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Short Stories: Baby Tooth Reliquary

May 21, 2012

by ClaireKinder

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Here at Etsy, we believe that the story behind an object is often just as fascinating as the object itself. Short Stories is our series dedicated to telling the tales behind extraordinary pieces found or created by Etsy sellers. 

Here’s Claire with the history behind her unusual reliquaries.

I graduated with a BFA in jewelry and metalsmithing from the Pratt Institute in the spring of 2008. The baby teeth reliquaries were a piece of my senior jewelry thesis, of which the overall subject was mortality; not so much the aspect of death, but the things that happen to us in our lives and the things we do that express our own humanity and make us beautifully imperfect vessels. These imperfections may be things that happen to us when we age, the result of bad choices we make, or genetic gifts.

I held on to my own baby teeth because, at the time, it seemed strange to so easily dispose of something with which I had come so far. I viewed them as tiny shells; fossils of my childhood that told a piece of my story, for they had witnessed it all. They passed my words, shared my kisses, and were fascinating objects to be be studied in their own right.

For something like a decade, my teeth had lived in a tiny brass and enamel box my mother brought back from a trip for me. I would visit them from time to time, recalling the swift loss of some and the labored extractions of others. They all had a tale to tell, and a memory of our parting.

So I made them tiny thrones. It seemed only right.

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45 comments

  • VintageEye

    VintageEye from VintageEye said 4 years ago

    Love the toothed bands!

  • guziks

    Stephanie from Phylogeny said 4 years ago

    Very interesting way to memorialize your childhood! I kept my baby teeth too, I just couldn't part with them. Love your rings in the shop, especially the speckled ones. Good luck to you!

  • LittleWrenPottery

    Victoria Baker from LittleWrenPottery said 4 years ago

    I know its quite a common thing to keep baby teeth but I'm not keen on them just seems a bit creepy to me! But thats the joy of Etsy there's always something for everyone

  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie said 4 years ago

    Your rings are beautiful! My mom kept some of my teeth and I keep my kids'. There are hidden away with the little notes to the tooth fairy. Just adorable :)

  • VoleedeMoineaux

    Hillary De Moineaux from VoleedeMoineaux said 4 years ago

    Such a good idea!

  • SenoritaJoya

    Dorottya from SenoritaJoya said 4 years ago

    Hi Claire, OMG! :) That is really funny... my mother collected my tooth as well. :) She put each to a nice small box. Very nice shop you have! Have a beautiful day, D ♥

  • TwinkleStarCrafts

    Judith and Raymond from AnnaOliveDesigns said 4 years ago

    That is so funny! I have a few of my baby teeth in a trinket box, too, as well as saving most of my children's. I am glad I am not the only one. I laughed at your comment that you thought so highly of them that you made them thrones. There is nothing wrong with worshipping your past.

  • HibouCards

    Anne-Claire R. from HibouDesigns said 4 years ago

    weird and cool!

  • volkerwandering

    Jess from volkerwandering said 4 years ago

    Cute! I never thought of baby teeth as our own little "fossils". Recently my little brother did a school science project using his baby teeth. Did you know if you leave a baby tooth in lemon juice for a few days it will completely dissolve?! Makes me think twice before drinking lemonaide...

  • nadene

    Even Howard from nadene said 4 years ago

    The story behind these items, especially the reflection of mortality and the passage of time is really interesting to me. As adults it can be easy to forget the long saga of changing teeth even though that is a most tangible part of growth. Plus we make our treasures where we can; good stuff.

  • Iammie

    iammie from iammie said 4 years ago

    Interesting!

  • Boogiecat

    Kannis from Boogiecat said 4 years ago

    good idea! like your baby teeth jewelry!

  • ExLibrisJournals

    Meaghan from ExLibrisJournals said 4 years ago

    so cute!

  • josiesdesign

    Josie from JosiesDesign said 4 years ago

    Your rings are beautiful!

  • LauraPeppler

    Laura Peppler from pephome said 4 years ago

    How neat. I need to get these for my nieces!

  • cammoo

    cammoo from cammoo said 4 years ago

    I love everything about the shrines!

  • IkvothaMashiach70

    Gabrielle Knight from RuffleNBustle said 4 years ago

    It's funny how sentimental we are about these things. Though I think it's because we know at our best our life is but a vapor, a short breath of time, so we hold onto things from times gone by.

  • CafePrimrose

    Amanda Gynther from CafePrimrose said 4 years ago

    What an interesting story! Wish now I had held onto my old teeth..... But alas, I was too busy moving around the world to hold onto too much of anything.... Oh well! I still have tons of memories... Most of them of interesting and exotic places. I am always talking about my travels. So much of my work is inspired by the nomadic wandering I do. Left my baby teeth and home behind a long time ago and grabbed hold of the world instead.

  • AvaGirlDesigns

    Bonnie from AvaGirlDesigns said 4 years ago

    Love your rings great story!

