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All Elephants Are Lucky

I've sold dozens of elephant bookends over the years.  Elephants have always been a classic and popular theme in "bookshelf accoutrements."  I guess I also like the idea of promoting the welfare of elephants living today—both those in captivity and those in the wild. At some point—I guess it started with the Feng Shui trend of the Oughts—a minority of customers would refuse to buy any elephant unless its trunk was turned upwards.  "It is unlucky, otherwise," they would say.  Now, in truth, when dealing with items made 100 years ago, there was nothing I could do to change the direction of an elephant's trunk.  I would best remain happy to buy a nice elephant, regardless of the point of its proboscis....

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Coasting With Class

Yesterday we shared a set of four glass and sterling coasters—heavy, ponderous, traditional.  Today we share a lighter, cleaner, and (I would say) more elegant offering.  The pierced sterling silver galleries provide crisp punctuation to the glass bases—which have been etched with an ultra-simple star pattern. These Post WWII coasters have a Modernist sensibility—though their light appearance gives them a classic and timeless appearance.  Click on the photo above to learn more about them.

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I Am Not Your Ashtray

Post War exuberance opened the door to an explosion of gracious entertaining in the late 1940s and 1950s.  "Little Luxuries," like these pressed glass coasters with sterling silver rims, provided an elegant setting for a mixed drink in a highball or stemmed Manhattan glass.  This set of four coasters are marked "Sterling" and with the name of the maker, "Frank M. Whiting - North Attleboro, Massachusetts." On many an occasion I've seen these being sold as ashtrays (which they were not) and I've even seen (recently-produced) period films and television productions using these coasters to snuff-out a butt.  

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Untapped Potential

These handsome Scotty bookends were made just outside of Pittsbugh, in the little town of Verona, PA.  Not much history can be found of the manufacturer, which is surprising, considering how well modeled, cast and finished these bookends are.  The "coat" of each dog is deeply textured.  The Argyle bases are a wonderful Scottish touch.  The clean casting of the cast iron is superb. And the bronzy-copper finish, now aged, is rich and even.  With this exceptional attention to detail, one might think that the company would have grown and become a bigger player during "The Golden Age of Bookends" (the 1920s and 1930s).

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From Success to Success

William Moorcroft (1872-1945) was one of the great English potters of the early Twentieth Century.  Fortuitously, he was born in Burslem, Staffordshire—"ground zero" of the British commercial ceramics industry.  After studying in London and Paris, he returned to Burslem at the age of 24, where he was hired to work as a designer for the James MacIntyre & Company pottery factory.  He set-about designing the company's "Aurelian Ware" line of decorative porcelain in 1897 and was promoted to chief designer for the entire art pottery division within a year. The Aurelian Ware line was inspired by the Aesthetic Movement with an exotic Orientalist spin.  Porcelain vessels were decorated with Asian-inspired transfer designs, a bit of hand-painted decoration, and applied gold embellishment....

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A Heart-Felt Purchase

Although I always attempt to make purchase decisions with my head, at the end of the day, my eyes—and my heart—have the final say.  I wanted this box the moment I laid eyes on it, even before it left the previous owner's hands.  But I was uncertain of its history.  Was it English and 300 years old?  Or "Tribal Tropical," 100 years old?  The box's craftsmanship was a confusing blend of sophistication and naiveté.  The decorative carving (in a very hard wood) was crisp and complex.  The chamfered base (and cover) were not the work of an amateur woodworker.  However, the joinery of the box was more primitive than I would have expected.  Perhaps the box is quite old?

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Le Penseur

In 1880, French Modernist sculptor, Auguste Rodin, was commissioned to produce a monumentally-sculpted main door for a planned Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris. The aesthetic theme and subject matter was left to Rodin's discretion, however, it was agreed that the door would be delivered five years later, in 1885.  Rodin worked on the commission (on and off) for 37 years, until his death in 1917.   Rodin, inspired by the great Italian Poet Dante Alighieri, selected the theme "The Gates of Hell," taken from The Inferno.  He designed the model for a massive bronze door, embellished (on and around the door) with 180 cast figures (the smallest being about 6 inches tall and the largest a little over three feet).  Rodin...

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The Tea Which Built an Empire

Reid, Murdoch & Company was founded by two Scotsmen in Chicago in 1853.  They built a food supply empire—and championed the survival of "Mom & Pop" grocery stores from coast-to-coast.  During their roughly 100 years in business, which was a time when large grocery chains gobbled-up (or displaced) small food stores, Reid, Murdoch insisted upon only selling to small retailers (not chains).  They had a wide range of products, sold under the Monarch label, which gave small stores well-priced, quality items.  Because their goods were sold in thousands of small shops nationwide, these small retailers enjoyed an economies-of-scale (a buying power) which allowed them to compete with the larger, more powerful chains.  Jams, pickles, coffees, teas, cocoas—sold across the country—paid...

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Egypt's Long Aesthetic Influence

Designers are constantly searching for inspiration. In truth, completely novel design is rare (and, in fact, often overrated). Throughout human history, most design (including good design) has been an adaptation of an earlier idea, object or aesthetic.  Ancient Egyptian design has been an evergreen source of inspiration for Western artists and designers for at least 200 years. Napoleon Bonaparte, before he crowned himself Emperor of France (and Italy, and Germany), lead an army to Egypt (1798-1801).  His intention was to foil the British (whom he could not defeat at sea) by blocking their Egyptian route to India (and its lucrative trade).  Additionally, France sought to "claim" Egypt as a French colonial possession.  In short order, Napoleon was defeated and sent...

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Door Guard

In 1894, John E. Hubley opened a metal casting workshop in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  His product line was metal industrial parts for electric trains. Come 1909, finding that business was slack, Hubley converted his production to cast iron toys and home furnishings objets: animals (especially dogs), bookends (many of them dogs), and doorstops (more dogs).  Hubley also cast vehicles—from horse-drawn carriages (earlier on) to scale model automobiles (later in the company's life).  At its peak, Hubley was the largest metal toy manufacturer in the United States. The terrier doorstop, shown above, is composed of two separate sand-cast iron parts (the left side of the dog's body and the right side of the dog's body).  Each dog began its life as two...

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"Il Sommo Poeta"

Dante Alighieri was born in Florence in 1265.  He is considered Italy's greatest poet and one of the most important writers in the Western Canon.  His most important work, The Divine Comedy, was groundbreaking in its day—and remains an artistic touchstone to this day. Dante's depiction of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven (Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso) exercised wide influence on many writers and artists (painters, sculptors, musicians) who came after him—through which Dante affected the popular conceptions of the afterlife for centuries to come.  He did not write in Latin, the language of the educated elites.  Instead, he chose to write in the vulgate, the popular language of commoners (which allowed more people to read and understand his writings).  The popularity of The Divine Comedy demonstrated...

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A Close Shave

Robert Vom Cleff immigrated to New York City from Germany in 1867.  In 1873, he founded a business at 105 Duane Street, importing German scissors, knives, surgical instruments and razors, like the one shown above.  When he died in 1907, the business was run by his widow and son until they sold it in 1926. This steel straight razor blade, imported from Germany, was fitted with a celluloid handle—manufactured and "carved" to appear like ivory.  It is accompanied by its original box from the turn-of-the-century.

