Black Magic. September 2017.

Dear Rowley,

Well, Alexander Skarsgard is swiftly becoming the poster boy for Jewellery for Gentlemen and the picture in my locket. Not only did he win the Emmy for Big Little Lies, he also accepted it wearing a Deco diamond Cartier dress clip dated 1929.

With the rakish moustache and sharp tuxedo, Skarsgard channelled golden age Clark Gable who I noticed wore onyx buttons on his dinner jacket vest. Once you get your eye in for gentlemen’s jewellery there is such a precedent in the past f0r small treasures worn discreetly.

All roads seem to lead to jewellery at the moment. The other day, Tracey Llewellyn my delectable editor on Revolution asked me to write a piece about the relationship between Fabergé watches and the Imperial Easter Eggs that inspired the designs. My favourite is the gem-set Compliquée Peacock watch that tells the minutes as the bird’s bejewelled tail fans.

The fifty Fabergé Imperial Easter Eggs are to me the pinnacle of the jewellers’ art. The most ingenious egg  is the Mosaic egg now in possession of HM The Queen. The egg is constructed from a platinum trelliswork worked entirely by hand and set with a mosaic of multicoloured gemstones in floral motifs. The design was inspired by needlepoint.

The Mosaic egg is semi-transparent and contains a surprise as do each of the other fifty eggs: in this case a cameo portrait of Tsar Nicholas II’s five children. The portraits were some of the more conventional fancies. Other eggs concealed automaton jewelled peacocks, miniature renderings of palaces and royal carriages, sprays of flowers carved from hard stones and miniature diamond Imperial crowns.

The Imperial Easter Eggs were private gifts first from Tsar Alexander III to his wife Marie Feodorovna and then from Tsar Nicholas II to his wife the Empress Alexandra and his mother the Dowager Empress. Nobody bar the Imperial family and the Fabergé workshop knew of their existence before the Revolution.

I believe the Dowager Empress escaped Russia with one Imperial Egg. The rest were scattered to the four winds or kept in the Kremlin until the Soviet regime sold them. That so many survived is a miracle and the Fabergé eggs will forever be a symbol of Romanov decadence.

The Fabergré eggs are, in effect, deeply sentimental Eater gifts that took over a year each to make using materials and techniques that only maser craftsmen could handle. My only question is why, when they rarely come up for sale, do the Fabergé eggs not leave 20th century artists such as Rothko, Pollock, De Koonig and Bacon in the shade?

The world’s most expensive painting is thought to be Gaugin’s Two Tahitian Girls which sold to the gentleman in the kaffiyeh for $300 million. The most expensive Fabergé egg was the Third Imperial Egg made in 1887 and lost after the Revolution until it was discovered in an American flea market a couple of years ago. The egg was identified by Wartski and sold for a rumoured $33 million.

It does seem bizarre that a Pollock consisting of demented paint splatters can exceed $100 million at auction while a Fabergé egg so exquisitely crafted using precious metals, gemstones and the minds of masters to concoct the surprises within doesn’t even come close. One would imagine that if an unique egg such as the Mosaic came to auction, it might be more highly prized than a Picasso canvas of which there are thousands.

Jewellery was particularly prominent at this season’s LAPADA antiques fair in Berkeley Square. Lucas Rarities took the prize for a funfair-themed stand in pole position complete with trick mirrors, neon signs and circus games. There were two corking Suzanne Belperron cabochon sapphire brooches that pleased the eye and a very cute 1913 Cartier diamond stick pin that I coveted.

While researching a piece about stick pins for Country Life, I had the opportunity to re-visit Mr Omar at Bentley & Skinner and Thomas at Wartski. At the former I met the most divine Art Nouveau 18ct yellow gold serpent stick pin with an emerald eye and at the later re-acquainted myself with a peacock feather Cartier stick pin we shot for Jewellery for Gentlemen. 

My own Jewellery for Gentlemen venture for The Wedding Gallery is gaining momentum. I’m still waiting on a decision from Virgin Startup about investment but have everything ready for the green flag should it come. The more pieces of antique men’s jewellery I buy, the more I believe that Mr Skarsgard is an early adopter and Jewellery for Gentlemen is ready for a major comeback.

What else is new on the Rialto? Well, we went to see Victoria & Abdul; Judi Dench’s second outing as Queen Victoria this time concentrating on the old lady’s relationship with her Muslim ‘Munshi’ or teacher. To my knowledge, the real Munshi was not India’s answer to Bambi: all doe-eyes and dazzling teeth. Nor was the old queen in love with him.

The court – and in particular the future King Edward VII – are portrayed as bathetic colonialists sucking their teeth and twirling their moustaches that an Indian servant could become John Brown the Second. Most of the Royal Family surrounding Queen Victoria were removed presumably to keep the story simple and allow Dame Judi to display her chops as the cantankerous, stubborn old lady.

There was a lot of playing for laughs at the expense of the Royal Household suggesting that the Munshi was in some way a heroic hand across the sea from India to its Empress. In reality, he appeared to me like Mr Sloane in the eponymous Joe Orton play. Then again, the fact that he was the last to see The Queen before she was sealed in her coffin does suggest that even King Edward VII acknowledged the bond between them.