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[Tidbits] The Frivolous Prince

Can a writer create a magnificent piece of jewelry? Sure he can. How
about a poet… or an artist… or an ambulance driver? Absolutely.
Case in point… during World War I our subject served as an
ambulance driver for the Red Cross.

Now here’s the thing of it. Everyone has seen a finished work. We all
show it. They all show it. We all see it. They all see it. The
adulators prance about it. Fans rave. The elite strut their stuff.
The sub-elite drool with envy. But how many get to the planning
stages… especially when created by a brilliant man whose strength
was poetry and playwriting… and not jewelry. However… despite his
literary penchants… this guy did made jewelry… and it was utterly

He was born July 5, 1889 in Maisons-Laffitte, Yvelines… a village
near Paris. His parents were socially prominent. His father was a
lawyer and an amateur painter who killed himself when our protagonist
was only nine. He subsequently left home when he was fifteen and
published his first volume of poems 4 years later when he was
nineteen. He hung around in the bohemian artistic circles and soon
became known as The Frivolous Prince–the title of a volume of poetry
he published at twenty-two. His name… Jean Cocteau.

This man counted among his friends such insignificants as Marcel
Proust, Andre Gide, Ravel, Picasso… this list is endless. He wrote
the libretto for Igor Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex. He was… ladies and
gentlemen… as many of you with astute minds may have guessed… no
slouch. He was also an opium addict. And his jewelry is as
avant-garde as the man himself.

He wrote a play called La Voix Humaine which garnered much imitation
by the likes of Roberto Rosselini, Anna Magnani, Simone Signoret…
and endless others. And he created jewelry too? Sheesh! This guy is
exhausting me. By the way… he also wrote Les Enfants Terribles and
Beauty and the Beast… titles with which I suspect many of you are
familiar. He died on October 11, 1963 shortly after hearing of the
death of his great friend… Edith Piaf … who… parenthetically…
was no slouch either. The title of this Tidbits might have been–as I
think about it–The Slouchless.

Monsieur Cocteau made a piece of jewelry called the Academician’s
Sword which, I believe is a brooch. The handle in profile represents
Orpheus. It’s surmounted with a lyre and is inset with a 2.84 carat
emerald… a gift from Coco Chanel.

So… this week I present to you a finished piece of jewelry of great
beauty created by a brilliant man and accompanied by the planning
sketch which was the prelude to the finished product.

For those of you who are new to this thing called Tidbits…may I
direct you to my home page at where you
will scroll down the left side menu till you get to the area that
says Current Tidbits. Click it… and you will see represented on our
pages… a work of jewelry by Jean Cocteau.

And there ya have it. That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.
Benjamin Mark

This is Cocteau’s actual sword of investiture as a member of the
Acadmie Franaise. He was elected a member in 1955. Cocteau
commissioned Cartier to make the sword, though I do not know who made
the blade.

Not all of the swords of the acadmiciens are so splendid. Here are
some photos of Cocteau in his acadmicien’s habit and holding the


Here’s another photo, courtesy of Cartier.

Apparently, in 1997 they bought back the sword from the Cocteau

Elliot Nesterman


Can a writer create a magnificent piece of jewelry? Sure he can.

The Cocteau piece is gorgeous! And, I think I remember another
writer, Benjamin by name, who writes marvelous tidbits and also makes
rather nice jewelry.

Please keep sending your tidbits.


I believe you are correct Elliot … in that Cartier actually made
the sword which Cocteau designed. My apologies for being remiss in
not clarifying that point.