Thursday, 28 May 2015

Beauty-ful Daffs

I wrote about the local beauty parlour  studio a few years ago as the 'old police box' was being renovated. I'm pleased to say they are still in business. Not on my account - I've yet to visit, though I might yet one day. 

Particularly as they seem to have done such a cracking job with their space and the lawn in front of it!

Spring is definitely my favourite season here in Britain. Not because it is in the least warm, but because it is spectacularly beautiful.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

History of Jewellery - Part XI

Pave stone settings that were popular in the 1930s. Pave (pah-VAY) is a French term meaning paved or cobblestoned. The stones are set directly into the metal. More recently, micro-pave has become more popular, but my impression from my reading is that perhaps the stones are not as secure. My notes seem to describe pave setting in an arch shape, perhaps exemplified by this reproduction ring?

Susan showed us something she called a 'flat, sculptured' piece and my sketch looks something like these:

VanCleef and Arpels, of course!

I love this one even more, from the Couture Collection in 2004, but inspired by the Mystery Set technique developed in the 1930s. This looks to me like the epitome of 'flat and sculptured'. 

Ruban Necklace

Which brings us to this technique she described but didn't name. Developed by Van Cleef and Arpels it produced invisible settings in a slightly different approach to 'pave'. By buffing the edges of the stones the 'cobblestone' look was enhanced  - and to my mind completely magical. 

You can enjoy more examples of this technique on the Van Cleef and Arpels website

We were reminded that the Duchess of Windsor was influential in the design of jewellery from the 1930s all the way through the 1970s. You can see a number of other pave-type designs on the portion of their website to do with her. More about Wallis and Harry Winston next time...

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Trauma Ted

I'm always amazed at the wondrous things produced by the ladies at the Age UK knitting group. The last time I was there (as I write) I was beginning to sew together the pieces of the purple sweater I was making. 

I was too lazy to go around and ask permission, so I just scribbled on some faces...

The ladies had a bit of a laugh at my perplexed expression (I needed another cup of coffee and then it was better - I found the instructions in the book!). However, they also gave me loads of tips for next time. Like knitting the first stitch of every row regardless of the pattern. This provides regular 'bumps' that can be matched up when sewing pieces together. Also, they can tell by looking that yarn has been pulled out; apparently if you hand wash and dry it, it comes out like new. 

I always enjoy just looking at the rainbow of colours in the boxes - I'm so grateful I'm not colour blind! I also had a look at some of the things people had brought and was once again amazed at the beautiful things they had created from discarded yarn. (They call it all 'wool' but most of it is acrylic). On one hand I'm thrilled that all this yarn will be used to make something that hopefully will meet a need. On the other, there is never a shortage of what people have bought and have no use for. Much of what we get is unopened...

It was a beautiful sunny day - but still bitter cold!

I particularly loved these little dolls. Muriel, who made them, called them 'Trauma Teds' and Audrey looked for a pattern for me in the back room. In addition to bags and bags of yard, they also receive hundreds of patterns, knitting/crochet needles and other yarn crafting tools. Most of the non-yarn items end up at charity shops up and down the coast.

Audrey found a pattern that was far more sophisticated that these teddies and I said I'd look online for a pattern. I scored! I not only found a knitting pattern, I found a crochet pattern (UK) and an American crochet pattern. The stitches are made the same, but called by different names. (Two countries divided by a common language and all that...) 

We meet about fortnightly (on 1st & 3rd Thursdays) and the ladies never fail to fill the tables with amazing things. 

Though I think handmade things are coming back into fashion at the moment, for a long time it struck me that no one wanted to know about them. 

Sadly last year someone stole a large box of items awaiting shipment from storage and we are sure they found their way to a flea market table or car boot sale. I suppose that is one way to gauge the demand for such things, if someone is prepared to steal them!

As usual, I'm torn between trying to make a lace shopping bag from my Stitch n Bitch book, making another jumper like I just finished, trying a different sweater, trying out a blanket or having a go at a doll! I think I'll toss a coin (several times).

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

History of Jewellery - Part X

In the 1930s it was popular to re-cut stones and to create three dimensional sculptural mounts. Perhaps like this one? Or this breathtaking ring?