  • FiveOClocks

    Carol from FiveOClocks said 4 years ago

    Interesting story and so creative ideas! Great job :)

  • Parachute425

    Terry from Parachute425 said 4 years ago

    Claire - your work is beautiful. Kudos.

  • AlpineGypsy

    Heidi from AlpineGypsy said 4 years ago

    Beautiful - strange.....I love the idea of these little thrones dedicated to one's mortality, in a way. They are lovely - congratulations, and I just love it when someone makes me think of a common object in a new way. This is what Art is. Heidi

  • studiorandom

    Dana Seilhan from studiorandom said 4 years ago

    I want to make some sort of framed piece with pockets in it and dates on them for my daughter's teeth, that way nobody has to look at them but I still have them. We're going to wait to do that until she's well past the Tooth Fairy stage (she's seven), though I think she's close to that now since she's already questioning the Easter Bunny. By the way, someone on Etsy is selling a tooth fairy pillow with a dental chart on it where you can write the date lost on the pillow next to the tooth that's been lost. I think that's awesome!

  • BambuEarth

    Amber from BambuEarth said 4 years ago

    ♥♥♥

  • AtomicAttic

    Miles and Aimee Harrison from AtomicAttic said 4 years ago

    Kinda weird..

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat from mazedasastoat said 4 years ago

    I'm not certain my mother would let me have my baby teeth, maybe she'll leave them to me in her will! Although, I've kept the puppy teeth of all the dogs I've had that were young enough to still have them...

  • meganmccarthy5

    Megan McCarthy from SisterMadeIt said 4 years ago

    Thanks for the great story. I love your store.

  • MouseTrapVintage

    Sarah Brown from MouseTrapVintage said 4 years ago

    Those are awesome, Claire! I LOVE tooth-based art! Congrats on the feature!

  • StringBeardCraftery

    Stephanie from StringBeardCraftery said 4 years ago

    Those are creepy, awesome, and thoughtful ideas for jewelry. Very cool!

  • OuterKnits

    OuterKnits from OuterKnits said 4 years ago

    Weird, although I do have my son's baby teeth. Like your other jewlery.

  • lovelyfeverboutique

    Jessica from LovelyFever said 4 years ago

    I love the personal story behind these custom-baby teeth pendants. I have never heard of anyone using baby teeth to make custom keepsakes, but I could see how a lot of people would want that for either themselves or for their children.

  • thevicagirl

    VaLon Frandsen from thevicagirl said 4 years ago

    Great story, doesn't make it sound creepy at all...

  • Twigggy

    Emily Hingston from EmilyHingston said 4 years ago

    Just fabulous. Quirky, beautifully made with a lovely story. The perfect treasure.

  • paisleybeading

    LuAnn Poli from PaisleyBeading said 4 years ago

    Hi Claire! You are one talented artist! What a terrific idea! Fun to hear your story. Thanks for sharing it. Best wishes!

  • LauraBoyea

    Laura Boyea from LauraBoyea said 4 years ago

    Very cool nostalgia! Your jewelry is stunning as well. Thanks for sharing!

  • FreakyPeas

    FreakyPeas from FreakyPeas said 4 years ago

    freaky....but, it did make me think of all the baby teeth that have been thrown away in the world....

  • ClaireKinder

    Claire Kinder Barrett from ClaireKinder said 4 years ago

    Many thanks for all the kind words. xoxo ckb

  • elleestpetite

    Donna Thai from PetiteCuisine said 4 years ago

    Very interesting. I love the idea of putting each baby tooth on its own shrine.

  • gloverross

    ross glover said 4 years ago

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  • seasonsart1031

    Becca from seasonsart1031 said 4 years ago

    What a wonderful idea I keep my boys teeth in a little box your shrines are so much cooler!

  • demonkitty101

    Sally Kelland from demonkitty101 said 4 years ago

    I keep my (now 13yo)daughters baby teeth and have told her that on her 21st birthday I will give her a necklace I have made from them! She thinks it is weird,so I will show her this post.Thanks!

  • hackenpillow

    Liz P. from PillowDesignStudio said 4 years ago

    My husband kept his wisdom teeth and we joked about turning them into jewelry. Much more sentimental and cuter idea with baby teeth, though.

  • TwirlyWorld

    Elizabeth Grenz from TwirlyWorld said 4 years ago

    How original! I love seeing things like this!

  • laurahdrapac

    Laura H. Drapac from laurahdrapac said 4 years ago

    Those reliquaries are so precious-looking! I love the contrast between the zany concept and the delicacy of the visual elements of the works.

  • JennasRedRhino

    Jennifer Schmidt from TheCatBall said 4 years ago

    Oh, your work is fascinating! I had my teeth stored in a little locked box, and this guy broke into my house and stole it. Can you imagine how shocked he was when he busted that lock open?

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