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Just a Pinch

Snuff is the powder of finely-ground tobacco leaves, sometimes mixed with flavors, fragrances or other medicaments.  A pinch of snuff is inhaled into the nose directly from the fingertips or off the back of one's hand—delivering an immediate and stimulating rush of nicotine to the body (through the delicate membranes of the nasal passage).  Essentially, it provides many of the same pleasing sensations of smoking, although without lighting-up. The downsides of tobacco (filth, addiction, cancer) are all still problems for the snuff user.

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The Barbizon School

The Barbizon School of French painting flourished in the Mid-Nineteenth Century (approximately 1830-1870), an important and innovative movement before Impressionism entered the scene (later in the century).  The British painter, John Constable, was exhibited at the Salon de Paris in 1824.  His landscapes, naturalism and manner of painting directly from nature was an antidote to the more formal "Academic" French painting that had been en vogue—and some of the younger French painters were inspired by his fresh, soft, Romantic Realism.

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Deco Delights - XV

Simply elegant.  This pair of American Art Deco "rolled gold" cufflinks are bold, handsome and understated.  Rolled gold is a technique by which two layers of metal ( 14 karat gold on top and something less-expensive below) are bonded together under heat and pressure to create a strong, gold-topped "plied" metal.  The rolled gold can be cut, shaped, formed and polished much like a sheet of solid gold could be. These octagonal cufflinks, made by Krementz in Newark, New Jersey are fronted with gold and backed with gold-plate, too.  Crisp lines add clean texture and interest to the fronts of these cufflinks—certain to make a good impression whether worn formally or casually.

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Deco Delights - XIV

The Art Deco period coincided with "The Jazz Age"—inextricably linking the two movements in the modern person's mind.  Jazz, with its energetic, stimulating, and (sometimes) discordant rhythms, captured the energy and conflict and promise of its day. Likewise, Art Deco design captured the streamlined and modern and efficient energy of the machine age. These handsome English Art Deco cufflinks—with snazzy black and white enameled faces—capture the fractured energy of the Twenties.  A good deal of animation is contained within each little hexagon of this dynamic pair of links.

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Deco Delights - XIII

These English cufflinks—chromed and crossed with scarlet and soft grey enameling—simply scream "Art Deco!"  The bright metal ground, punctuated with elegantly colored enameling, make for a handsome and lively pair of links.  And the textured background adds yet another dimension of visual interest to the pair.

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Deco Delights - XII

Snapping cufflinks were invented in the 1920's.  This new invention allowed men to easily dress themselves—as it was during the Twenties that more and more men gave up their valets (by choice or financial circumstance).  The concept behind the design is that the man could insert the cufflinks into the cuff before dressing, which allows him the ease of using two hands to manipulate the links.  Once the links are inserted into their buttonholes, the man will then put-on the shirt, button-up the front, and simply snap each link closed. The silvery faces of these English Art Deco cufflinks have a mixed-pattern which gives a somewhat "quilted" look to the links—or, perhaps, the look of an embroidered sampler.

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Deco Delights - XI

Black, white and silver is such a nice color combination: clean, sophisticated, neutral.  (And I suppose there are some who would argue that black, white and silver are not really colors!)  The crisp juxtaposition of these colors increases the Art Deco elegance of these cufflinks—and makes them ideal for affordable evening wear.  

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Deco Delights - X

In my opinion, color-blocking can often go quite wrong.  Even the best of them (Mondrian, Rothko, Yves Saint Laurent) don't really appeal to me.  But I do love these English Art Deco cufflinks, made in the Thirties!  Maybe it's the sophisticated color combination: no primary colors!  Or the understated cool tones of grey and blues.  Or, perhaps, it's the small size—just a little touch of color-blocking—which is not a visual assault on my vision.  I find these cufflinks very handsome, indeed.  Sorry Piet (and Mark and Yves)!  This is color-blocking done well.

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Deco Delights - IX

These handsome Art Deco cufflinks, made in Providence, Rhode Island, in the Twenties or Thirties, are crafted of mixed metals—two shades which are possibly of some gold content. This mixing of metals, in a sculptural way, always reminds me of New York's Rockefeller Center, where "sculpted architectural decoration" is sometimes painted with rich metallic colors.  And, of course, Rockefeller Center was designed and built during the peak of the American Art Deco movement. The manufacturer, Walter E. Hayward in Providence, was founded in 1851—approximately 75 years before these cufflinks were made.

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Deco Delights - VIII

These English cufflinks capture "the lighter side" of the 1930s Art Deco movement.  The diamond-form of the faces provide an elongated elegance while the thin embellishment—engraved and enameled striping—carries little visual weight.  The pistachio and cream coloration is a nice Thirties touch, reminiscent of an ice cream cone in the Spring.  Overall, these are an unusual and interesting pair of cufflinks—a "light touch" on the cuff.

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Deco Delights - VII

Mother-of-Pearl has been a classic shirt button material for centuries—even before "sewn-on" buttons became popular.  Here we have a Modernist Art Deco twist on the material: thick, chamfered slabs of Mother-of-Pearl topping "snapping" cufflinks from the Twenties. Snapping cufflinks were a new invention in the 1920's, which coincided with the dwindling employment of valets to dress wealthy or middle class men.  With these new cufflinks, a man could easily dress himself.  He would install both sides of each cufflink into the cuff before dressing—thus he was free to use two hands to negotiate the task. After putting-on the garment, he could simply snap-closed each cufflink.  Ready-to-go! What this pair of cufflinks lacks in "graphic sex appeal," it makes up for...

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Deco Delights - VI

These Art Deco cufflinks provide a little "wink" of fun on the cuff. The oval forms of these English cufflinks are decorated with royal blue and light grey enameling—arranged to covey an ever-so-slight swirl of motion around the perimeter.  Clean lines, bold color and smooth motion are all hallmarks of the Art Deco movement.

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Deco Delights - V

The chamfered and crenellated bezel around these English Art Deco cufflinks are reminiscent of a wristwatch.  And the central "mortise & tenon" element adds an interesting design detail.  Otherwise, the cufflinks display a simple, white Mother-of-Pearl face—classic, clean and timeless.  They are a handsome, straightforward and masculine accent providing closure to a cuff.

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Deco Delights - IV

The navy blue, white, grey and turquoise repp-striped enameling on this handsome pair of English Art Deco cufflinks give them an official, perhaps regimental sensibility. The soft corners of the cufflinks, however, provide a gentle modification to the sharpness—which creates an interesting juxtaposition of the passive and the aggressive.  The clean combination of layered colors also creates a very proper look.

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Deco Delights - III

There are very few totally new ideas—in life or in design. So, although change may sweep-in around us, sometimes we can get our bearings by looking backwards.  (And, the more one knows history, the better one will be at recognizing contemporary change.) This pair of English cufflinks, made in the Art Deco period, utilize a crisp "Moroccan Star" engraved upon their Mother-of-Pearl faces.  While the star graphic was far from new (in the Thirties), its angular, precise and energetic form was perfectly-suited for use in Art Deco design.  It provides an elegant accent—a modern take on an ancient symbol.

