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A Jewel’s Meaning: Less Price Point than Story

by on February 7th, 2016

There’s a lot of reasons to give a present and it seems like a new one every day; the culture of giving has grown with the addition of new cultures to the US. Always, the greatest quality of any of these gifts though, is meaning.

Rarity, beauty, craftsmanship and history are a part of the message, but the heart of it, is the heart that gives it. Picking something rare and appealing to someone you know well, carries that care forever. Suddenly, a thing becomes beautiful in a new way, unique to its moment and imbued with qualities of another dimension of thought and memory.

This is why, carefully chosen, a relatively inexpensive engagement ring can be valued as highly as the Hope Diamond: it’s just a matter of meaning.

1920s Old Mine Cut Diamond Princess Ring, $2,200

1920s Old Mine Diamond Princess Ring, $2,200

The 12.10ct Intense Yellow Old Miner

by on December 11th, 2015

Gypsy and $400,000 may sound at odds, but what this ring is… is a Bohemian Rhapsody.

An antique diamond of rare size smoldering a wonderful yellow that is also elegant and wearable! The sort of jewel that completes a festival of cloth, color and bangle or is punctuation to a simple black dress. Itself, a treasure that never screams diamond, but does speak volumes about style and taste: Never cheap, always there and always fun.

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A Flock of Jeweled Birds

by on December 11th, 2015

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They are swallows by the curving swoop of the wing and forked tails; the fighter pilots of the insect eaters. Here, in the iPhone photo from the day I bought them from Argentina, they move whether upside down or tumbling just as the real bird does in flight, but with the added benefit of the tiny spring fitted into a barrel on the pin, to let the diamonds do their stuff and to “tremble” with every step: Mounted “en tremblant”.

At the end of the Beaux Arts period, maybe 1895, these were made by a Parisian of the first order when it came to skills. The upside down bird shows the extraordinary piercing work known as “azuring”…. daylighting, where wonderful geometric patterns give a delicacy that allows cleaning but maintains the strength of the piece.

Done first by an engraver to mark the line, next by the saw piercer who shaped the cuts and finally by the “thrummer,” who threaded cotton cording charged with diamantine powders through the holes and stroked the string up and down the cavities until they were mirror polished- even where no one would ever see after the diamond surface was pavéd.

The flock together is never the same. They tremble and turn; are removed and re-grouped and always show a style and grace marking one of the great periods in truly, high jewelry making.

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Lausanne, from the Dust up at the Foundation of Haute Horologie

by on November 18th, 2015

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This week, I’ve had the privilege of attending the 7th Forum de la Haute Horlogerie held in Lausanne, as an expert for the Americas to the Cultural Council. One of the main topics of discussion: What it means to be High (“Haute”)?

In the millenarian arts, it’s an atelier painstakingly hand-embroidering, stitching and crafting one of a handful of dresses for only the greatest of fashion’s well-heeled followers. Is a Richard Mille, made of space age stuff, its hundred case parts quickly carved by CNC and innovative programming, high? All the complications achieved, but the hand of a craftsman pretty much ignored?

So then, how high? As a myopic, high is close. Look at a Patek Phillipe watch from 1900 where the hands alone, have more real handwork than a million dollars of Richard Milles; a dial of fired, hand painted numerals whose flare was the signature of an individual immediately known for his seraph like no other; as clear a statement of his achievement as it was of his own style. Does the watch with simply stamped or cut hands even belong in the same conversation? I believe it doesn’t.

The difference in this step higher, is finish and finish is just that; taking something to its end. To deliver rough machinery is fine for John Deere and Caterpillar, but not for Haute Horologie. It is in fact, nothing but a profit with the loss of honesty. When timekeeping can be a cellphone and complication is conquered with a key stroke, then doesn’t “finish” and art, become the Height that is excellence?

In my own shops, the finish is the “table stakes”, the non-negotiable. Design and complication are the customers choices. Finish, the beauty of the hand that crafts, will always be the Haute in what we make.

Never forget, that for watchmaker or jeweler, real art is where craft and love join.

In an Overburdened World of “Luxury”

by on November 3rd, 2015

I find the title, “luxury,” given out at every turn, something of an insult. It’s demeaning to the buyer who obviously must rely on another’s taste and knowledge to get something good; it implies he’s nouveau or simply “posing”. For the folks who look and care about the way things are designed and made, it’s just unnecessary and trying too hard.