Brilliant cut diamonds were popular at this time, which means a round stone with 57-58 facets. This allowed light in through the top and to bounce back up through the 'table' (the flat part on the top of the diamond). The Old European style is marked by the presence of a 'culet': a small flat circle at the bottom (the 58th facet, if present). The European style prevailed up until the 1930s. The Brilliant cut wastes a lot of diamond material and only became acceptable with the discovery of the large diamond mines in South Africa.

We were told a story of the splitting of the Cullinan diamond - one of the largest mined to that time - by Joseph Asscher, one of the Asscher brothers of Amsterdam. It is said that he split the diamond with one blow and then fainted.  The name Asscher is also associated with a square or 'emerald cut' shaped diamond. 

One famous Asscher cut diamond was called the Krupp diamond before it belonged to Liz Taylor, after which it was known as the Elizabeth Taylor diamond. It was 33 carots and sold for $8.8 million in 2011. 

We were told a story that had Liz Taylor at a society lunch also attended by Princess Margaret. The latter was known to have remarked that Liz Taylor's jewellery was 'vulgar'. It may have been the even larger Taylor Burton diamond (68 carots) in question, but the story goes that Liz was always encouraging people to 'try on' her jewels and so Princess Margaret did. Apparently Liz saw that her ring was being admired by the Princess and she remarked, 'Not so vulgar now, is it dear?'  

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Tea at the Grand

Vivien - as usual - won the raffle prize at some WI function or other last year. This time it was a £15 voucher for tea at the Grand Hotel. I've mentioned this place a few times here. Since being disappointed with their service at a Christmas luncheon it's not been high on my list of places to visit. However it is a popular local venue and I find myself there occasionally more than I realised! I must admit it has met every expectation bar that one visit; perhaps I should let them off the hook?

Vivien had graciously invited me to share in her good fortune and we initially talked about going during the winter and hoping to sit in front of a roaring fire. Somehow that never happened - we're both a bit busier than we'd expected and as the expiration date was approaching we set a date.

Pamela is another member of the WI and of our craft group and not only is she about our age, she is very good company. We both wanted to know her better so Vivien invited her as well. 

It was a brilliant afternoon. Vivien and I met up early and had a wander around the Green Ginger Arcade, where the shop turnover is fairly high. That is good - always interesting new things - but also bad, as you do want to see people do well. We made some brilliant discoveries and spent so long on the ground floor we never even made it upstairs.

We met Pamela at 3.30, for our table reservation. She ran into people she knew. Turns out there is a bridge club in the area; I had no idea.

We ordered our food: a choice of four 'sandwiches' (actually crust-less slices of sandwiches), a choice of fruit or cheese scone, a choice of tea - breakfast, Earl Grey, several fruit teas. Too much choice! The cakes just came as they were, little delicacies you would find in a pastry shop. Four per person!

Beef, salmon, chicken, ham sandwiches; fruit scone with creamy butter and strawberry jam! I took my cakes home to Bill - far too much sugar for me.

We chatted for over two hours and hardly noticed the time, but for the staff cleaning up and us being the only ones left in the room. Pamela had loads of news to share with us and I'm looking forward to seeing her - and Vivien - at the next WI meeting tomorrow! (A couple of weeks ago...)

There is nothing quite as satisfying as a good visit with friends, is there?

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

History of Jewellery and Chanel - Part IX

This is continuing a series of posts about a lecture I attended on  the history of jewellery in the 20th Century.

According to our lecturer, Chanel didn't understand jewellery at all. In spite of the fact that she associated with very rich men, Chanel preferred fake jewellery. You can read about some of her lovers: Boy CapelHugh Grosvener, Duke of WestminsterPaul Iribe.

Westminster's entry mentions an emerald he gave Chanel. Susan told us a story that says Coco had an argument with the Duke on his yacht and she threw the emerald into the water. (So, she was the model for the old lady in the film Titanic as well as being a fashion designer, eh?) I figure Grosvener was an unpleasant character anyhow. In 1931, when being homosexual was still illegal, he 'outted' his brother-in-law, for personal and political gain. The story is actually known to quite a few of us, as it is supposed to be the basis for the incredible book Brideshead Revisited.

In searching for meaning in my notes I found there is a lot on the internet about De Beers diamonds and the year 1929. What I think Susan was explaining was that with the instability of the stock market after the crash of '29, interest picked up in buying diamonds. They were attractive for their high value and relative small size. People didn't trust putting money in the bank, so diamonds were in demand and their price rose. Susan explained that this same thing happened in the 1960s and is happening now. With the growing interest in diamonds, people needed teaching about value not just being about size, but also about colour and clarity. 

