The Acme of Elegance…and the Three Golden Globes
It’s circa 1600. Pearls are in vogue. And while She wore her
hair entwined with pearls…it was He who stood out in the
crowd…a debonair rascal of distinctive elegance…in top hat
and tails…with a single large pear-shaped pearl dangling from
only one ear…the other ear as bare as it was at his birth.
Imagine if you will, this gay caballero who represents the height
of style, posing for Gentleman’s Quarterly. A moustache…a
sword…lace cuffs…and the portrait is complete. I shiver at
The first half of the seventeenth century sees Europe ensconced
in a series of wars. The Thirty Years War leaves Germany
desolate. Goldsmiths head for the hills. Art begins her slow
descent into the inferno of lackluster tastes. It’s not style
that counts…it’s Beauty is subordinate to glitter.
Among other fiascos, in England, orders are issued by the crown
heads that men’s hats are to have five or six jewels in
them…with a value of 6000 to 7000 pounds.
England…alas…can not sustain the spending which courts
continue with impunity. Charles I, in an effort to glean cash,
delves into the royal coffers and sells off its jewels, chapeaux
and pearls alike, as well as other trinkets. What he can’t
sell…he pawns. And where did it all go you may well ask. I’ll
tell ya where…my friends. A great deal of it went to
Amsterdam…which was, at the time, the gem trading center of
Now comes a big question. Let’s say you lived back in those
days. And let’s say you had a trinket to sell…or at least
borrow money against in the hopes you might retrieve the family
heirloom when things got a little better…how did you go about
recognizing your neighborhood jewelry store from a distance? Well
folks…especially those of you who like to know the origins of
things…jewelry and money lending stores were easily identified
the three golden balls that hung above the door. Amsterdam…the
home of Van Der Meer and Van Eyck and Rembrandt… was also the
home of the pawn shop.
And there ya have it.
That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.