One of the most fascinating collection of objects in the old King’s Library in the British Museum belonged to Queen Elizabeth I’s necromancer Dr John Dee. I’m particularly drawn to Dr Dee’s obsidian mirror within which he claimed to see spirits of the dead. I would imagine staring at a black reflective surface by candlelight after a flagon of ale or two could well play tricks with the mind. But it is an intoxicating thought that Queen Elizabeth might have looked into its depths searching for her father’s narrow, porcine eyes.
Incidentally, highlight of the NPG’s The Real Tudors exhibition is Elizabeth I’s ruby locket ring loaned from Chequers. The ring was prized off her dead fingers in 1603 and given to her successor James I. On closer inspection, the locket mechanism was discovered revealing twin enamel portraits of Elizabeth and her mother Anne Boleyn. History records not one mention of Anne Boleyn coming from Elizabeth’s mouth or her pen. And yet she kept her mother close.
Why does necromancy spring to mind this foul, wet morning in London? Well, you know I’m always a sucker for tarot and astrology when the future does not seem clear. In fact I’d go so far as to say Jonathan Cainer has been my own personal Dr Dee in recent months. I remember the astrologer on the Sunday Express when I was working there as a PA ferreting round the office asking random people their star signs then – pen poised – questioning ‘what would you like to happen next week dear?’
I do think the conclusion about astrology is that it aims to console and caution but the future is not ours to see. My dabbling with the tarot did an awful lot more harm than good so I suppose it is time to take the turban, kaftan and jade beads to the charity shop. Apropos nice beads, I had a fascinating reintroduction to the world of magnificent jewellery this month. The story? Diamond watches for Revolution.
The first appointment was at Graff in Harrods where pieces set for the Biennale de Paris were showcased in the fine jewellery rooms. The jewel in question was a Maharani’s dream: large, deep Burmese sapphires perfectly matched and set in a brace of Art Deco diamond brooches. A festoon of diamonds and sapphires linked the two jewels and an exotic tassel of sapphire beads cascaded from a diamond dome. Secreted in the tassel was a diamond-set platinum chain dangling the prettiest mystery set miniature diamond clock face.
The sapphire and diamond festoon is a clever jewel that detaches to form several individual pieces. Her Majesty aside, brooches are not the everyday choice of modern women. This is a firework of a jewel – given added piquancy by the timepiece – and will one imagines only seduce a lady who already has a richly stocked jewel case and is looking for the exceptional and unique. The sapphire and diamond brooch is a lovely ornament and a future heirloom that will doubtless find its way into a Gulf State royal collection.
The Graff diamond watch I longed to see but couldn’t was on tour. Christened Hallucination, this coloured diamond bracelet was first shown at BaselWorld in March this year. If one knows a little about diamonds, the $55 million price tag could be filed under department of no surprises. Pink, blue, orange, green and yellow diamonds of the highest colour saturation are rare. Coloured stones over one carat are the unicorns of gemmology. Graff’s blaze of glory is set with over 110-carats of coloureds and the watch face is a mosaic of very pretty pinks.
I don’t find grandstanding, record breaking price tags terribly helpful when assessing a jewel. Everything (and everyone) has a price but for me Hallucination’s value is three-fold: the rarity of the collection of coloureds, the artistry in setting that palette of stones so prettily and Laurence Graff’s judgement in framing a watch with such a treasure chest that took over three years to collect. It was a pleasure to immerse myself in the world of diamonds again. I used to adore the high jewellery pieces I wrote for the FT but became increasingly frustrated at the number of jewel houses and volume of pieces that had to squeeze into a 1000-word feature. At this level, each jewel deserves 1000-words.
Pleased to report that I don’t need a crystal ball or tarot pack to see more diamonds in my immediate future. Those lovely ladies and gentlemen at the World Gold Council have commissioned two shoots to be completed within a month for LoveGold involving gem-set gold men’s dress jewellery. I’m looking forward to mixing-up antique pieces, designs from the greats (Cartier, Van Cleef, Graff) and the work of contemporary jewellers like Theo, Shaun and Solange.
Still, interesting that watches were a way back to jewellery. How is the Discriminating Guide to London progressing? You might well ask. Well, there comes a time when snow blindness sets in. I believe it happens to every writer when you’re working on a marathon length of text rather than a sprint. It’s definitely time to call in an editor to give perspective, encouragement and do the old whip crack away until the word count is reached. There’s only so long one can stare into the obsidian mirror hoping for divine intervention y’know…