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Deco Delights - II

This pair of English Art Deco cufflinks, made in the Thirties, conveys modern tension through their unusual, triangular form.  The concave white inner triangle seems tightly contained—compressed with tension—within a convex, distended outer aqua triangle.  One triangle is pushed-in while the other triangle is pushed-out.  And the clean aqua and white enameling provides an unexpectedly sophisticated (and nuanced) coloration to this handsome pair of cufflinks.

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Deco Delights - I

We are in the process of listing dozens of newly-acquired pairs of vintage cufflinks to our website's on-line shop.  For the next several days, we'll be sharing some of the handsome Art Deco options, now available at LEO Design. This pair of English Art Deco cufflinks perfectly captures the energy and style of the Art Deco movement.  Chromed backgrounds convey the clean, industrial attitude of Art Deco.  And the sleek bands of navy and royal blue enameling convey the forward motion and energy which Art Deco provided the world.

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Welcome, October!

Let us greet October—now the tenth, but once the eighth month of the year! During the Early Roman Empire, October was the eighth month of the year (as demonstrated by the "Octo-" prefix, which indicates "eight."  Back in those days (which started with Romulus, first King of Rome, circa 700 BC), there were 10 months, many of them named with prefixes indicating the month's numerical order: September (seven), October (eight), November (nine), and December (ten).  The second King of Rome, Numa Pompilius, added two new months (January and February), thus lengthening the year by 60-ish days—in order to better approximate (though not perfectly) the Earth's annual orbit around the Sun.  Even today, in France, October is sometimes abbreviated as "8bre."

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Smoker's Treasure

I have never smoked.  Indeed, I have rather disliked smoking altogether.  Therefore, I have always found it odd that I like the accoutrement of smoking: ashtrays, humidors, tobacco jars, cigar cutters and pipe racks.  I even tend to like smokers.  This handsome marquetry cigar box is a nice example of functional and attractive smoking objets. A chamfered lid adds a sophisticated look to this multi-wood, footed box, decorated with bands of wooden inlay.  While the lock no longer functions, it is a secure (tin-lined) receptacle to keep your cigars fresh for smoking.  One could also keep tobacco and smoking accessories in the box, too. Of course, this box could be used for various purposes: to hold jewelry, keep a collection safe and...

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Anne Hathaway's Cottage

Anne Hathaway (1556-1623), wife of William Shakespeare, lived most of her life in and around Stratford-on-Avon, England. Her husband, the prolific playwright, spent much of his time working in London, leaving Anne in Stratford with their three children. As a girl, Anne grew up in a spacious twelve room Tudor farmhouse, about a mile from Stratford-on-Avon.  The house, now called "Anne Hathaway's Cottage," was built over 500 years ago and has been added-to over the centuries.  It sat on a farm of 90 acres.  The timber-framed house has a thatched roof and multiple fireplaces, the largest of which was used for cooking.

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Wait! I Have To Hibernate?

The Autumn's chill is starting to descend, and soon we'll all be pulling-out our comfy sweaters.  This faux mohair teddy bear—with posable limbs and head—wears a knitted chenille sweater in navy blue, white and red.  He's a youngster, unfamiliar with the ways of the seasons, so he doesn't realize he'll be heading into hibernation soon.  Perhaps he'll find a good (warm) home before that—and a friend to keep him company during the long, dark winter.

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Handsome & Useful

When there's a man around the house, things always seem go better when he's both handsome and useful. Likewise, these bookends will not disappoint. A muscular, fully-rigged ship plows toward the viewer, beautifully-sculpted with energy and intent—the ship seems to leap forward, off the bookends.  The iron castings have been dressed in a brass finish and supplemented with a verdigris patina.  They would make a handsome and useful addition to your library, office or bookcase.

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Simple Clean

I cannot have too many nice, matte white vases.  The simplicity of the coloration really focuses the eye upon the form—and the form, good or bad, has nowhere to hide.  A collection of matte white vases always makes a strong, clean impact.  And the utility of the vessels is another plus.  I have a grouping of matte white vases on the wide window ledge behind my kitchen sink; I am often grabbing a vase to suit a large or small handful of roses clipped from our garden.  Every time I add a new piece to the window ledge, a re-shuffle is required (which gives me a good excuse to wipe-down the quartz slab).

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Three Months To Go!

Three months 'til Christmas.  (But who's counting?) It seems like it was only just Summer, yet, before you know it, Christmas will be here!  Get ready for the season with this set of four (plus one) jolly rocks glasses from the Seventies—decorated with a "stained glass" Season's Greetings" wrap.  A light rim of gold helps protect the edges and provide an extra touch of subtle sparkle.  Whether serving eggnog for the kids or something a little harder for the grown-ups, these Double Old Fashioned tumblers will have you hoisting with style for the Holidays.

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Hoo's Nou?

Three of my favorite things converge in this handsome object: owls, pine and Art Nouveau! Add to that a fourth thing: organization!  This American Art Nouveau letter rack has it all. At center stands a handsome "Wise Owl"—the ancient symbol of knowledge and intellect. He perches on a pine branch, festooned with sprays of pine needles and clusters of pinecones.  And he's framed, at center stage, within an Art Nouveau "whiplash" proscenium arch.  The cast iron letter rack is finished with an aged brass patina, through which copper highlights peak through.  It was made in the 1910's or 1920's by Judd Manufacturing in Wallingford Connecticut.

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Welcome, Libra

The Sun "entered" Libra last night at 7:21—making today the first full day of that gracious sunsign.  Libra will continue through 22 October, at which point Scorpio takes over. It is no coincidence that Libra begins on the day of the Equinox—the day on which the sunlight balances the darkness.  Balance is at the heart of the Libra sunsign (which is symbolized by the Scales of Justice).  Those scales come from Themis, the Ancient Greek personification of Divine Law (which was not to be confused with Human Law).  She holds the balance of justice, as does her more modern incarnation, "Lady Justice" (seen in later Western cultures).

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Autumn Is Here

Today—at 3:20 pm Eastern—we experience the Autumnal Equinox, that moment when the Earth's "tilt" toward the Sun is dead-even with the Equator.  As a result, the night and day will be equally long today.  As we move forward into the Autumn and Winter, the Northern Hemisphere of the Earth (where the U. S. is located) will tilt further and further from the Sun.  The days in the North will be shorter and the temperatures will be colder (since that hemisphere is further from the heat of the Sun).  Conversely, people in the Southern Hemisphere will enjoy longer days and shorter nights as their part of the World spends more time closer to the Sun.

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Summer, Au Revoir

Relish this final day of Summer, for Autumn begins tomorrow afternoon.  After tomorrow, the nights will be longer than the days.  Temperatures will begin to drop.  And the trees, plants and animals will prepare for their winter hibernations.  We know that summer will return—eventually—but it does seem like a long, cold, dark winter. Cheer yourself through the winter gloom with this sunny "remembrance of Summers past." This hand-thrown Lachanal French vase is glazed in lemon yellow and decorated with a hand-painted, caramel-colored "grid iron."  The form and surface of the ceramic body even suggest the shape and texture of a summer-fresh lemon.  It is signed "Piece Unique," indicating that it was a "one-off" creation—not part of an established line of designs by the Lanchanal...

