A Lesson in Time & Taste
by Terry Betteridge on October 28th, 2011
The 1930’s were a glorious period for the great Greenwich estates. Stone cutters, plaster workers and wood carvers put extraordinary finishing touches on grand houses; classically trained landscape architects designed wondrous gardens, then left in the hands of hereditary stewards; families hosted splendid dinner parties in wide backyard fields.
It was a time of grandeur, and within these walls, jewels of simple, but powerful beauty were worn with ease and abandon.
Below is a star sapphire of over 50 carats, beautifully set during that period. The rays of the star, glowing on fields of microscopic minerals riding the crystalline structure, extend vividly to it’s horizon.
Mimicking the geometry of this asterism, the gemstone is enhanced by triangular and kite-shaped diamond shoulders. These side stones were carved with no regard to the amount of diamond dropped away on the cutter’s floor to achieve the perfect symmetry demanded to follow the points of the central star.
My grandfather always maintained that to truly judge a jewelry craftsman’s care and ability, you have to look beneath, in this case inside, the piece; he’d have been thrilled by this ring.
Between bridging of platinum polished to mirror-like brightness (only achieved by “thrumming” leather or cotton strings through the ring’s openings for days), is the original owner’s cypher.
To cut sapphire at all- the second hardest of substances- it takes a diamond; and to fashion this perfectly entwined monogram, it took a master cutter, working a graver formed from a diamond and then skillfully wielded in the most delicate and hardest task imaginable: carving an elegant cypher.
Pop used to say that the thirties were a time when you had to have taste to have money. Although some might suggest that this no longer remains the case, this jewel from one of Greenwich’s truly “Great Estates” could make you a believer that it once was the rule.
P.S., so would seeing Old Mrs. Wilshire, who early on in my career had her chauffeur stand outside the store’s door, holding a brace of massive, dignified wolfhounds…