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[Tidbits] The Jeweler Duke

He was born a duke in Sicily (some say Palermo) and spent his
childhood at his grandmother’s mansion: The Villa di Niscemi. He
lived in a world that afforded him a menagerie of animals, art,
culture, and a library of over 4000 books. He loved to read.

And then… as evil grandmothers are sometimes wont to do… the old
bat died and left him not a cent. Ah… poor jeweler. Raised in
wealth and in adulthood suddenly left poor. He was forced to get a
job. He went into the army … only to return with an injured

However–having been born to royalty–our jeweler inherited a
dukedom. Does anyone out there know how one goes about inheriting
dukedoms? Other than being born a duke. I could use this kind of

So he now began to live the life of a playboy. He was a party guy. He
went to dances. He went to balls. He himself described himself at one
point as ‘a real bum’. And then one day… as tales with evil
grandmothers often have it… he met his fairy godmother… Linda
Porter… Cole Porter’s wife. She recognized our jeweler’s artistic
talent and urged him to go to Paris. He rubbed shoulders with
Fitzgerald and Hemingway and Coco Chanel… who recognized our
aristocrat’s talents and hired him as a textile designer.

Next thing… he was designing jewelry for Coco. His designs were
flamboyant… much to her tastes. ‘A jewel should not be meager,’ she
once remarked about her jeweler’s talents.

He made jewelry in the form of fruits. He was witty and biting when
describing other people’s jewelry. As regarded a necklace with a
gigantic sapphire he was known to have said that it wasn’t jewelry…
it was mineralogy. He became a favorite in cafe society. He is/was
not far removed from me in that aspect… as I am considered a
favorite in the halls of ping pong society. Cafe society… ping pong
society… is there truly a difference I ask you?

When Elsa Maxwell made a list of twelve ideal dinner guests… he was
included with others such as Maria Callas and Claire Booth Luce. I am
sure if I had been around in those days I would have been included as
I am considered–as I may have said–no slouch amid the ping pong

In 1934… our jeweler moved to New York and began to make custom
pieces for the moneyed… the established… the oh so clever. One of
his customers introduced him to Paul Flato who hired him as a
freelance designer. Backed by Cole Porter among others he opened his
own upstairs boutique in the city. Cole Porter… in the show “Let’s
Face It” gave our jeweler a funny little tribute in a song called
"Farming" from the same show. There’s this cute line in the song
I will tell you all next week if you can not guess who the jeweler
was. Let me know if you do know his name. I am suspecting a 50/50
split here.

Let me just add before I end this refrain that this jeweler had an
elite list of clientele: Tyrone Power. Gary Cooper. The Duchess of
Windsor. Millicent Rogers. He sold seashells found at the seashore.
He was known to have said that he got a great kick out of buying a
shell for $5.00 and using half of it and then selling it for $2500.00

So there it is… a history in microcosm of one of the greats. And
now… the moment you have all been waiting for. A piece of his. A
lion’s paw… made of a seashell… colored orange… with diamond
rivulets forming the claws

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… and you will get to see a seashell he sold from
the seashore.

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