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Moon Glow

A "Full Moon" describes that period of time—usually a day or two—when the Earth is directly between the Moon and the Sun (which illuminates the moon), thus making the moon appear perfectly round.  Technically, any Full Moon only lasts a moment—which, this month, is at 7:54 pm today (Eastern).  But that moment of "total fullness" is not distinguishable to most naked, laymans' eyes.  Instead, the moon appears to be full all night long (or sometimes for a couple of nights). This month's Full Moon is also called the "Harvest Moon," which is always the Full Moon closest to the Autumnal Equinox (which, this year, is in two days).  Traditionally, it was during this period that many farmers were hustling to...

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Back-To-School Blues - III

Let's end our exploration of "schoolboy" cufflinks with this interesting pair which displays a crest on one face and a diagonal slash of repp-striping on the other face.  I am sure that the crest and stripes signify a particular unit, club, school or team—but who they are is still undetermined by me.  Nevertheless, these handsome cufflinks from the Thirties provide in spades that quintessential "British Association" look.  One can wear them with confidence, knowing that a certain American fashion designer has built an empire on "Faux British Aristocratic Pretension."  At least this heraldry is real (for someone).  Click on the photo above to learn more about them.

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Back-To-School Blues - II

Repp stripes were (and are) highly-popular in England where they often represent a regiment, a school, a sports team or some other club or clan.  Like tartan plaids in Scotland, members of the (originally all-male) groups would wear their colors with great pride. Occasionally, I am able to identify the organization to which a particular repp stripe belongs.  But, most of the time, I remain in-the-dark as to the pattern's origins.  I also suppose that some repp stripe patterns are designed (or re-colored) by fashion designers, simply to look nice on a tie, a scarf or a pair of cufflinks—not because they are historically accurate renderings of a school's or team's colors.

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Back-To-School Blues - I

By now, most students have trundled back to school.  And, this year, some of them might be returning after more than a year away. Personally, I always loved the first day of school and was always excited to return.  But, for others, September signaled the "Back-to-School Blues." One of the mysterious inconsistencies of the English language—on different sides of the Atlantic—is the meaning of the term "public school."  In England, where the term was coined, public schools are those fancy, expensive, private schools (open to students for a tuition fee).  In America, "public schools" are those open to the wider public, paid-for by the public.

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Persian Past

Persia—the country we call Iran today—has an important and glorious history that spans at least 9,000 years, making it one of the oldest continuous civilizations in history.  It was the world's first superpower, an empire which (at one point) included 40% of the earth's population.  Later empires—the Greeks, Romans and Ottomans—rivaled and clashed with the Persians and, over time, the Persian Empire was reduced in size and influence.  But, at its peak, Persia ruled from the Balkans to North Africa and well into Central Asia and the Caucuses.  

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Summer's Coastal Terraces

Summer is drawing to a close and—if you are planning on going to the seaside—you'd better do it soon!  Luckily, I have a handful of special items which immediately take-me-back, at least in my mind, to pleasant summers in favorite holiday locales.  And, in the months to come, as the snow piles up under my windows, a quick glance at one of these beauties will whisk me to the turquoise waters of a remote Greek island, the tiled Gaudi masterpieces of Barcelona, or the gently-arid Tuscan or French countrysides.

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Last Crack at Summer - 3

Among the "memorable sights" of Summer is that of a nicely-tanned wrist, emerging from a light blue shirt cuff, punctuated by a white cufflink such as the one shown above.  White and blue are summery enough.  Add a little tanned skin and the look is complete. These Art Deco cufflinks, made in the 1920's, are centered with a woven mesh of "mixed metals."  Around that, a bright white iris beams.  Though they would look good in any of the twelve months of the year, during the summer, they can work their finest magic—showing-off your hard-won summer tan.  

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Last Crack at Summer - 2

This little rowboat is much more than a toy.  This vessel is a beautifully hand-crafted model, complete with details like bent wood gunwales, carved oars and coiled lines.  It would be nice standing alone, as a conversation piece, and it would also be a nice business card holder on one's desk. I am not sure if the model is the work of a gifted amateur—either from scratch or out of a kit—or it it was commercially produced.  Nevertheless, it is a small marvel of craftsmanship and attention to detail—and will be a constant reminder of wonderful hours spent on the water.

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Last Crack at Summer - 1

Having already experienced a few crisp nights and the shortening days, we realize that Summer won't last much longer. Here are a few ways to "take a last crack" at Summer, before it goes. Taking a holiday along the seaside become fashionable in England in the late Eighteenth Century.  By the early Nineteenth Century—as one will read in many of Jane Austin's novels—spending "the season" in a coastal resort town might be the highlight of a young person's life (whether dressed in "regimentals" or cotton Empire dresses).  Spending time along the sea (and, perhaps, taking a dip) was considered healthful and refreshing—not to mention, a chance to let one's hair down.

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Twenty Years On

I remember the day as though it were yesterday.  Can it really be twenty years on?   I had picked-up my gym bag and was about to leave for my polling site—it was primary election day—and then onward to the gym and to the shop.  I was nearly out-the-door when I heard the kitchen radio (NPR affiliate, WNYC): "We have a report of an explosion in the World Trade Center.  We'll provide more details as the story develops."  Instead of heading to the polls, I headed-up to the roof deck of my Chelsea apartment building.  It was quiet up there; only me and the Building Superintendent who was hosing-down the wooden lounge chairs.  As I stood at the southern parapet of the...

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Edwardian Accents - IV

Let's end our tour of Edwardian cufflinks with this interesting trio of sterling silver shirt studs—connected with a silver chain.  Before World War I, sewn-on buttons had not yet become popular.  Prince or pauper, a man needed shirt studs and cufflinks to fasten the plackets on his shirt.  In even earlier times, men would tie or lace their shirts to close them (and many shirts were designed to be pulled-over the head).   This set of fancy shirt studs bear a turquoise enameled fleur-di-lis on each sterling silver stud.  One might find this interesting, given historical British antipathy toward the French (and their famous icon).  But there has been a long history of fleurs-di-lis on English heraldry, especially on medieval...

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Edwardian Accents - III

The English cufflinks shown here are made of "Blue John," a rare semi-precious gemstone found in just one region of England—in the Blue John Cavern, under Treak Cliff in Castleton, Derbyshire, England.  Blue John is a form of banded "fluorspar" with alternating purple/blue and yellow/white layers.  It is believed that the name comes from the French term "Bleu-Jaune" (that is, "Blue-Yellow," a reference to the banded coloration).  Even today, scientists have not figured-out what causes the unique and beautiful coloration. It is uncertain when the first veins of Blue John were discovered in Derbyshire, but the first record of mining the rare stone comes from a letter in 1766 (making reference to the leasing of the mines).  Initial quarrying provided enough Blue John to...

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Edwardian Accents - II

La Belle Époque spread to North America where sometimes it was called "The Gilded Age."  In America, this was a period of tremendous growth, industry and invention. But, like elsewhere, the financial fruits of this boom were concentrated near the top—amongst the "Robber Barons."  In my old home of New York City, the beneficiaries of the Industrial Revolution had names like Astor, Morgan and Vanderbilt.  They controlled transport, banking and various lucrative trades.  In my new home of Pittsburgh (a real heavy-hitter during The Gilded Age) names like Carnegie, Frick, Mellon or Schwab might ring a bell, even today.  It has been argued that Pittsburgh "built America" during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.  In fact, one neighborhood in...

