Fantastic Beasts & Fabulous Jewels. November 2016.

Dear Rowley,

I don’t go to the movies very often. It simply isn’t safe. If the cheery chipmunks in the next row won’t stop chatting when the film starts, I am all on not to bludgeon them to death with their selfie sticks. Similarly, if my ears are assaulted by the crunch of popcorn and the slurp of Coca Cola I feel like dragging the culprit out into Leicester Square, putting them in the stocks and pelting them with pick ‘n mix.

Usually the rule stands that if it isn’t a Curzon or the BFI, I’d rather not. An exception was made for J. K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them that was showing in 3D at Odeon Leicester Square. I think the last movie I saw in 3D was The Creature from the Black Lagoon so was rather startled that such archaic technology was still the rage. Can’t see the point myself apart from the few extra shekels the cinemas charge for the pleasure of Eddie Redmayne’s wand poking your eye out in Row Z.

Still, I thought Fantastic Beasts was rather charming though I wasn’t sure of the accent Redmayne was channelling as Newt Scamander. Reminded me of one morning in my swimming pool when I heard a family barking like sea lions in what I thought was German. Turned out they were Scottish. But I digress. Redmayne is always a joy to watch even though Samantha Morton almost stole the film as a witch finder general. If only she was given more to do.

I fell in love with Alison Sudol’s jazz baby Queenie who quite simply lit up the screen in every scene with her muggle paramour Dan Fogler. The film relied so heavily on major CGI graphics that Sudol’s naive, simple and all-too-human reactions to the love story she was playing shone like crystal.

Apparently there is going to be a further four Fantastic Beasts films in the franchise. Can’t say the script this time left an awful lot of room to develop unless Redmayne’s Scamander takes his suitcase of creatures to locations other than New York. Queenie aside, I thought the film ultimately sacrificed heart for big budget action sequences.

The opening scenes of a beast called the Niffler – a mole-like treasure-hunting creature – boded so well for charm in  Fantastic Beasts. In fact I rather identified with the breed having spent the last couple of weeks careering around London in search of shiny objects to photograph for my new book Sartorial Treasures.

I photographed three of my favourite pieces from last week’s Niffling around Mayfair at Wartski and Van Cleef & Arpels. The diamond bar brooch from Wartski is a clever little piece of jewellery set on a mechanism that allows the brooch to bow so a scarf, or corsage can be pinned inside it. I’m still debating whether the magnificent amethyst butterfly clipped to the Van Cleef diamond riviere necklace might be too extravagant as a man’s lapel pin.

One of my favourite pieces of jewellery, again from Wartski, is not signed but is such a clever little conceit from the 1880s. The design is a diamond and ruby quiver with two gem-set arrows that fit inside it. One could imagine a 1930s femme fatale such as Countess Idina Errol (she of the ‘Happy Valley Set’ in Kenya) pinning one of her arrows onto the lapel of her lover of choice mid-Foxtrot at the Muthaiga Club in Nairobi.

The stories surrounding a jewel don’t always have to be left to the imagination. It transpires that  a pair of yellow gold and enamel playing card cuff links at Bentley & Skinner are connected to the infamous 1890 baccarat scandal at Tranby Croft. The scandal emerged and reached the high courts when Tranby Croft house party guest Sir William Gordon-Cumming was accused of cheating in the presence of the Prince of Wales.

Following the trial, Gordon-Cumming was ostracised but the real scandal was the future King Edward VII being publicly named as a gambling man. The playing card cuff links were made as a set to be worn by the men who attended the Tranby Croft house party and accused Sir William. Perhaps identical links are somewhere in the royal family’s private jewellery collection.

Truth to tell it is rather a relief to have a project like Sartorial Treasures to take one’s mind off the very sticky subject of politics. I am not entirely sure what can be added to the President Trump conversation. That photograph of Messes Trump and Farrage in front of the President Elect’s gold and diamond doors to his Trump Tower palace said it all really. The hubristic double doors put me in mind of Ozymandias.

I would question whether a billionaire businessman can sacrifice personal interests for the greater good of the USA. Trump is a man of vehement opinions who seems to spout a lot of bile about those who cross him or of whom he disapproves. The last thing this world needs is a divisive force in control of its largest economy but that’s what the American public voted for.

I believe in the vote whether I agree with the winning candidate or not. In other news, I am polishing off a new Preface to my Savile Row: The Master Tailors of British Bespoke book for Thames & Hudson. The book is going into a ‘compact’ edition next year. It is six years since I wrote Savile Row so trying to put all the news into 1000-words is not easy. Much has changed since I wrote the book – me included – and I do want to make sure the Preface reflects that.