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Posts by Terry Betteridge

An Old Stuffing Spoon

by on May 20th, 2014

terry-spoon
Really good silver takes many forms but it always shares a few important traits, as this old stuffing spoon shows.

All the surfaces here, rustic from the heavy hammer blows, are smooth to the hand. The haft of the spoon is heavily beaten back from both sides, to thicken and give the strength of an “I Beam”: It wont bend, or at least will snap back, when used hard.

It is almost 8 troy ounces of three individually made and reinforced sections: It has the weight to last through hundreds of years of service.

Finally, it is signed by the workmen who were pleased with their work and proud of their shop. Great silversmiths make things to be used and are willing to stake their names that it will last doing so.

One of my first projects in the shop, for a dear friend

One of my first projects in the shop, for a dear friend

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Diamond Heart Pendant, Circa 1895

by on February 14th, 2013

victorian-heart-pendant-brooch

At the end of the 19th century, platinum was for the first time being used to set diamonds, though still with the historically used gold backing.

Seen from behind, the pendant’s setting is almost entirely pierced and filed away. It creates the appearance of a honeycomb in gold and platinum whose engineering would make Buckminister Fuller proud. Perfect strength with a minimum of material, though a maximum of labor.

After the sawing and filing, cotton string and pith wood charged with fine abrasive powders and carried by beeswax were “thrummed” to mirror polish the cutaways. The process creates the perfect seats for each small diamond.

From the back just as much as the front, this is perfection seldom seen.

Whimsy as High Art

by on August 11th, 2012

Occasionally, the great Parisian jewelers all stepped back from classically opulent jewelry making to design something artistic and amusing, while still maintaining unsurpassed quality in material and design.

By Van Cleef & Arpels, this jewel of a British bulldog is a representational tour de force. With enameled wingtip collar and chained diamond monocle, not only is all England invoked, but Winston Churchill in particular. Tenacity and single-minded purpose dressed as a gentleman…

I’ve spent much of my life on the hunt for wonderful and unique jewelry pieces. My favorite jewelry has meaning- in this case, the historic allure of one of the most important men, and greatest characters, of modern times.

Van Cleef & Arpels 18k Gold, Enamel & Diamond Bulldog Pin

The Value of History

by on August 9th, 2012

This antique snuff box or bonbonnière is hand-engraved and engine-turned below multiple layers of colored glass (a technique Faberge becomes famous for copying an hundred years later). Trapped within the early 19th century Parisian enamel is the golden inscription, “DON DE L’EMPEREUR” (“A Gift of the Emperor”)- for you know who…

A Fine, Napoleon Snuff Box

Lions at the Gate

by on April 10th, 2012

Once or twice a week, I paw through auction catalogs; jewelry first and then all sorts of small regional auctions with paintings, rugs and just old stuff. If I win more than one in fifty bids, then I know I’ve overpaid between the commissions and shipping. Sometimes though, things just happen…

Last month, as the driver brings me back to the store, the last leg of our whirlwind trip to Baselworld, I see a mountain of packing material piled on the sidewalk out front and about four feet of a pair of six foot bronze lions. Vague recollections of an inch by inch picture in a Southern auction catalog came to me…

Today, the lions guard the door, a reminder to read the fine print of auction reports.

A Lesson in Time & Taste

by on October 28th, 2011

Todd Mansion, Greenwich in the Early 20th Century

Todd Mansion, Greenwich in the Early 20th Century

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.

30 Carat Star Sapphire Ring

An Elegant 30ct Star Sapphire Ring

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.

Cypher Underneath the Sapphire

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…

The Claret Jug

by on September 30th, 2011

Silver Walrus Decanter

A Whimsically Wonderful Silver Walrus Decanter

My desk is a mess. Today, a walrus, ivory tusks and all, stares at me from where paper and counter should be, but I’m tickled; he reminds me of my departed springer and a silly question from one of my kids.

“Pop, you’re not going to melt this pitcher are you?” A fabulous, grape vine wrapped ewer, made in the 19th century, was his concern; heavy as lead; but it showed how little, so many kids today know of the great objects of art whose use makes them all the greater a wonder.

In Paris, is a somewhat fusty, bastion of the French culinary art called, La Serre; and on a high line of shelves, is a vast collection of wine jugs. Some are characters, like the walrus, but most are simply elegant deliveries of one of the greatest French treasures: the Bordeaux. After a suitable fondling of the sensuous, high shoulder of an unmistakable region’s bottle, ritual decantation aereates the heavy wine into the “Claret Jug.” The very best wines, pour into and out of these elegant vessels.

No, we do not melt wine ewers.

Victorian Silver Ewer

Victorian Silver Wine Ewer, Circa 1861

Patek Philippe Ref. 725 Perpetual Calendar Pocket Watch

by on July 22nd, 2011

Patek Philippe Ref. 725 Perpetual Calendar Astronomical Pocket Watch

While big timepieces are the style today, some watches capture the hearts of generation after generation of collectors.

Our Patek Philippe astronomical, perpetual calendar is a “best of best”: where you’ve surpassed the end of the scale to measure greatness. In a format this grand, all the months of the leap year cycle are bold; the enamel night sky and golden moon vivid.

In pristine condition from 1951, one of Patek’s best is ready to be engraved for the first time ever.

Seen at right: Patek Philippe perpetual calendar keyless, open-faced pocket watch (ref. 725), featuring a m. 17”’-170, rhodium-plated with “fausses-côtes” decoration, 18 jewels, straight line lever escapement, adjusted for heat, cold, isochronism and 5 positions, blued steel Breguet balance spring with swan neck regulator; three-body, “variée carrure plate” with a concave bezel; silver dial with applied gold Arabic numerals and gold “feuille” hands; perpetual calendar complication with sub-dials for days-of-the-week, month with leap year indication, date and seconds with moon-phase display aperture; and 46mm, 18k yellow gold case with a polished gold case back.

What Makes a Really Fine Colored Diamond?

by on July 22nd, 2011

Fancy Colored Diamond Bracelet

Depth of color is crucial and phenomenally rare in the truly “vivid” colored diamonds where the yellow is the color of safron or the pink is the color of a perfect beach rose.

This simple floral bracelet (amazingly built in platinum, which usually bleaches color, as opposed to enhancing it like gold) is composed of perfectly matched deep steel blues, glowing pinks and solid yellows. The bracelet demonstrates just what the best of colored diamonds can be.

Seen at left: Fancy colored diamond cluster bracelet, composed of 22 diamond flower clusters, set with yellow, pink, purplish-blue and white diamonds, the 154 diamonds weighing approximately 9.00 total carats and the clusters ranging from 7-9mm in diameter, mounted in platinum, designed by George Kogis.

A Small and Sacred Find

by on September 7th, 2010

Joan d'Arc Brooch

Many times, the greatest gift is a small one; the most wonderful jewel, not very big.

From the collection of the foremost expert on antique French jewels in the world, we bought a little enameled girl surrounded by tiny diamonds.

She waves a banner in glistening armor, while carrying a golden sword and axe on her belt. Upon closer examination, she also has a fine, golden halo with saints on her banner kneeling to the Christ child and crusaders’ crosses riveting the steel of her suit together. A tiny golden figure (actual gold trapped between many firings of glass), a fleur-de-lis wave at the end of her banner with chestnut-colored hair falling gracefully over her shoulders.

She is Joan d’Arc!

It’s an amazing, devotional painting in a medium few artists could master and fewer still could accomplish in miniature. For a few thousand dollars, a girl who spoke to God and found legions of soldiers commit to her visions, will endlessly hold that banner high. A small but priceless jewel.