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Edwardian Accents - I

The Edwardian Age was a time of handsome style, obvious socio-political awakenings, and the last few years of innocence before The Great War and the turbulent decades to follow.  This week, we'd like to share a few offerings from the Edwardian cufflink collection at LEO Design. The British Empire expanded greatly during the Victorian Age.  The World—and its peoples—were viewed as resources to utilize (if not exploit).  And England, like other powerful countries at their strongest, was not shy about stepping-up to seize-the-moment.  During the late Victorian and Edwardian periods, England controlled so many far-flung countries that it was said that "The sun never sets on the British Empire."  I do not single-out England as a lone villain in this endeavor.  Other...

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Honoring America's Labor

America was built with the power of human muscle.  Some of this labor was purchased by-the-hour (often cheaply), some of this labor was expected "as a condition of family life," and some of this labor was taken outright.  It's important to remember and honor those who have used—and those who continue to use—their bodies, sweat and strain to build the future and make things better for the rest of us. The term "labor" is subject to varying definitions.  And, in America, people tend to reveal a reflexive reaction to the word—sometimes positive, other times negative.  The plight of "Labor" in America is a challenging one.  Over the decades, increasingly-educated Americans have developed a growing disdain for the notion that they might have to work with...

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Nouveau Novelties - IV

Let's end our collection of Art Nouveau cufflinks with this understated—but nevertheless handsome—pair of Edwardian English Art Nouveau cufflinks.  A scrolling botanical bas relief covers half the surface area of these golden, elongate-hexagonal cufflinks.   "Edwardian" usually refers to the period of Edward VII's reign: from 1901 (when his mother, Queen Victoria, died) to 1910 (when he died).  Edward, nearly 60 when he was crowned, was a fashionable and socially-prominent monarch who lived in a "modern" age—that is, a period when information, news and photo images were able to be widely and quickly distributed.  Thus, his sartorial choices and leisure behaviors were quickly disseminated around the world—where they could make an immediate impact and be promptly emulated.

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Nouveau Novelties - III

Enameled cufflinks are probably my favorites.  And, while most of our collection of enameled cufflinks are from the Art Deco period, I occasionally acquire an earlier pair (from the Art Nouveau period) or a later pair (from the Modernist period).   Enameling is the process of laying glass powder upon metal and then heating it to the point where the glass powder melts into molten glass.  Upon cooling, the "enameling" is simply a layer of glass (often colored) lying upon a base of metal (sometimes engraved in a process called guilloché).  Enameling provides a rich, luxurious surface and allows for a creative explosion of colorful graphic design. Fine, machine-turned engraving (beneath the enamel) provides a whole new dimension of pattern...

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Nouveau Novelties - II

At the time that these cufflinks were made—around the Turn-of-the-Century—pearls were the rarest, most mysterious, and most expensive of "gemstones."  At this point, cultured pearls had not been developed.  And, while these cufflinks are not made of real pearls, they are made of Mother-of-Pearl (and, with their soft luminescence and iridescence, are highly reminiscent of the coveted precious globules). From Biblical times, pearls have been lauded as "more precious" than other objects.  Pearls were referenced in numerous parables, lessons and other maxims.  And, let's not forget, "The Pearly Gates" did not get their nickname for no reason.

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Nouveau Novelties - I

For a few days, we would like to share some of our Early Twentieth Century Art Nouveau cufflinks—from England and from America. This pair, probably American, have a decidedly Eastern European Secessionist design—in the form of hexagonal, "riveted" shields.  What they lack in color, they more than compensate for in design-punch and style.  Imagine them—handsome and proud—on your shirt cuffs.

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Welcome, September!

The sapphire—amongst the treasured "Cardinal Gemstones"—has been highly-valued for millennia and is the birthstone bestowed upon those born in September.  Indeed, there is something immaculate, heavenly and, well, divine about the sapphire—a pristine presence somehow elevated above earthly matters and concerns. Their crisp purity reminds us that perfection is, indeed, possible. Sapphires are made of corundum, made blue by the presence of iron and titanium.  Other colors of sapphires can be found, too, depending upon the impurities found within it: yellow, purple, orange, grey or black.  Some stones have two colors (side by side) and corundum without any impurities is clear.  Red corundum (colored with chromium) is called a ruby and they are sometimes mined near sapphires  Sapphires are found...

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Mod Links - IX

Let's end our procession of Modernist cufflinks with these understated—but interesting—sterling silver accessories.  They were made shortly after World War Two by Simmons, a jeweler in Attleboro, Massachusetts.  Simmons was founded in 1873—in the middle of the Victorian Era—and, thus, was well-aware of that earlier design period.  Although the size, shape and functional mounting of the cufflinks is clearly Modernist, the scrolling botanical engraving is a tip-of-the-hat to Simmons's Victorian roots.  But the engraving is not a "direct lift" of Nineteenth Century foliate engraving.  Instead it is adapted, loosened-up and enlarged, making it a clearly-Modernist embellishment.

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Mod Links - VIII

The Modernist Movement—like many design movements before it—was known to "lift" aesthetic inspiration from history and the work of earlier designers.  Modernist designers and craftsmen (like all artists) looked-back for historical, literary and cultural elements which could be "revived" (or adapted) for their contemporary works.  I've sold Mid-Century pottery inspired by archeological discoveries—including vases decorated to emulate early paintings from the caves of Lascaux, France.  Many Modernist ceramics forms are inspired by the utilitarian objets (jugs, urns, bowls) uncovered at sites in Egypt, Greece, or Mesopotamia (which explains the abundance of jug handles on so many Modernist vases).  Ancient shields, architecture and other graphic elements were adapted and freely-utilized in Modernist decor.  It's all part of the same "Cycle of Design" from the beginning...

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Mod Links - VII

These Czech Modernist cufflinks have seen quite a bit of dramatic history!  They were made in the 1920's, during the period known as The First Czechoslovak Republic. After World War One, and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1918), several former portions of the Empire were cobbled together to create a new country—and the name "Czechoslovakia" was born.  After 1933, Czechoslovakia was the only remaining functioning democracy in Central Europe. But it was not to last.  In 1938, Germany took Sudetenland, the "German Region" of Czechoslovakia.  Other regions were ceded to Hungary and Poland.  Thus began The Second Czechoslovak Republic which was only to last six months.  In 1939, the Nazis took the rest of the young country; from 1939 to 1945, Czechoslovakia ceased...

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Mod Links - VI

"In the old days," silversmiths like Paul Revere worked hard to avoid any sign of hammer marks in their wares.  They would use increasingly fine "peens" from their collection of hammers to create a perfectly-smooth, mirrored finish to their silver works.  The best items were devoid of any hammer marks or imperfections.   At the turn-of-the-Twentieth-Century, Arts & Crafts artisans embraced a different point of view.  Prominent hammer marks were now encouraged as part of the decoration—providing evidence of the human handwork that went into creating such a piece. The contemporary cufflinks, shown above, are fashioned of hand-hammered sterling silver.  The only embellishment to be found on their large, Modernist faces is the skillful hand-hammering which catches the light—and reminds us that they...

