Saturday, 15 August 2015

Mom's Birthday

Today is Mom's birthday and I thought I might regret not having written about her; silly of me, I know. 

I found her 1935 senior high school school photograph on Ancestry a few years back and I see I've never posted it. She'd probably kill me for sharing it - no one ever seems to like their yearbook picture - but I think she was really cute.

Gone for 25 years now, but still cherished by her loved ones.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015


Today is Wednesday, my designated writing day. Though I have a list of posts to write I find my heart isn't in it. I have enjoyed writing here and have done my best to approach it with some discipline. However, given the list of other things calling for my attention I'm no longer certain that blogging is a priority, at least for right now. 

Nachtmarket, Vienna, May 2015

I've decided to take August off of blogging. We'll see if I can return with more enthusiasm in September. 

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

History of Jewellery - Part XX

Susan talked to us about Branding in the Jewellery Business, which got Bigger in the late 20th Century, though Tiffany's Blue Book Catalogue was first published back in 1845.

By the 1970s and 80s, Paloma, daughter of painter Picasso, was designing jewellery for Tiffany, some of which is rather similar to the famous silver hearts that were all the rage, by Elsa Peretti. Even I had some earrings with a copy of that motif (but not from Tiffany, of course). Paloma's silver kiss was also comparably affordable. 

Another company, "Bvlgari", she said was perhaps the Main Brander (so much so that they have the nickname "Vulgari"). And of course there is the famous quote from Eliabeth Taylor's husband, Richard Burton, who said "Bulgari is the only Italian word Liz knows." Bulgari designs fitted well with the lavish clothing styles of the 1980s and the power suits that women wore in the work place.

Liz's emerald suite by Bulgari

Versace's clothes also suited big jewellery pieces. Bulgari produced silk cord necklaces that came in sections.  Which may have inspired some of the designs of Pandora, a Danish company.

And this, my friend, brings us to the end of this series. Thank you for your interest!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

History of Jewellery - Part XIX

In this, the penultimate (I've always wanted a chance to use that word) post based on the lecture we got from Susan Rumfitt back in March, I'm going to talk about three things.


I mentioned before that she told us Art Deco was the last true style of jewellery. She said it suits all ages and lifestyles, if not price brackets. In the 1960s there was an art deco revival - and the name 'art deco' was coined. Back in the interwar period it was called something like 'art moderne'.  In addition to the revival in the 60s, she told us Cartier had re-invented itself in the 21st century with its art deco jewellery. However at present I only find art deco writing implements for women, price from £300-770. (No presents, please).

Oh yes, and the tiara worn by Kate Middleton when she married Prince William was made by Cartier in 1936 for the Queen Mother.


One of many hallowed institutions here in Britain that is associated with jewellery making is The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths. I remember visiting a jeweller in some small Northumbrian village on a day out with Vivien and he explained about the hallmarks on gold jewellery that signify not just the standard, but much more. I suspect it would be difficult to sell my American jewellery - not that I want to at this point - because of the lack of hallmarks. If the phrase 'Worshipful Company' amuses you as it does me, you can read about the 12 livery companies of London. They are called livery companies because back in the day of their original guilds, craftsmen wore special clothes to signify membership.

Anyhow, Susan told us about a fabulous exhibition at Goldsmith's Hall, designed by Alan Irvine. You can read about that here.  She pointed out that whilst we're quite blase about seeing jewellery in glass boxes sparkle madly because of special lighting, back in 1961 this was a new idea.


In Vienna, one very rainy day back in May, we spent the day at The Dorotheum, an auction house, browsing room after room and floor after floor of beautiful things for sale. To my amusement I learned that the German word for jewellery is 'schmuck'. Of course, in English it has a different definition: a foolish or contemptible person. The term come from the Yiddish word 'schmok', which means ... something else.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Whitby Past and Present

We made our way up the famous 199 steps to the abbey, AKA Caedmon's Trod. Caedmon is a familiar name, as he was a Northumbrian poet - and a monk who cared for the animals at the double monastery (both monks and nuns) at Whitby in the Seventh Century. 

I looked forward to getting a better photograph of the outline of the ruined abbey. On the way up we read the cemetery stones, mostly Victorian, some older. 

I love the way the horizon blends sea and sky...

Because families were often buried all together one can read stories in the inscriptions even when only names and dates are given. 

Like the woman whose husband died when he was 48, in 1857. Their daughter died the following year, aged only 17. The woman lived to 1886 and died at the age of 78: 'Her end was peace.' I found that, and others, quite evocative.

I was annoyed when I reach the gates of the abbey and saw a sign asking people not to photograph the markers. I think I understand that they are not meant to be tourist attractions, accessories to the Dracula mystique. Though it is inevitable that they will be seen in that way by some, that wasn't my intention. 

And what is the point of putting the sign at the top after people have already wound their way up, snapping all the way?

The abbey at the end of the street!

Never mind, we enjoyed spotting the goths in their lovely outfits and I found other surprise views of the lovely abbey. It reminds me a lot of ours at Tynemouth.  

After a very long walk along the beach to admire the row of colourful huts, we were glad to make our way back the the motor home.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

History of Jewellery - Part XVIII

If you're confused about the timeline of the subject matter in these posts, it's probably because I'm a bit muddled as well. Just because I'm determined to finish what I started doesn't mean it will be done in a sensible, orderly fashion, OK? I might go back one day and re-jig these posts, but for now you'll just have to bear with me.