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Some great things simply stand out for their staking out of new ground; for performing better or simply being the best of what they can be and to me, that’s luxurious.

Patek Phillipe owns the realm of beautifully made, perfectly functioning men’s dress watches, where you really do expect your family to treasure one forever. This Annual Calendar (Ref. 5205G) is everything in elegance and functional investment that a watch could offer.

A fabulous glass to drink from: Whether you have a fine Bordeaux or simply iced tea, there is something wonderful about slowing the moment down and going to a favorite vessel.

I have very old crystal: some hand-engraved with political or religious declarations, sometimes a sailing ship or royal stag. Anything has to taste better held in history and beauty.

Luxury isn’t a magazine telling you something, it’s reveling in the accomplishment and skills of craftsmen and artists and honestly, toasting them: It’s all about them.

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Oktoberfest, Hosted by A. Lange & Söhne & Betteridge – October, 20th

by on October 10th, 2015

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Craft-Honed: The Very Nearly, Lost Art of Hand-Engraving

by on March 13th, 2015

DSC_2964_1Engraving for presidents, movie stars and Greenwich school teachers, Carlos Colonna has been the hands engraving many of the most important crest rings, trophies and sterling pieces. On the average day, he’s sharpening his tools and craft with Betteridge.

Hand-engraving remains among the most difficult and important aspects of the jeweler’s craft: at Betteridge, we’re blessed to have Carlos still working at the bench and continuing to produce enduring works of this nearly, lost art. Each of the examples here, he cut entirely with the handtools he shapes himself, then wields with the skills and confidence gained over his sixty year career.

As a collector and dealer in old silver, I’ve found countless times the embellishment of a great heraldic device or inscription adds terrific value, perhaps more than ever before, now hundreds of years later. These engraved pieces become time machines; portals to another generation, epoch and even culture. Understanding the form and use, then the importance of the provenance told by the engraved images let’s you into another world where these badges of station and achievement were instantly recognized and respected.

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Verdura’s Theodora Cuff Bracelet, Now at Betteridge

by on October 28th, 2014

verdura-coco-chanelLegendary jeweler Verdura celebrates its 75 years of style with the introduction of the rare, limited edition “Theodora” cuff. The “Theodora” motif on the cuff marks the beginning of Verdura’s career as a jewelry designer and his earliest collaboration with Coco Chanel. In 1930, Verdura, with Chanel as his muse, shattered the status quo in 20th century jewelry design. The revolution they began broke from the proliferation of platinum and diamond jewelry whose popularity was verging on monotony.

Inspired by the Byzantine mosaic of Empress Theodora at the Italian Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Verdura and Chanel set out to break the rules of popular style. For the first time in the 20th Century, gemstones were pressed into yellow gold in such splendid contradiction to one another: the primary colors of precious rubies, emeralds, sapphires and diamonds were electrified into new life beside the vivid half-hues of semi-precious amethysts, peridots and tourmalines. It was an iconoclast departure. At the time, British Vogue observed the “unusual results and a number of colour harmonies hitherto unknown to jewellery.”

The first foray into this new realm of color was a pair of Byzantine-inspired brooches in loosely cruciform patterns, called the Theodora and Ravenna brooches. These two brooches became harbingers of change, precursors to the full exploration of twentieth century Byzantine style. They were the inspiration for the iconic Maltese Cross cuffs created by the Duke of Verdura for his friend Coco Chanel in the early 1930’s. These brooches were eventually given to Diana Vreeland, a friend and client of Chanel. She further popularized them by wearing them in unusual ways, notably on her turbans and hats. These were a signature of Ms. Vreeland throughout her life.

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Betteridge Presents 2014 Ring Day at Yankee Stadium

by on August 17th, 2014

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On July 20th, Betteridge proudly presented 1999 World Series Champions Fan Ring Day at Yankee Stadium.

The first 18,000 guests 14 and younger received a replica of the 1999 World Series Champions ring. In recognition of one of the truly extraordinary Yankee teams, Betteridge designed the ring to resemble the original as closely as possible.

It was a great day at the Stadium (the Yankees won in the bottom of the ninth!), and everybody left a champion.

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Terry & Diana Betteridge with Yankee Manager Joe Girardi

Terry & Diana Betteridge with Yankee Manager Joe Girardi. Photo Credit: New York Yankees.

The Creation of the WWE’s Million Dollar Belt at Betteridge

by on August 6th, 2014