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Mod Links - V

"Celtic Knots" refer to the interlacing, never-ending "braid-work" in the art and craft of the Irish, Scottish, Cornish and Welsh.  Although earlier examples of such "plaited" design themes are found in other places—early Roman mosaic work, Byzantine stonework, Scandinavian woodcarving, and other European folk craft—the Celts embraced the style and vigorously adapted it to their own culture.  After Christianity was introduced to the Celts (in the Fourth Century AD), Celtic-style plaiting (and other design) was incorporated into every sort of religious works: architecture, stonework, woodcarving, even illuminated manuscripts.   In the mid Twentieth Century, when these cufflinks were made, there was a powerful movement in Celtic lands to revive and promote the ancient, native folk culture—especially as a means of differentiating themselves from the dominant English...

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Mod Links - IV

Two chunky slabs of "coffee & cream" marble make for a substantial pair of Modernist (nearly Brutalist) cufflinks from the 1950's or 1960's.  The goldtone bevelled settings, which handsomely frame the ingots, were patented in 1949.  These cufflinks perfectly illustrate the evolution of cufflink design after World War Two—when Art Deco began to take a back seat to the weighty minimalism of Mid-Century Modern.  Men's tailoring—including ties, cufflinks and jacket lapels—became wider, thicker and heavier.

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Mod Links - III

As we discussed two days ago, "Modernism" began in the late Nineteenth Century and included Art Nouveau, Arts & Crafts, and the Art Deco movements.  Modernism came to full fruition with the Mid-Century Modern period after World War II, the 1950's through the 1970's.  The handsome cufflinks, shown above, are Modernist—but with the streamlined, sculptural Art Deco influences which suggested the "Jet Age Industrialism" to come. They were made in Rochester, New York by Hickok.

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Mod Links - II

Aage Weimar (1902-1986) was a Danish Modernist jeweler known for his bold (and sometimes Brutalist) designs.  These striking, sculptural cufflinks were made in the 1940's or 1950's of 830 silver.  Northern European Modernist cufflinks—those from Scandinavia, Finland or Soviet Russia—tend to exhibit strong, sculptural forms, often in simple silver or gold vermeil (that is, silver coated with a layer of gold).  These Danish cufflinks, though uncomplicated, still serve-up a bold aesthetic punch.

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Mod Links - I

This week we'll be sharing a selection of Modernist cufflinks, recently added to our on-line collection. Please click here to see our full range of cufflinks—from Victorian to Modernist. One often thinks of "Modernist" as concurrent with "Mid-Century." But Modernism actually began during the end of the Nineteenth and beginning of the Twentieth Centuries.  Dr. Christopher Dresser was pushing Space-Age boundaries in England during the 1880's.  L'Art Nouveau—"The New Style"—was well underway by the Turn-of-the-Century.  And the Bauhaus School (as well as Art Deco) flourished between the World Wars (1919-1939). These cufflinks, made in the Twenties, are clearly "Cubist" in form.  Cubism began in the first decade of the Twentieth Century, two decades before these cufflinks were made.  A faceted rock crystal punctuates...

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"That Ol' Sturgeon Moon..."

This morning, at 8:02 am (Eastern), the August full moon reached its peak size and illumination. Full moons during August are traditionally called a "Sturgeon Moon" because—during this mid-summer month—fishermen on the Great Lakes found the sturgeon easiest to catch.   Sturgeon are a remarkable creature, and, sadly, increasingly rare today due to overfishing since the Nineteenth Century.  Fossil records of sturgeons can be found from 136 million years ago (showing the fish largely unchanged through today) and the fish can live to be 150 years old!  Females reach sexual maturity at 20 and reproduce every four years.  They can grow to six feet in length and weigh over 200 pounds.  Because the creatures grow and reproduce so slowly, their populations have great difficulty surviving overfishing.  Their...

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The Waning Days of Summer - V

For the fanciest amongst us, nothing says "summer" quite like taking-out the boat for a sail around the bay.  John F. Kennedy, Humphrey Bogart, even the current Duchess of Cambridge have spent many a wonderful hour on-the-water, most delightfully during the summer.  For those of us without the time (or the boat), perhaps this set of four "yachting" rocks glasses will provide a modest measure of satisfaction.  Four designs, in four different colorways, cruise around the wall of these double old fashioned glasses.  Raise a glass while your boat sits in dry dock.  Or raise a glass as you envision your ship coming-in.

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The Waning Days of Summer - IV

If the lazy days of summer carry your imagination to the French or Italian countryside, well, let's go!  The handcrafted simplicity of a country village—the fences, signs, streets, buildings—can be a delicious respite from the high-tech, go-go world back home.  And that celebration of handcraft manifests itself in the useful objects of everyday life.  In a modern world which demands a constant technical scramble—and planned obsolescence is no longer challenged—isn't it nice to handle and use something that will never change?  An object which will work exactly as designed, and work just as well, a hundred years from now? When I look at the vase above, I cannot help but think of the French countryside.  The deep mustard, eggplant and moss...

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The Waning Days of Summer - III

Yesterday we talked a little about golf.  If one sought to find golf's opposite sport, it seems that tennis is poles apart from from that grassy, country club pursuit. Tennis is played in a tight, constricted space; explosive energy quickly "fills-up" the court. Tennis is also fast!  There is no time to think—only to respond.  And the brutal physical demands of a five hour tennis match—feet, legs, wrists, shoulders (all while maintaining performance)—is beyond my comprehension. These four double old fashioned "rocks" glasses, made in the 1960's or 1970's, demonstrate "The Forehand" in stop-motion illustration.  The rather handsome tennis pro will bring back memories of summer matches on the clay (or grass or asphalt) long after the court has been buried in...

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The Waning Days of Summer - II

For some, a late afternoon on the links is their idea of Green Heaven.  I suppose such a wide open space—beautifully landscaped, devoid of crowds—can make time on a golf course a relaxing and (perhaps) contemplative experience.  These four rocks glasses, from the 1960's or 1970's, demonstrate "The Basic Swing" in handsome stop-action illustration.  Raise a glass—perhaps once the cold has settled-in—with three friends.  Let it be Endless Summer.  

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The Waning Days of Summer - I

If you're dreaming of turquoise waters—entering them, not just thinking about them—the time is now to take that dip.  Before long, the waters will have chilled and beach days will be behind us.  Of course, this handsome English Art Deco vase will bring you a remembrance of beaches past—all year long.  Made by Pilkington Royal Lancastrian in the 1920's or 1930's, it is finished with a luxurious jade-specked turquoise glaze—reminiscent of Persian Turquoise.  The bas relief diamond under-pattern adds energy and structure to the form.

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Let the Sun Shine! - XI

We're celebrating the summer by sharing a collection of "sunny" cufflinks—little reminders on-the-cuff of the brightness and warmth which may leave with the season, but will always come back again. Let's end our parade of sunshine-inspired cufflinks with this interesting and unusual pair from the late Art Deco period.  Triangles of 9 karat gold are engraved with concentric circles (at center), from which radiating "sunbeams" emanate outward. They were hallmarked in Chester, England in 1958—a bit late for the Art Deco period—though there were still a few designers working in that inter-war style (carmakers, furniture crafters and cinema designers, for example).  

