Stage 1: Realization
It happened last year, that sinking feeling I know well. I was in the office, when I felt something a hair’s breadth off. I clapped my hands to my earlobes.
I’d lost an earring. Again.
It was just a cheap, boxy, faux diamond drop. But I adored the set from the moment I saw it, at the closing sale of a beloved neighborhood shop.
I was bereft; Kim Kardashian’s infamous pain at losing a diamond stud in Bora Bora had nothing on mine.
Stage 2: Mourning
Our possessions disappear constantly — a 2017 survey conducted by Pixie Technology, a now defunct location-tracking company, found Americans spend an average 2.5 days per year searching for misplaced items and $2.7 billion a year replacing them. Replacing a lost phone or pair of sunglasses is straightforward enough, but jewelry is often unique or has sentimental value. Earrings are a special case in themselves, given the cruel twist of the lonesome survivor.
“You feel really bad because the other one is right there, shaming you for losing its mate,” said Nancy B. Kennedy, an author in Hopewell, N.J., only half joking.
In 2012, Ms. Kennedy created a Facebook page called My Lost Earring, inspired by the loss of one of her glass seagull earrings. They were a gift from her husband, but one of them vanished on a long-ago bike ride, a loss she still mourns.
Lauren Sagar, a multimedia artist in Manchester, England, had a similar “click” moment when she realized how many single earrings she’d accumulated.
“When I started asking, almost instantly, women and even some men understood what I was saying,” Ms. Sagar recalled.
“It seems like a silly little thing but I found that people had a huge emotional attachment to their earrings,” Ms. Sagar said. “They were inherited from grandparents. Or signified an important period in someone’s life. Someone lost one on her honeymoon in Venice; it fell into a canal. That’s why they don’t get rid of the remaining ones.”
Ms. Sagar went on to create, with Sharon Campbell, a stained glass artist, The Chandelier of Lost Earrings, a light-up artwork over eight feet tall. It includes more than 3,000 single earrings that people sent in after the project was publicized, often with letters about why they so valued the jewelry.
“They were universal stories of love, loss and growing up,” Ms. Sagar said.
Stage 3: Denial
When my earring vanished, I did what many of us do: I went a little crazy. I crawled under office desks; rummaged shoulder-deep through trash; searched the bathroom; checked with office security. I ripped my house apart, though I didn’t think it was there and badgered the folks at my gym. If I thought it might have helped, I’d have rented a metal detector.
But days, then weeks went by, and my earring didn’t reappear. Instead, I turned to the internet and found listings for jewelers who make facsimiles. For example, Quick Jewelry Repairs, in New York City, ships around the country or even abroad. The company replicates hundreds of earrings annually, using computer modeling, with prices typically starting around $200. Not astronomical, but bereaved as I was, I still couldn’t justify spending way more for one earring than I did for the originals.
So what could I do with the lonely survivor? Back to the internet, where I discovered a breathtaking range of Martha Stewart-esque ideas for earring repurposing (bookmarks! shoe brooches!) along with ideas for mixing and matching leftovers or getting extra piercings. Sulkily, though, I wanted two identical earrings in my lobes — or nothing. I tossed my pitiful stray into a box of sister orphans and tried to move on.
Stage 4: Reaching Out
But with the new year, came new hope. I put a photo on the My Lost Earring page, which Ms. Kennedy estimates has made at least 200 pairings. Matches can take weeks, months, sometimes years, she cautioned, encouraging me not to abandon hope. (So far, no luck.)
Ms. Kennedy explained that site users may give away or sell one in a set they own, to help other users. She herself has persuaded jewelers to provide name-brand replacements. Her page has hosted wrenching stories, like that of a bereaved mother, who lost one earring in a pair her 15-year-old daughter wore before she died (but no match yet).
I also tried Reddit, joining a subReddit for buyers and sellers on the crafts website Etsy. Again I posted a photo: did anyone know a jeweler who could duplicate my earring? A Redditor responded, noting that the earrings were leverback, rectangular, Swarovski zirconia (who knew?); searched those terms for me; then steered me to a very similar, inexpensive set made by a London Etsy designer. Amazed and elated, I ordered them. They were larger than mine, but much closer to a replacement than I’d expected to find.
Stage 5: Acceptance
Still, nothing I did would bring back my original pair. I asked Peter Walsh, an organizer whose most recent book about decluttering is called “Let It Go,” what he’d say to someone who’d obsessed for months over a missing trinket.
“Why did the jewelry matter so much?” he asked. I paused to think. I’d been crushed when the store I bought them from closed. It was one of dozens of places in New York City I’d loved browsing in earlier days: bookstores, art stores, home design stores, all shuttered now. I’m often sad, watching this transition to a more isolating, cookie-cutter kind of commerce.
“Then how much is about the earring and how much about something bigger?” Mr. Walsh asked. “The passing of time. The shift we’re going through. In some ways, the earrings represent that. Maybe you won’t entirely get over that grief.”
At the same time, he reminded me, “You still have an earring. Why love it less because its form has changed? When you think of it, you’re thinking about a negative. Make it a positive. Pin it on your blouse. Frame it. Frame your five best single earrings.”
OK. It sounded somewhat more new-agey than I’m used to. But why not?
Here I am, then, having passed through my earring-loss grief, with a new story to tell. I’ve followed Mr. Walsh’s advice and pulled my zirconia singleton and its pals out of a drawer. The plan is to craft them into a charm necklace.
Meanwhile, my new Etsy earrings arrived a few days ago from London. The first time I wore them to the office, a cashier in the cafeteria looked up and spontaneously exclaimed, “I love them!”
It felt like a tiny benediction.