The Rare Find

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. Assaulted 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. As 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. But 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!   Of 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. Imight 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, aknowing smile spread across the face of the proprietress.  “Ah,” she said.  “Rare pieces.  Madame likes the turquoise?” (“Hey, 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.” We 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.) The 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 pieceswere 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. “But 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.” As 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…
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