The Rare Find

The Rare Find

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I confess.  I haunt the rue St Honore. 

When I’m
stressed or tired, have trouble sleeping or concentrating, I close my
eyes and clearly picture the walk.  Down the steps of my hotel,
turning first left, then a quick left or right- strolling my imaginary
self down my favorite street on earth.  I can picture the street
in sunshine and I can picture it in drizzle.  I almost can create
a mental image of this street to match whatever is going on in my world
or the larger one on any given day.  It is, for me, the perfect
Parisian street.  A perfect street, in a perfect city.  How
much better can this get?

Much better.  Or at least, much
better on a Paris-gray winter day.  My daughter and I were
bonding, walking along in the light rain as evening crept into the
city.  I had just bought a most decadent umbrella, a conservative
camel creation (veddy, veddy proper), lined with a ruffled explosion of
vivid blossoms hidden from view only until the rain forced the umbrella
open.  We were marveling at the piece’s contradictions and trying
to squeeze ourselves, arm in arm, under its canopy.

In the midst of our fun, we were assaulted.  Assaulted by a jeweler’s window.

by the window display of a jeweler specializing in antique pieces. This
is a problem.  (Here comes Confession Number Two.)  Under my
veddy veddy proper camel exterior, I am jeweled profusion.  For
decades, I have rewarded the growth of my business with an excess to
commemorate my success:  a new client; the completion of a major
project; a financial milestone.  Each event triggered a
purchase.  The pieces representing these accomplishments span the
centuries, design periods and major (and minor) jewel houses.  I
simply love them all.  I am addicted.

a good collector, I have a wish list that has changed as items have
been acquired or my taste has evolved: a pigeon’s-blood, unheated
Burmese ruby (which is, in fact, a stratospherically priced list
staple); an untreated Kashmir sapphire; a superior example of an en
tremblent brooch.  On the rue St Honore that day, nestled in my
heart among these identified treasures was a desire for a parure of
Persian turquoise. 

Persian turquoise is not to be
confused with your Mother’s American Indian turquoise, some of which
certainly has charm.  Persian turquoise has a color so smooth and
intense it looks as if you could spread it like butter.  The mines
have been closed since the middle of the last century and Saddam’s
regime has been no friend to the frivolous.  Persian turquoise was
rare to begin with and is even harder to find now, except for the small
stash released in the late 90s from the Sleeping Beauty mine. 
Unfortunately, this group of stones recently was “Yurmaned” or
“Dwecked” into bland pieces that resembled bright blue plastic. (We are
NOT a fan.)  The stone has been, simply put, mined out.

I wander from my story.  There, in the window of the accosting
jeweler, tucked behind an Amazonian gold collar, was a truly fine
example of 1950’s Persian turquoise.  The necklace was made of
large beads, some more than an inch in diameter.  The earrings and
brooch were smaller in scale, but part of the parure nonetheless. 
Each piece was simply and beautifully carved.  The stones were
well-matched.  They were calling my name!  

course, it would have been impolite to have ignored them.  Leaning
gently on the buzzer, my daughter and I entered the shop.  We
followed the appropriate shopping-in-Paris protocol, admiring (but not
touching) the goods surrounding us.  I asked to see a few things
to muddy the direction of my true interest. I
might as well have had
PERSIAN TURQUOISE printed across my forehead, I fear, because as soon
as I asked to see the pieces of turquoise in the window, a
knowing smile spread across the face of the proprietress. 

“Ah,” she said.  “Rare pieces.  Madame likes the turquoise?”

Lefty, the gig’s up,” I should have whispered to my daughter before
bidding a hasty au revoir.  “Let’s blow this joint.”)

“Yes.  It’s quite lovely.  I haven’t seen this much of it and in this quality.  And so well-matched.” 

“Madame has a good eye.”

continued this bejeweled courtship.  I asked about the Amazonian
collar while trying to stretch my neck.  I used my loupe on
several pieces.   (Some people don’t leave home without their
American Express card.  I don’t leave home without my loupe. 
It should have its own frequent-flier account.)

civilities continued for the better part of an hour.  The price
was high, but reasonably so.  The pieces were exemplary.  I
needed to consider the purchase overnight, or at least make the
pretense of doing so.  Since we were leaving the following
afternoon, we promised to return the next morning at opening if I
decided to take the pieces.

Since I always keep my promises, my
daughter and I strode with great purpose to the shop to make an offer
on the turquoise at the appointed hour.  The pieces
were not on
display, which almost provoked my swanky new umbrella to attack the
window.  Decorum won as I patiently waited for the infernal
buzzer, the very slow automatic lock and the shopkeeper’s greeting.

of course Madame is taking the turquoise,” the shopkeeper
replied.  “I never replaced it in the window because I knew you
would return.  It is ready to wrap for you, with the detax forms
for your completion.  Some things, Madame, are meant to be.”

my child and I strolled down the rue St Honore a few moments later,
with my beautifully wrapped package over the arm holding the quietly
flamboyant umbrella, I smiled as I thought of the shopkeeper’s last
words.  Some things were, indeed, meant to be.  My daughter,
moving with great grace from childhood into young womanhood, would one
day wear these pieces as part of my most personal legacy to her. 
This turquoise, among almost all of my jewels, would perhaps best
complement her blue-green eyes, tawny complexion and blonde hair. 
She’d remember our times together in storybook places, perhaps regale
her daughter with tales of our adventures, but certainly ensure that
each and every piece stayed connected with its history, the history we
created together.

Somewhere, I thought as I smiled, Lefty must be smiling too.

Bonjour Paris is pleased to have N.L. Bohannon as a contributor.