Before I begin…one little added thing as it regards last
week’s article. Some of you wrote asking for the origin of
the golden balls of the pawn shops spawned in Amsterdam,
and some of you gave me your thoughts on the matter. Here
are two ideas presented to me…I have no idea which is
correct…but I pass them on for your info. One: “Just as
an Historical Aside- the Three balls was associated with
the arms of the Medici family of Florence, Italy, credited
with the foundation of relationships that led to modern
international Banking- loans against collateral, letters of
credit, etc… Just an interested Observer.” and Two: G’day
Benjamin; weren’t those three balls on the arms of the
Lombard family - great financiers, who helped finance
several wars and got the odd king and prince in hock?"
The Zip…and Other Things
In 1896 there was a wealthy gem trader by the name of L=E9on who
had a daughter by the name of Estelle. At that same time there
was a son of a diamond merchant from Amsterdam by the name of
Alfred. Estelle’s last name was Arpels, and Alfred’s last name
was Van Cleef. And as Romeo wanted Juliet so did Alfred want
Estelle. And so a marriage was made between the two of them…and
they set up a small jewelry shop…and became an immediate
success…so began the legendary store of Van Cleef and Arpels.
They made exquisite stuff…and as the famiDly business
grew…and grew…so did the eccentricity of its clientele with
unlimited bank accounts. Eccentricity, by the way, is the word
used to describe an off-beat trait in the wealthy…a trait we
would normally call–when dealing with the hoi
And so let’s begin with Barbara Hutton…a woman with a colossal
fortune. She often visited the Van Cleef and Arpels shop in
search for the most lavish of items befitting her stature in
life. One day she decided she needed a tiara, and so she bought
one. And, as befits any member of royalty, whether that royalty
is acquired by wealth or by birth, she wore the tiara all the
time, and, lest some unexpected visitor should somehow pounce
upon her presence in the middle of the night, to say hello, or
whatever, and in order to ensure she would be recognized for the
woman of stature she was, she also wore her tiara to bed. Oh
please Barbara, give me a break.
A Maharaja once ordered a gold bird cage from the Van Cleef and
Arpels shop. It was named the “House of Hortense”, and in the
little golden cage was a little golden ladder. The cage and the
ladder were for the Maharaja’s little pet frog who had the
uncanny ability, when climbing and descending the rungs of the
ladder, of indicating, by his position on the rungs, the changes
in the weather. I imagine our frog died one day, and so came
about the birth of today’s meteorologists who foretell through
scientific, though perhaps less accurate methods than that of our
froggy, the oncoming weather patterns.
It was Van Cleef and Arpels who invented invisible setting, a
method by which stones are placed side by side into a piece of
jewelry without any visible metal showing holding the stones.
Among the most famous pieces with invisible setting created by
these elegant jewelers was a peony ruby and diamond brooch they
made for the Duchess of Windsor.
It was the same Duchess of Windsor who one day commissioned the
Van Cleef and Arpels people to create a zipper for her
nightgown…a zipper made out of baguette diamonds mounted in
platinum. Ahhh…what to get for that gal who has everything.
However, even the most offbeat idea can lead to the birth of a
popular and creative piece of jewelry. In 1951 the family came
up with a piece of jewelry they called the “Zip.” Opened, the
Zip could be worn as a necklace…closed it became a bracelet.
And now…last but not least…and in no way offbeat but rather
just plain beautiful, is an all diamond and platinum Dragonfly
Fairy brooch worn by Sharon Stone at the 1994 Academy Awards. I
scanned a picture of this one for all of you to see. Round
diamonds in the body, stars and magic wand in platinum, and
diamonds for the head and wings. A thing to behold…and for
those of you who want to do some beholding, I invite you to my
home page, where you’ll scroll down the table menu till you get
to Tidbit Graphic, and where, if you click on Fairy, you’ll see
And there ya have it.
That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.
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