This story really starts with an electrical fault in our house. The electrical firm promised to send our usual, pleasant and utterly competent electrician after he had finished another job. So somewhat later in the afternoon he arrived, but unexpectedly brought an apprentice we had never seen before, because he had always come by himself. The job involved checking all powerpoints, something he left to the apprentice, who went around the house to do this.
After this work was finished, my husband and the electrician discussed issues related to the computer in his study. I went to my computer in the next room, and the apprentice, whose work was done, stood close to my chair, behind me, in the doorway. This made me feel a bit uncomfortable. Then, very suddenly, he left and walked into the room behind me. This would take him to the still open front door, and his work was done. However, I heard the outside door from the kitchen to the terrace close with its distinctive sound soon after, and felt puzzled enough to go and check. The apprentice was walking through the front garden speaking into his mobile phone.
It was almost at once after both of them had left not much later that I noticed my ring was gone. Our kitchen has a ledge immediately above a powerpoint, and this is where I put my ring during house work to avoid it getting damaged. I had started to wear my mother’s favourite ring only three weeks before. It contained three diamonds and was constructed in a very distinctive art deco s-shape. Every time I put it on it reminded me of her, for it was seldom off my mother’s finger.
The police nor the insurance company were any help, nor was the electrical firm. Notices with accurate descriptions and a picture to pawn brokers and cash converters did not do any good either. It is difficult to accept that such a valuable object, both financially and emotionally, is lost, but, as with much in life, you have no choice.
This happened some years ago, and it still hurts when I think of it, so I try not to. On a recent holiday in Sydney, we visited a favourite art deco shop. It had obviously been very successful, for it had moved from earlier premises to a nice and suitable art deco building. The shop had always sold furniture, costume jewellery of a superior nature, and art deco ceramics, glass etc. as well as artistic earlier twentieth century objects and jewellery, such as early Georg Jensen pieces, Lalique and others, and we had on one occasion bought a piece of glass jewellery by Gabriel Argy-Rousseau, a less well-known contemporary of René Lalique. This time the female owner was absent, but her husband welcomed us and showed us around, and particularly drew our attention to the new cabinet of rings, including the star of the show, a domed diamond and sapphire art deco ring. We both admired it, but obviously it was not a cheap piece of jewellery. We finally bought two small pieces which appealed to us, after a pleasant talk on the phone with the owner. This was on Friday afternoon.
The weekend was set aside for family, but early on Sunday morning my husband said on waking up: “You know – that ring. I have been thinking about it. It would be a good replacement for the one that was stolen.” It took some time to convince me, but at lunchtime on Monday we were back in the shop. Once again the husband received us, explaining that his wife was showing a client some big furniture upstairs. He offered us coffee, and then sat on the floor near us, while we sat in nice art deco chairs and listened.
What followed was an extraordinary story of the lives of two people. This was only the second time that we met this nice man, and we felt honoured to be trusted and liked enough to be told such intimate details. It started with two people without any money to speak of marrying, and attempting to have children. They turned to IVF, and every time he had to take a labourer’s job with double shifts to earn enough money to pay for it. But it did not lead to success. He eventually found out that he was infertile. At that point he offered his wife her freedom. She could leave the marriage and find someone else with whom she could have children. She declined and the marriage endured.
He felt that she needed another purpose in her existence. They had just a few thousand dollars in the bank. She had always been keen on art deco, and with a friend started to share a small cabinet in an antiques market. Soon she had her own cabinet, and then became the centre’s manager. After this several shops followed in quick succession and now, after time has passed, their lives are obviously fulfilled and secure, with a lovely young puppy, a beautiful shop in a very attractive deco building, and each other. It is clear that she is the main force driving the business and that her husband adores her.
We bought the ring. It needed a slight adjustment, and the husband took us to a wonderful jeweller’s workshop in the centre of the city, where we got it slightly widened, and then were driven to our hotel in style. We will always remember the story behind this ring, and will treasure it the more because of it.
I think my mother would approve.
(Editors’ note: Please enjoy a few of our favorite Art Deco rings.)