A woman of pearls and gummy bears: Jane Parker

The local jewellery designer and mother died last week at 59.

Jane Parker once wore one of her jewellery designs at the New York Jewellery Show at the Javits Centre – one of the preeminent jewellery shows in the world. The plastic pearl and gummy bear necklace earned much admiration, including the interest of the folks at the Mikimoto pearl booth. 

Always looking for fun, the jewellery designer of thirty years’ portfolio ranged from million dollar pieces to kids’ costume accessories. 

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“She never took herself too seriously,” says her husband, Simon Parker. 

But she was a serious designer, working for names such as European Jewellers, Maison Birks and Brinkhaus Jewellers. At one point in the late ’90s, around half the jewellery pieces on the Home Shopping Network were Jane’s designs says Simon. 

Jane died of cancer last week. She was 59. 

Born in Hanna, Alberta in 1959, from the age of six, Jane knew she wanted to be an artist. 

Jane Parker with a Moonface pin in a Brinkhaus workshop.
Jane Parker with a Moonface pin in a Brinkhaus workshop. - Submitted

At the time in Alberta, you needed 100 credits to graduate high school, she graduated with 70 in art. Her high school had an incredible art program, which set her up for her later success.

In October 1977, Jane was living in Calgary when she applied for a job as a cashier at a new Eddie Baur outlet. Simon had been brought in from Toronto to help get the store up and running. 

“It was hate at first sight,” says Simon. 

It took a while, but the two warmed to one another and went out for their first date, February 24, 1979, Jane’s 20th birthday. 

While they were dating Simon won a trip to San Francisco in a record store contest 

“I was kind of pissed because I would’ve preferred the 500 albums [the second place prize,]” says Simon. 

But he won the trip and brought along Jane. The trip turned out to be significant. 

“I’ve got a picture of the moment I decided to marry her,” says Simon. “It’s a horrible picture, slightly out of focus and she’s standing out on the balcony with a view of a concrete wall behind her. But that’s the moment I decided.”

They were married January 5, 1980 – the first Saturday of the ‘80s. 

Jane completed a diploma in visual communication at the Alberta College of Art and Design, intending to become a fashion illustrator (Erté was one of her idols), but falling into jewellery design. 

“Jane was the architect but not the builder,” says Simon. Rather than working at the bench, Jane would draw detailed designs and then work with the customer and the jeweller to realize her vision. 

And her vision didn’t go unnoticed - Jane won a prestigious Diamonds International award for her design of a fish head pin in 1990.

The couple spent a couple of decades moving around central and western Canada, with a lot of back and forth between Vancouver and Toronto. 

Jane preferred the winters in Vancouver, she could handle the rain, but she didn’t like the snow. 

In 2002, Jane was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She was given a fifty-fifty chance of being alive in five years. 

Around the same time, the couple read a story in the Vancouver Sun about Bowen’s pizza restaurant Tuscany. Enticed by the gastronomy, it was the island that captured Jane and Simon.

Jane’s drawing of the fish head pin that won her a Diamonds International award in 1990.
Jane’s drawing of the fish head pin that won her a Diamonds International award in 1990. - Submitted

They started looking for homes, thinking that a house on the water would be the last one Jane would live in, eventually finding one in Eaglecliff.

“We walked in the door and fell in love the view,” says Simon. 

As Jane beat the odds, the family would spend the next decade and a half in the home together, with their daughter Sarah coming along ten years ago. 

For three decades, up through to this year, Jane had her own business, see jane draw, a take on the old Dick and Jane children’s books. But it became secondary to her primary job. 

“Jane was fulltime mom and part-time jewellery designer,” says Simon. 

As a volunteer at the Knick Knack Nook, Jane enlisted her daughter to join the crew, Sarah becoming the youngest volunteers at the reuse it shop. 

As a friendly face on the playground, many have written on Facebook about Jane’s wide smile and warm acceptance. 

Jane’s final bout with cancer was swift. Discovered because of a pap smear less than a month ago, the outlook was terminal, and Jane chose not to endure “heroic measures.”

She died November 30.

“She was a kind, considerate, fun person, who was a wonderful person to be around,” says Simon. 

“I’m kind of broken,” he says. “I’d need two clones to do what Jane has done.”

But the community support for Simon and Sarah has been tremendous, in the form of food, calls, emails and general support

“I can’t praise the community of Bowen island enough,” says Simon, noting that he has nearly 400 unread emails (and apologizes for not getting to them.) “If this is to happen anywhere, I’m glad it’s Bowen.

“In times of tragedy, Bowen comes together like no other place in the world. It makes living here a privilege.” 

In lieu of flowers a scholarship fund in Jane’s name, to recognize her contributions to the jewellery industry, has been set up at gofundme.com/scholarship-for-canadian-jewellery-design-students. 

A celebration of life will happen on January 5, 2019, on what would have been Jane and Simon’s 39th wedding anniversary. 

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