’s collection. If you would like to see this exquisite piece in person, the necklace is typically on display in a wooden case at the Blaine House. Free Blaine House tours are available by appointment and can be booked here.
Conservator Teresa Myers cleaning the necklace prior to the 2023 inauguration.