Center Charlemagne Aachen
Career, Culture, Perspectives, Travel

Walking the Route of Charlemagne: Future Charlemagne

Part three: A career in gemstones?

[All photos my own from my trip to Aachen in April 2023]
Well, while my DNA is probably not linked to Charlemagne, just looking at my name and really researching this man and his history has given me a sense of who I am. It has made me look inwardly at my own character, my skills, my interests. My strengths and resilience to all the problems I encountered in Germany and had to fight through alone. Like carbon under immense pressure becomes a diamond, maybe a career in gemstones is my ending to almost two decades of immense pressure and financial struggle in jobs I hated.

Exploring Aachen, I didn’t know what I would discover, feel or think. But seeing so many exquisite gemstones and jewellery really had me excited and appreciative of the craftsmanship that went into creating these pieces. Wondering how they cut the cabochon gemstones in those early eras is fascinating—what tools did they use? Gem cutting tools didn’t exist back then nor did the knowledge of their hardness or chemical properties. I love all the colours and sparkle and there were so many goldsmiths and jewellers in the city, every few steps another jeweller, selling their bespoke creations, unique pieces, I hadn’t seen before, I was in heaven. I wish I could have bought everything I saw.

A replica of a crown in the Centre Charlemagne exhibit

I am not materialistic, I’ve never been a fashionista and I don’t need to own a million pieces of jewellery (I’d be too scared to wear them for fear of losing them and I couldn’t afford the insurance premiums on them all); I just love the stories and science behind each stone and crystal and am fascinated by how many millions of years old they are. They outlive all of us all the time and change many hands. I am blown away by the craftsmanship of the artists who create such beautiful things with just their hands and a few tools. How they go from a crystal structure to a faceted gemstone cut and polished into a metal setting is very cool. Like a magpie, I love the light dispersion, the fire, the sparkle. I’d just want to roll them backward and forward all day long in the sunlight and watch them sparkle and shine.

A replica of the Charlemagne talisman created after he died and adorned with cabochon gemstones and a massive centerpiece Sapphire. Exhibited in the Centre Charlemagne museum

A family affair?

Aachen revealed to me my fascination with gemstones and jewellery and as such has opened my eyes to a new career path. One that follows in the footsteps of my ancestors. On my mother’s side of the family, there is evidence that they were all in the jewellery, gold-and silversmith industries. My great-grandfather died of pneumonia when he was very young, in his 40s. Antibiotics didn’t exist back then and my grandfather at 12 or 14 had to go to work and provide for the family. It hardened him and he didn’t get much help from his 8 other uncles and aunts. He never spoke of his family and many stories went with him to his grave. Only since I have been researching our family tree and listening to my mother who found out snippets have I learned they were jewellers spanning back two generations to my great great grandparents. The Carringtons of Birmingham. Apparently, there was a Carrington Jewellers of Bond Street but this is now gone and no one knows if they were from the same family. I would love to find out more about this side of our family. All that remains of our ancestors are a pair of antique gold scales and a few loose rough-cut gemstones. Most of the jewellery heirlooms were sadly stolen in Coventry when my mum was broken into. Those pieces will never be seen again and most likely were melted down quickly to avoid detection.

Window shopping: a Bernd Wolf necklace in the shop window of jeweller M Collection Schmuck am Dom

Trader or pirate?

On the other side of my family, the Burt side, originating back to the 1700s in Cornwall and Devon, there is evidence they lived in the region where all the metal mines and fluorite mines were. They were involved heavily in the shipping and trading industry; the goods are unknown but did they also have a hand in gemstones and minerals, metals and mining? Do I have DNA on both sides of my family within the gemstone and mineral world? Were they pirates for the Queen?

Emerald pieces in a jewellery shop window in Aachen

I have wandered through many professions as a way of survival and ended up in trading gold bullion and bars. But maybe this was predestined. Maybe my entire path was and maybe the universe has been trying to steer me into jewellery many a time but I haven’t been listening.

