Lora Jobe's necklaces tend to turn heads.
One recent day she was wearing a simple string of seed pearls with a few tiny charms: a gold solid heart, a heart with a diamond, and . . . wait, are those oddly shaped pearls?No. They're teeth.
Her children's baby teeth, to be exact, though she's not sure which tooth came from which child since the Tooth Fairy in her home tended to store them all in one box.
Jobe did what millions of mothers throughout history must have at least thought of doing in a moment of emotional attachment to their children's fallen body parts: She designed jewelry using baby teeth.
And Jobe stands ready to do your children's teeth as well.
Last month, Jobe launched a new business called babylove out of her Memphis home, where she makes elegant necklaces out of baby teeth for sentimental parents or grandparents.
Jobe, who is also president of the Memphis Board of Education, is working hard to get across the idea that this is not wacky.
She calls it "sentimental jewelry," and her mission pulls the heartstrings of any mother who has, tucked into her underwear drawer, a tiny box filled with teeth that were once carefully extracted from beneath the pillow of a sleeping child.
"I've heard so many neat stories about teeth," said Jobe, 40.
There was the mother who wanted to give her college-age daughter a necklace of the daughter's own teeth, perhaps as a reminder of her childhood. Then there was the bride who received her new husband's baby teeth as a gift from her mother-in-law.
"Some mothers say it's an instinct (to save their children's teeth). They're just too precious to throw away," said Jobe.
Teeth as decoration is not such an unusual concept.
Throughout the ages, people have worn animal and fish teeth as jewelry. And all sorts of body parts of the saints are enshrined in churches throughout Europe; not the least of these are teeth.
It's not so uncommon for a mother to wear a locket with a lock of her child's hair. And treasuring a child's baby teeth isn't any more weird than the mothers who ask to keep their placenta after giving birth so they can bury it and plant a tree to mark the spot.
In some cultures, teeth have a deeper symbolic meaning.
Memphis dentist Dr. Jon Stanford said he has had Gypsy patients who insist that he return to them any extracted teeth. "They feel that, if you keep a tooth, then you get control over them," he said.
But that may be more than Jobe wants this jewelry to represent. Most mothers, she contends, will appreciate the idea of a wearable keepsake that captures happy mem-ories of a child's early years.
Jobe wears her necklace proudly. It all started years ago when her three children - now 17, 15 and 11 - began producing what eventually became quite a collection of baby teeth.
"I kept rolling it around in my mind what I was going to do with them. I wanted to do something, but I wasn't sure what," she said.
About five years ago, Jobe started exploring the idea of a necklace with jewelers, but most of the jewelers she talked to "couldn't get into it." One who did said he'd charge a minimum of $3,000, which Jobe couldn't get into.
Finally she found a jeweler who agreed to create what she pictured, a simple chain with five teeth.
"I was kind of trying to keep it simple to not detract from the teeth," said Jobe.
As soon as she started wearing it, Jobe said, she was inundated with compliments and requests from people who wanted their own children's teeth mounted. So she developed her own prototypes for necklaces similar to the original, with some embellishments, and a business was born.
Now she has a brochure and a Web site: (http://www.babylove.com).
Potential customers can choose the style they like and place their orders or e-mail her with questions about custom designs. And Jobe has begun the process to patent her designs.
There are four basic styles, in silver, gold or with seed pearls on 16-inch chains (though other lengths may be possible). Prices range from $225 for five teeth on a sterling silver chain to $400 for two baby teeth, two 14-karat gold hearts and another heart studded with diamonds, all strung with seed pearls.
Jobe will also develop custom pieces, as requested. Bracelets don't work, though. "Teeth are just too fragile," she said.
Jobe makes each piece, working at her kitchen table. Her dining room is lined with boxes of supplies, and she hopes to move the business out to the guest house behind her home if demand grows.
"I haven't had a lot of sales yet, but I have had a lot of interest," she said.
For more information about babylove or to order a brochure, call 901-722-5490.