For a while it seemed I couldn't get away from mentioning the Duchess of Windsor if I wanted to talk about jewellery. Now it seems I'm stuck on Liz Taylor - and pearls. 

Susan told us briefly about La Peregrina, a large natural pearl which Richard Burton bought for $37,000 from Sotheby's for Liz Taylor's 37th birthday in 1969. It sold in 2011 for something like $11.6 - 11.8 million.

My thoughts when I began to write about this were to re-tell the story about how Taylor famously 'lost' the pearl and found it in the mouth of one of her dogs. I was thinking she was pretty casual with a pearl that was owned by Philip II (1527-1598) of Spain. His wife, Queen Mary (1516-1558) of England, was painted wearing it, as was Margaret of Austria (1584-1611) Queen of Spain.  And of course it passed through the hands of the Bonaparte's of France.

We'll make no unkind comparisons between Liz and Mary, OK?

My other thought at the time was that Susan told us no one knows who bought the pearl from Christie's (well, I suppose they do, but it doesn't seem to be in the public domain). I was thinking that there are so many fabulous treasures that disappear into private collections and are never seen again. We need to all support our museums to enable the public access to such wonders. I think that's all I wrote on the subject.

However, upon this writing, I've come up with some other observations besides that Taylor's dog is lucky to have survived his little escapade. Last night we watched a BBC programme that had to do with establishing the provenance of a painting belonging to a certain English church and supposed to have been given by a particular aristocratic family in the area. Bill and I were taken with the way that so much likelihood, supposition and expert opinion were the basis of the given 'provenance', which is defined as the history of ownership used to help establish authenticity.

When I came to re-write about La Peregrina (which means the Pilgrim, or the Wanderer), several things occurred to me:

Cartier's listing gives the provenance of the pearl as:
Spanish Kings:
Philip II, (1582-1598)
Philip III, (1598-1621)
Philip IV, (1621-1665)
Charles II, (1665-1700)
Philip V (1700-1746)
Fernando VI (1746-1759)
Charles III (1759-1778)
Carlos IV (1778-1808)

Joseph Bonaparte, of France (1808-circa 1844)
Prince Louis Napoleon, of France (circa 1844-circa 1848)
Duke and Duchess of Abercorn (circa 1848-1914)
Elizabeth Taylor (1969-2011)

I can't help but wonder who owned the pearl between 1914 and 1969? I see from reading Wikipedia that there is another pearl, called the Pearl of Kuwait (with a different weight) that claims to be that worn by Bloody Mary, etc. Establishing provenance and keeping it with the right article must be a pretty complicated business.

I started to be really shocked that something could be worth over 50 times its previous value (if $37,000 in 1969 is $224,440 in 2011) in just 42 years because Elizabeth Taylor owned it. Then I remembered all those rubies and other pearls in the necklace, La Peregrina didn't just hang on a leather strap...not to mention that she designed it and it was by Cartier and we don't know how much they paid for the Cartier necklace. Still...

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Day Out at Whitby

The other destination on our agenda was a return to Whitby. We've been a couple of times, once with the running club and another time we went on our own. Bill went a second time with the running club, but I had to miss that trip. I had to go to Dublin on the Sunday to be ready for a course we were putting on starting Monday morning. There was nothing for it, but I'm still sad about that weekend because they all stayed in a B&B next to Whitby Abbey and they said it was really atmospheric. The B&B has since closed and the building has another use, so that was an opportunity lost to me. Even before I knew this I really resented work biting into my weekend that way. Another reason to be so glad I'm retired!

Whitby Abbey just at the back...

Whitby is really built up and crammed together, so it was nearly impossible to get a good shot of the Abbey from a distance. There was a lot going on in Whitby other than the crowds of tourists: there was a Goth convention in town, so loads of great clothes and make up to enjoy. I'm guessing Goths like Whitby because of its association with Bram Stoker's Dracula. They meet there twice a year, I've discovered. 

Sunshine makes everything look better!

The town - and much of the areas we drove through - was also preparing for the Tour de Yorkshire after last year's brilliant success as part of the Tour de France. It made little sense to me that a tour of France should take part in England, but nobody asked my opinion and it was great for British tourism, so why not?

The Tour de Yorkshire has probably saved thousands of old bikes from landfill!

Whitby is also known for its jet jewellery. Soon after I moved here, a friend in Salt Lake contacted me on behalf of another of her friends to see if I might help her obtain jet for her jewellery making. I had no idea how to get to Whitby at the time (I didn't drive the first 4-5 years I was here) and I didn't have the time or energy to add that to my list of things to learn about living in a foreign country. So that never happened. I did buy some earrings and a small silver and jet brooch when Bill and I visited the second time. Queen Victoria was responsible for this industry taking off; given the black colour of jet it was the perfect accessory for her lifetime of mourning after Albert died. What the Queen did, others followed suit.

He was eyeing my fish and chips, I tell you!

We got to Whitby not long before noon and Bill felt it was obligatory that we have fish and chips for lunch. I didn't disagree but dreaded walking around with all that in my tummy. Surprisingly, he made a sensible decision that for once we would share a single portion of fish and chips and that was just right for me. I had to laugh at the chippie we got our food from, though. In addition to deep-fried pizza, candy bars - you name it - they also did organic and vegan (no doubt deep-fried) for the health-conscious.

We sat on a bench on the marina to eat. My main worry was that the seagulls wheeling around would either poo on my food or try to take it off me. They are pretty fearless, you know, and big enough they could do some damage. 

And complaining loudly that he didn't get any...