I fell into jewellery by accident in 2007 when I first came to Germany. I started working as Christmas staff at the department store chain ‘Galeria Kaufhof’ for extra cash—After a stressful first Christmas in the toy department I demanded I never work in that department ever again and they put me with the “golden girls” in jewellery and watches and I loved it! Because I didn’t have a typical German “Kaufmännische Ausbildung” (there is a type of Ausbildung/ apprenticeship for every job in Germany and many companies do their own one so you can only be employed if you have completed theirs) they wouldn’t employ me full or part-time so I could only get on-call hours but I worked for 10 years on the side around multiple other jobs as much as I could because I really enjoyed it. It was easy work for me and every shift was fun—something I didn’t think a serious job was meant to be. Once my marriage ended, I moved out and needed a full-time job to financially survive so I did an internal transfer through the bank and ended up in West Germany. I left jewellery but still ended up in precious metals a few years later. It feels like my DNA is calling me back into jewellery and gemstones. I have been circling and hovering for some time around the edges but after doing some research and thinking about what makes me happy, even if it doesn’t pay much, I have decided I really do love sparkly things.

The 12 disciples are depicted in gold leaf adorned with cabochon gemstones in the Domschatzkammer museum

Crystals and Minerals

I grew up surrounded by raw specimens of gemstones. My mother loves crystals for their healing properties and colours. I don’t know much about that. I am more of a science-based person but I am open-minded. And I do think the crystals are beautiful. As a child, my mum wanted to name me Crystal. Do you think it was a premonition for my future? Did she maybe receive a message to call me that? Dad ended up choosing my name. But it all comes full circle because in following the Route of Charlemagne I ended up back at crystals and gemstones.

I was meant to go to Aachen to seek the answers the universe is trying to send me. And I have since learned you can get qualifications in jewellery and gemstones. This has opened up so many career choices and convinced me this is an industry where I can keep learning and never get bored. There are so many avenues to go down and new gemstones and facts about them are constantly being discovered. Having qualifications also allows you to do different things and not just be in retail selling at minimum wage. Had I known you could get qualifications in jewellery and study gemmology (I only learned recently in 2023 what that was) I think I would have chosen this path earlier.

That said, I think my time in Germany and my trip to Aachen was part of a bigger plan. And I had to learn a bunch of other skills and collect a lot of experiences, become more confident and independent before I settled on this career path. I had to go through Bootcamp Hell to learn humility and kindness and become the person I am today. I think gemstones would have found me anyway had I not gone to Aachen but I am a believer in following signs and letting the universe guide me. I am excited to see where my path leads me.

Replica of Charlemagne’s crown amongst other ceremonial artifacts all silver plated gold with cabochon gemstones and pearls

End of an era, a new chapter begins

On Monday, 17th April, a week after I got back from Aachen I handed in my resignation at work. I actually wrote it in January when Snoopy died. It had been edited twice. I think I knew deep down I wanted to leave. That I want to leave Germany. I think I was looking for a sign, confirmation, or validation because I was scared. Hence I went down the path of finding out my DNA and feeling so relieved when Germany didn’t come up. I think I just needed that last push to help me make the decision. And I think I needed to follow the Route of Charlemagne to figure out what I wanted to do for work. To understand and realise the connections, and similarities and find my passion and inspiration again. It has been hidden under years of struggle, loss, trauma, and survival.

I have no plan other than to try to find work in jewellery somehow and go from there. I have to trust my heart and gut and commit to the universe. I am ready for something new. Show me the way.

I feel like I have been on a quest, a journey, and my ancestors are guiding me and talking to my soul. They are showing me the way. And I know I will be ok.

If I can work my way up from below minimum wage in a foreign country being treated poorly to working in the luxury industry at the head office in the financial capital, West end Frankfurt, and all alone, by NOT following my heart, then I know I will make it in the UK by following my heart and what makes me happy with my friends and family supporting me as they have done through the years from across the Channel.

Until my next post,

Wishing you all love, light, and health

love charlemagne