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Let the Sun Shine! - X

We're celebrating the summer by sharing a collection of "sunny" cufflinks—little reminders on-the-cuff of the brightness and warmth which may leave with the season, but will always come back again. These cufflinks are a favorite of mine!  The warm amber enameling.  The crisp white bezels (perfect against a summer-tanned wrist).  And the intricate guilloche work, pulsing beneath the glass.  Add to that their resemblance to the sun and—well, maybe I should keep these myself!  They were made in the Art Deco Thirties and represent the height of the period's glamour, style and sophistication.

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Let the Sun Shine! - IX

We're celebrating the summer by sharing a collection of "sunny" cufflinks—little reminders on-the-cuff of the brightness and warmth which may leave with the season, but will always come back again. I have described these cufflinks as "Edwardian"—and have dated them to around 1905—but I may have been too conservative in my attempt, not wanting to overstate their age.  They might, indeed, be a bit older than this.  The company that made them, "Foster & Bailey," was founded in 1873 in Providence, Rhode Island.   Jeweler Theodore Foster (first in partnership with Mr. White and then with Mr. Bailey) grew the business from a one floor operation in 1880 to a full building of 275 craftsmen in 1898 (when Foster bought-out Bailey).  They...

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Let the Sun Shine! - VIII

We're celebrating the summer by sharing a collection of "sunny" cufflinks—little reminders on-the-cuff of the brightness and warmth which may leave with the season, but will always come back again. These English Art Deco cufflinks from the Thirties are a real spot of sunshine.  The fronts are 9 karat gold, engraved with radiating sunbeams.  Let them bring a dose of summer sunshine to your outfit, any time of year. We have recently added a cache of new cufflinks to our website—and have many more pairs to add in the weeks to come.

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Let the Sun Shine! - VII

We're celebrating the summer by sharing a collection of "sunny" cufflinks—little reminders on-the-cuff of the brightness and warmth which may leave with the season, but will always come back again. Pinwheels of light shine-forth from the faceted faces of these black mother-of-pearl cufflinks—reminiscent of a darkened sun-in-eclipse.  Actually, the cufflinks are part of a larger "dress set": a matching suite of cufflinks and shirt studs for black tie.  They have a handsome, understated Art Deco style—and are set into gold-plated mountings.  They were made by Krementz in Newark, New Jersey in the Thirties and come in their original presentation box.

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Let the Sun Shine! - VI

We're celebrating the summer by sharing a collection of "sunny" cufflinks—little reminders on-the-cuff of the brightness and warmth which may leave with the season, but will always come back again. These "snapping" cufflinks were patented in 1920—perfect timing for such a new invention—which was just about the time that most men had lost their valets (if they had ever had one to begin with).  These cufflinks snap-apart into two halves; each half is inserted into the shirt cuff before dressing.  The shirt is only then put-on, and the sleeves (that is, the cufflinks) are "snapped" closed with little fumbling.  This design allows the man to use both hands to insert the cufflinks and avoids the awkward contortions sometimes required while inserting "old fashioned" cufflinks...

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Let the Sun Shine! - V

We're celebrating the summer by sharing a collection of "sunny" cufflinks—little reminders on-the-cuff of the brightness and warmth which may leave with the season, but will always come back again. When describing cufflinks, the term "gold-fronted" is more commonly heard in England than it is in the States.  Usually, it means a layer of gold is plied to a layer of sliver (or another less expensive metal), resulting, in this case, with a pair of cufflinks whose faces are made of the more precious metal. This pair of English Art Deco cufflinks are just such an example.  Gold-fronted ovals are stamped and then decorated with "machine-turned" engraving—which creates the handsome optical band encircling the ovals.  The resulting effect is of...

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Let the Sun Shine! - IV

We're celebrating the summer by sharing a collection of "sunny" cufflinks—little reminders on-the-cuff of the brightness and warmth which may leave with the season, but will always come back again. Swirling rays of light—from the needles of a machine-turned etching machine—rise within the framed octagons of these Art Deco cufflinks from the Thirties.  Though not marked with a specific gold content, many cufflinks of this quality had at least a small amount of gold in the alloy—or was finished with a layer of gold (or an alloy containing some gold).  This is what has kept the cufflinks so bright after so many decades.  This pair was made in Providence, Rhode Island, once the center of commercial jewelry production in the...

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Let the Sun Shine! - III

We're celebrating the summer by sharing a collection of "sunny" cufflinks—little reminders on-the-cuff of the brightness and warmth which may leave with the season, but will always come back again. These English Art Deco cufflinks glow from their mother-of-pearl faces. Etched upon them is graphic, intertwined "Moroccan Star"—a little taste of Orientalism, perhaps (if not the Gothic Revival).  And, lest we forget, our Sun is, indeed, a star itself—one of millions of flaming bodies, hovering in the heavens above.

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Let the Sun Shine! - II

We're celebrating the summer by sharing a collection of "sunny" cufflinks—little reminders on-the-cuff of the brightness and warmth which may leave with the season, but will always come back again. These 9 karat gold Modernist cufflinks—hallmarked London, 1960—channel the energy of Carnaby Street's swank & swish: suede jackets, go-go boots, and the boundless optimism of the Age of Aquarius.  A radiant sun beams down upon us all (or is that an upwards emanation?).  And the "back" faces remain blank, making them perfect for monogramming, should that be desired. 

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Let the Sun Shine! - I

While we're soaking-up the summer warmth right now, let's not forget that the sun soon will be spending more time down South.  The Autumn crisp will be here soon—followed by the Winter's chill.   We've recently loaded a new cache of cufflinks to our website (with many more pairs to come).  Over the next several days, we'll be sharing pairs which are somehow reminiscent to the Summer Sun. Perhaps a pair of their shining faces will help you take the sun with you throughout the coming seasons, a small reminder that the Sun has gone—but it will come back.

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Revival

For much of my childhood (and young adulthood), cocktails were relegated to the old-timers in Tiki Bars and to the printed paper menus found in neighborhood diners.  More recently, Millennial Hipsters have brought-back "mixed drinks" with a vengeance—reviving the old-time potions and creating many new drinks (which they have dubbed "Craft Cocktails").  Though I do not drink alcohol, I am nevertheless excited to see proper "cocktail glasses" enjoying a well-deserved revival in usage. In the world of mixed drinks, a cocktail glass, like the one shown above, is the real workhorse of the bar.  Cosmopolitans, daiquiris, margaritas, manhattans, martinis and any number of new Craft Cocktails are beautifully-served in such a cocktail glass.  But, for several recent decades, cocktails had...

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Sunny Days

"Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me these have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language." -Henry James (1843-1916)   What a beautiful summer we're having, at least here in my new home of Pittsburgh. Sunny, dry, and topping-out around 78º.  Nights in the mid-Sixties are heavenly, indeed! When Henry James penned these insightful words, there was no air conditioning and "beachwear" was only worn at the beach (and it was still woolen).  Yet, he captured the relaxed (and lazy) feeling just right—at least for those who could afford to relax on a summer afternoon. The vase above, glazed in a cheery, sunny yellow glaze, is sure to bring a spot of summer sunshine into your home—whatever the...