We learned about a particular necklace design by one of Chanel's lovers, Paul Iribe. I tried to sketch this necklace, it was so perfect for its time. I don't remember the star, shown in the photo below, but the lines flowing around the neck are something like I drew and my note quotes Susan as saying 'the jewellery flows along with the evening gown'. 

However my source for the photo says this Chanel necklace is by Patrick Mauries and the examples of Iribe are quite different in appearance, so I'm not sure what to think, other than this was a Chanel product.

I hadn't realised that there was something rather unlucky about being involved with Coco Chanel, even if she didn't throw your emerald gifts into the sea. I had forgotten that Boy Capel died in a car crash allegedly on his way to meet up with her. Reading about Paul Iribe, I learned that he died of a heart attack after a tennis game at Chanel's villa on Roquebrune Cap Martin, between Nice and the Italian border. They say she literally wore him out. 

Next week we'll talk about cutting stones...

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Completed Jumper

I'm pleased to report I finished the purple sweater I told you I was working on.

I took all my needlework projects along on our trip to Scarborough and Whitby. I hope to tell you about that trip soon, but for now I'm working on getting the jewellery history posts written before my notes make zero sense to me.

Note to self on knitting: make initial stitch in each row tighter so that when they are picked up to continue knitting, as in the neck band for this jumper, they don't gape.

The weather was just about warm enough for Bill to convince himself to set outside. I wasn't at all fooled - the sun may have been warm but the breeze was icy. So I took over the inside table with my tote bag (that started out as a book cover). Mainly I was finding pieces in the right colours. Also making notes on using the smaller bits for some other projects I've seen lately, like (more) coasters and little lengths of bunting made with stacks of yo-yos. 

The next time I was at the craft group I spent my time cutting rectangles whilst others did embroidery on something called a Norwich stitch. Really pretty designs, but not my thing.

I confess to having started knitting a carrier bag with a lace stitch when we watch telly, but only with a view to finding the right needles and seeing if I have better success with this lace stitch than with others. I discovered I can't sew clothing whilst watching TV; wait, maybe I could tackle that pile of mending? 

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Pearls - Part VIII

We're still in the 1920s, which brought us the Little Black Dress with Cultured Pearls. Before this there were only natural pearls and those were very rare. Our lecturer explained that cultured pearls are the same, with the same surface or nacre as natural pearls, they are just farmed rather than accidental. The farming process involves warm water and oscillation, presumably to increase the irritation experienced by the oyster and encourage the excretion of the substance that forms the pearl. She used the name Mikimoto, but according to Wikipedia even though he had a patent, he did not discover this process. You can read about that for yourself here. As usual, I found something to distract me in the story about the man who is credited with figuring this out first.

A story she told us that I have been able to verify was about the Cartier Building in New York City. Apparently the building was owned by a 61 year old man named Morton Freeman Plant who had a 31 year old 2nd wife. Divorcee Mae 'Maisie' Caldwell Manwaring (who went on to have two further husbands) liked Cartier jewellery. Pierre Cartier was looking for a new store and since the Plants were concerned about the commercialisation of their area, they sold their home to Cartier - for $100 and a double strand of natural pearls, valued at $1 million in 1917.  Development of cultured pearls greatly reduced the value of natural pearls.

This is from Wikipedia, but I found it originally on this fabulous blog that has a million incredible stories:
  Daytonian in Manhattan 

According to Two Nerdy History Girls, another blog I already know and love as well (which tells me this stuff is right up my alley!), that $1 million would be worth about $16 million today. They also managed to find a photo of Mae Caldwell Manwaring, and presumably of these pearls.

Just at a glance, a 2 bedroom 1550 square foot 'coop' - I'm guessing that might be an apartment - maybe three blocks away from Cartier in New York City (though I'm not familiar with the geography, but bear with me) is on sale as I write for $5,975,000 - nearly $6 million. Maisie died in 1957 and the next year her million dollar ($16 million) necklace was so devalued that it auctioned for only $150,000...which in today's dollars might be worth about $1,276,000. The Nerdy Girls obviously used a different calculator than I found, because mine says it should have been worth $20 million.

Whatever the details, Cartier made a brilliant deal, don't you think?