Tuesday, July 19, 2011


“Tobacciana” is that class of antiques devoted to tobacco products and accessories, and all I can say is, given the cost of tobacco use to me and mine, I hope to see them pass into history peacefully, along with the rotary dial telephone and steel boned corsets. But the advertising graphics can be irresistibly cute, as they are here, in this bracelet cobbled from tobacciana: the base of the cuff is a flattened matchbox holder advertising Raj-era Taj Brand Cigarettes, topped by a tobacco tag (these were used to mark tobacco leaf purchases for the companies that would process them) for P. Lorillard Co., “3 Black Crows.” The nicely scratched and patinated assemblage is secured with bolts, eyelets and buttons to a giddy polka dot velvet and muslin band, and fastened with an antique copper chain and vintage copper plated bead. If you’ve quit, it’s a reminder of your great accomplishment, and if not, it can serve to defend your choice or help you make another choice. The choice is yours alone!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Summer White

I grew up in Atlanta just on the border of women’s liberation. There were certain codes about seasonal dressing that had acquired the weight of propriety. We hadn't heard yet that propriety is not important for women who make history. Hoggirl of welltrainedmind.com states the Rules well. One must not:

"(1)  Wear white on the bottom half of my person before Easter or after Labor Day; (2) Wear open-toed shoes before Easter or after Labor Day; (3) Wear linen or cotton voile before Easter or after Labor Day; or (4) Wear velvet before Thanksgiving or after Valentine's Day."

Somewhere in there is also a seasonal restriction on patent leather shoes. Of course, the exception to the rules was Resort Wear, if you were fortunate enough to be in Deauville for the season. To this day, I just can’t wear velvet in the summer. The very idea makes me perspire ... not just the heat and humidity, but the social embarrassment.

When Memorial Day had passed, Rich’s, The Store for Everything, stocked its jewelry counters with loads of cucumber-cool, chalky white jewelry: “ear bobs” of Haskell-esque wired-on white beads, necklaces of mixed chain and milk glass, white bangles to pile on the suntanned wrist. Just looking at them seemed to lower the temperature at least five degrees; they were cool to the touch and appropriate for the season.

Here’s a summer white treat for your neckline – a statement assemblage necklace of many elements gathered together to evoke those days when a lacy shirtwaist and the right accessories made you quite respectable, so long as you also had on clean, white shorty gloves.

The elements are an antique Dresden doll’s head of a boy in cap, a white enameled bow that was a lingerie pin in a former life, white beads from ear bobs, and a brass plaque from a fine furniture manufacturer, the well-known Maple & Co., which, with the antiqued, pale, syrupy Czech beads calls up the memory of maple ice cream. Oh, so cool and smooth!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Singing Bird Pistols

Christies recently auctioned this precious and lovely pair of automatons for $5.8 million.  It is one of two known such treasures, created by the Swiss watchmakers, Freres Rochat, in the early 19th Century.  Don't expect bullets, expect something wonderful and sweet, embellished with diamonds, pearls, gold and enameling.  Ditch the Game Boy and visit the Age of Enlightenment.  Feed your imagination and give your thumbs a rest!  These beauties call to mind the poem of W.B. Yeats, "Sailing to Byzantium":

THAT is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
- Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

Many thanks to my Honorary Cousin, Bambi, for bringing this exquisite kernel of delight to my attention!