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I first heard about Chaney from a friend who had recently moved to St. Croix, USVI. Then, on my first visit, he took me on a “chaney hunt” and I got addicted; both the smooth and rounded pieces of broken porcelain and the game itself.

As I became more interested, a world of myths and legends about the subject opened to me. From the most impressive, that the pieces of porcelain that were smashed in the attacks on plantation houses during the slave rebellions and the subsequent ‘Fireburn’ labor rebellion of 1878 became symbols of the freedom struggle, to the simpler than the local told me. jeweler Whealan Massicott at IB Designs (my vote for the most talented creator of chaney jewelry) – that local children used pieces of broken porcelain as play money in their games (hence the name, a combination of ‘china’ and ‘money’ ).

Although Whealan’s simplest explanation is probably the closest to the truth, the most symbolic speaks to the Caribbean pirate in my soul; and I proudly wear my chaney jewelry as a symbol of my solidarity with the fight for freedom of all people, even if it is a symbol just for me!

Regardless of the history, or how little pieces of broken plates and glasses make their way into the ocean around St. Croix, nothing adds to the excitement of my island diving and snorkeling experiences more than finding a piece of the stuff: it’s rough edges smoothed and rounded by years of tumbling in the sand.

Of course, it is best to find a complete pattern of a flower, an animal or something similar on a century-old piece of the best Danish porcelain; But I’m not sure finding an old heavy white piece, or even brown dinnerware, from a piece that never made it out of the kitchen wouldn’t excite me so much!

Plus, there’s that fascination, like finding a beautiful, smooth piece of sea glass, in the fact that the ocean will even take our trash and do its best to turn it into something beautiful. If only man could learn his lesson in that! Although it is often easier to find chaney in a freshly tilled field or in the disturbed soil of a St. Croix construction site, I think this fact does nothing compared to finding chaney in the sea.

So whether the chaney I meet carries in its tiny web-like madness the hopes and dreams of an exploited worker, or the simplest of children’s games; carries the hopes and dreams of a world that honors and respects all living things and the world in which we live. At least it does it for me.

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