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America's Heritage

Anywhere in the world, wherever a national Art Nouveau movement blossomed, it was common for the designers and artisans to tap the history and earlier culture of the country.  Whether the literature, mythology or the aesthetic vocabulary of an earlier time, Art Nouveau craftsmen would incorporate it into their contemporary works—perhaps a way of "reaching back" to a simpler, purer time.  In America, the Arts & Crafts movement would often utilize Native American artistry, symbols and themes in their works.  Sometimes the designers would simply use real Native American crafts as part of the Arts & Crafts decor—ceramics, baskets, woodcarvings, rugs and other textiles. This Navajo wool rug, made in the 1920's, would have been right at home in a handsome...

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Earth's Fastest Animal

The Peregrine Falcon has been capturing mankind's imagination for millennia.  The Ancient Egyptians depicted their sun god, Ra, as having the body of a man and the head of the peregrine.  And, for at least 3,000 years, people have been practicing falconry—the sport of training domesticated falcons to capture prey and return to their master. Peregrine Falcons are superb hunters.  They are eager, agile, adaptable and oh-so-fast.  Peregrines have been clocked at speeds of 242 mph while in "dive mode"—making them the fastest animal on Earth.  First they fly to an altitude over 3,500 feet, after which they rocket downwards toward their prey.  They tuck-in their heads, pull-in their wings, and contort their bodies for maximum aerodynamics.  Even at these speeds,...

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Welcome, August

Let us welcome August and its birthstone, Sardonyx. Sardonyx is an agate variety of chalcedony, in which irregular bands of "Sard" are layered with irregular bands of "Onyx."  In the natural state, sardonyx ranges  in color from reddish to brownish with white, tan or cream layers shot-through.  The gemstone can also be artificially dyed to create blues, greens or oranges. New Age believers tell us that sardonyx encourages integrity and good behavior, a lucky coincidence since the stone will also attract people to whomever holds or wears it.  Sardonyx is believed to boost happiness, optimism and confidence. The Ancient Egyptians believed that sardonyx provided a protective benefit, hence they sometimes installed the stone in each corner of their homes.  Roman warriors would...

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"You Call It Buff'lo. I Call It Bison."

For an animal which has been long-glorified as an iconic American symbol, the bison has endured some pretty shabby treatment.  At the founding of the country, as many as 100 million of the shaggy beasts roamed the wilderness.  By the 1980's, only 1000 bison remained.  And, yet, the bison has always been a potent symbol of American "rugged individuality."  Luckily, the modern population is creeping upwards. First: the name.  The American creature is a bison, not a buffalo.  Buffalos are from Asia and Africa; Bison are from Europe and the Americas.  Buffalo horns are longer and grow like a "handlebar mustache" (starting as a fat, flat "helmet" and curving as they grow outwards).  Bison horns are shorter, sharper and grow more upwards...

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Somebody Stop Me

I have always loved vintage glassware and have sold many, many sets over the years.  When buying glassware, in my attempt to be discriminating, I will refuse to buy any sets of fewer than six glasses.  Or, let's say, I try to refuse.  This fine crystal set only includes four glasses.  I couldn't help myself!  A smoky crystal bowl sits atop a faceted stem, making for a very handsome appearance, indeed.  

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God Loves a Terrier!

Anyone who has seen "Best in Show" will never forget Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy singing, at their backyard cookout, "God Loves a Terrier (Yes He Does!)"  The movie also makes it clear that "Dog Show People" can get pretty picky about the specific and different varieties of dogs in the world—especially all those terrier breeds!.  The American Kennel Club identifies 30 terrier breeds while the for-profit United Kennel Club identifies 44 different types. With such specificity at play, I find it unusual that the sculptor who modeled these cast iron bookends (in the 1920's) would choose to feature two different, albeit very handsome, terriers-in-profile.  Surely a breeder or a terrier owner wants to see his or her specific breed featured in bas relief.  Showing two varieties, while...

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Just Passing Through...

In Germany, the Art Nouveau movement was called Jugendstil—roughly translated, "The Young Style."  Like its sister movements in other parts of the world, Jugendstil was a departure from the prevailing design-style of the day.  It sought a return to simple materials and honest hand-workmanship.  Additionally, there was an inclination to incorporate organic and naturalistic elements into the design—animals, plants, raw natural materials and spontaneous glazes.   The various worldwide Art Nouveau movements frequently incorporated into their work the Ancient or Medieval design themes of their homelands.  In England, designers revived Medieval chivalric tales and characters.  In America, designers employed Native American decorative elements. And, in the case of the German wrought iron candle sconce, shown above, the designer features a brass seagoing vessel...

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The Exception Proves the Rule

We've all heard the aphorism, "The exception proves the rule."  We think we know what it means.  In fact, we probably do know what it means.  But seldom do we take the deep dive—to wrestle with the verbiage—and determine whether the phrase makes logical sense as written. British "lexicographial genius," Henry Watson Fowler, outlines five possible approaches to understanding the phrase in his classic tome, Modern English Usage (1926).  I won't trouble you with his complete analysis.  But it basically boils-down to: only when there are exceptions, can we know that there exists a rule.  When there are no alternative choices (that is, no possible exceptions), the remaining invariability (that is, no options) precludes the need for an established rule.  Or something...

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Fit for a King

World History is replete with great artists.  And I love many of them!  Yet, if nudged (even lightly), it's easy for me to name the greatest of all time: Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475 -1564).  He was a great architect: note the dome of San Pietro in Rome.  He was a great painter: note the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, also in Rome.  And he could really lay-out a square: note the fabulous Piazza del Campidoglio, yes, in Rome.  That's a lot of Rome for a Florentine!  But it makes sense, for Rome was pretty much the center of the world in Michelangelo's time.  He was brought to where the rich and powerful resided.  But don't feel too badly for Florence; he...

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Christmas in July

Five months to go!  Let it snow, let it snow, let it sNOOOOOO!!! For those of us happy to embrace a head start, how about these: a set of four Jolly Holiday tumblers, decorated with an encircling holly-leaf wreath and embellished with bold, scrolling red ribbon.  Serve adult drinks, if you wish, or use them for the kids' eggnog.  They're fairly durable (for glass).  And they will certainly contribute to the cheer of the season.

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Pins & Needles

If you must have "Pins & Needles," this is the way to go.  A cast pewter "Oxford Shoe"—made in the Twenties in Japan—is fitted with an interior pincushion.  It provides a handsome and handy way to keep your sewing supplies organized and ready-at-hand.

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At Long Last!

Today—at long last—the world re-enters the zodiac sun sign of LEO, after a long eleven month wait.  And what an eleven months it has been!  Additionally, tonight, we will also experience a full moon, known as a "Buck Moon" since this is the time of year when male deer are found in fullest antler.   In truth, I'm not a very superstitious person, and I only enjoy astrology to the extent that the different signs really do seem to describe the personalities (and idiosyncrasies) of the twelve group members.  Perhaps the best reason I have for acknowledging the zodiac is that fate has granted me such a good (and flattering) birth sign: LEO!

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