About four years ago in an effort to reverse a lifetime of profligacy I met by appointment with an estate auctioneer on a dark and rainy weekday evening in the late Fall at the Château Laurier Hotel and consigned to him for sale all my expensive jewellery (much of which had been custom made) – gold and platinum rings, bracelets, necklaces, cufflinks and mechanical analog watches. Contrary to what one might imagine the undertaking wasn’t unpleasant. It was refreshing because it not only provided the benefit of anticipatory capital but also signalled a fresh start.
Having made that catastrophic manoeuvre I wasn’t about to enter upon an immediate reinvention of the trinket experience. My pleasure in jewellery was for the time being modestly confined to a gold signet ring, a pair of antique gold cufflinks (which were virtually worthless as an estate piece) and a gold pocket watch, chain and bejewelled fob inherited from my paternal grandfather. Eventually however the deprivation was too much to bear and I began to slip back into the ornamental market but only hesitatingly and with much restraint. It started cautiously with the purchase of a Bulova sport watch (stainless steel) with a black rubber bracelet, a trendy purchase I philosophically excused as mandatory when riding my bicycle for example. This extraordinarily large and heavy watch ignited my unquenchable appetite for more. I subsequently purchased two similar Bulova watches, one quite plain with an azure face, the other more complicated like the first but with a steel bracelet.
I had hoped to restrict my sybaritism to watches, fashioning in my mind that it was a cultivated gentlemanly thing to do and therefore an acceptable dalliance. But incrementally I found myself trolling the internet for heavy bracelets and necklaces, this time however in sterling silver not gold. For purposes of this account it matters not what I succeeded in acquiring over the next year or so; suffice it to say the inventory swelled. The Balinese craftsmen know the silver trade and my acquaintance with their work was more than adequately rewarded.
What however persisted to hum in the background was the recollection of the exposure I had had as a child at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC to the sight of gentlemen sporting a “pinky” diamond ring. At the time I imagined that diamond rings were the exclusive territory of women but I nonetheless grasped that the gentleman’s diamond ring was not without its propriety and import. I decided I must have one.
Like so many fanciful desires it would be years before the realization of it. The embers were meanwhile brightened at undergraduate University when I observed a crony wearing what he described as a “Tiffany” six-claw setting for his brilliant cut diamond.
Apparently the price he had paid for this unusual extravagance was the untimely death of his alcoholic parents in a fire in their extensive Northern Ontario summer home where they tragically fell asleep in bed while smoking cigarettes.
The closest I first came to getting a similar ring was upon my graduation from law school. My parents bought me a diamond ring; however the setting was sadly not what I had harboured in my mind. Sentimentality prevailed for the longest time before my adhesion to the ring let go and I began what was to become a pattern of swapping jewellery. Once again the intervening details do not bear repetition. Of particular interest only is my encounter in Provincetown, Cape Cod with an antique jeweller who had a piece very close to what I had always fathomed. As is most often the case the setting took the back seat to the diamond itself which was a “mine cut” diamond, a distinction I understood to be indicative of a less modern method of shaping the stone. In the end it was the failure of the setting to capture my imagination that led me to unload it as I had done with so many other pieces before. Instead I commissioned a jeweller to make a setting in the manner I recalled from my prior experiences. By this time I recognized that it was all about the metal so the direction of the exploit was clearly the setting and its substantive fabrication and appearance. Significantly that piece too was ultimately relegated to the slag heap for auction; it had failed to attain the apogee of perfection I envisaged notwithstanding its unmistakable merit.
The work of a Master Jeweller is like that of any other creative artist. Specifically it is not merely size that matters (though I am quick to add it is very important); the elements of colour, texture, polish, contrast and detail must combine to make a truly compelling piece. Men’s jewellery is traditionally lacking in imagination and certainly there is a case to be made for simplicity just as there is the advantage of a dark blue suit. If however the piece is to excite the mind and be more than purely functional it must demonstrate a heightened level of artistry.
At my now advanced age I haven’t time for prolonged dithering when it comes to the fulfillment of a lifetime ambition. Only yesterday as a result of my conversations with my mother about her own diamonds I set my mind to closing the circle on this lingering matter which has so haunted me for decades. As a necessary refinement to the process I reaffirmed in my mind that the setting was paramount, not the stone. I concluded that for practical reasons alone I had no especial determination to acquire a diamond by inheritance or otherwise and that I was perfectly satisfied with a simulated diamond. Today I rallied at length with a reputable jeweller on Sparks Street in Ottawa to commence the creation of what I fully expect to be a first-rate piece of jewellery. I have the advantage of having worked with his father years ago on another piece which was a complete success notable for its buttery texture and significant weight. Pointedly during our discussion we literally tossed about a three-carat cubic Zirconia as evidence of the marginal importance of the stone. We have since settled upon a Moissanite man-made stone known for its hardness. I confess that while I may yet be disappointed there are occasions in life where the singular achievement of a scheme is undeniable. We’re reaching for that lofty objective.
First Rendering by Dixon Design Studio
First Day of Spring, March 20, 2015