Two women walk into a jewellery boutique...

The Susanfriend and I had a warm, relaxing rendezvous in Toronto. Thank you so much for your kind wishes.

I had a repair to pick up at my longtime jewellers, (Artwork by Collins and Chandler Gallery), so she came along. She was dazzled by the pieces; so much beauty! This is fine jewellery; many pieces look simple but are not. For example, she admired a bracelet of 20mm carnelian beads accentuated by two other beads, one of brushed 22k gold, the other a sumptuous yellow baroque South Sea pearl.

The bracelet below is the same design, but the beads in the photo are rutilated quartz. (It can be custom-made in a variety of combinations.)

Photograph: Pamela Chandler, Artwork Gallery

Don Collins explained that he cast the gold bead, cut it in half and filled it with resin, then closed, drilled and finally brushed it to achieve that burnished finish. A manufactured, hollow gold bead would dent with wear. The price in carnelian was slightly over $2, 000; the most costly elements in the piece are the gold bead and the pearl.

Ring, Artwork Gallery, Toronto

One reason to buy this caliber of design and construction is longevity. I was wearing a ring  bought 24 years ago, a gold disk set with tiny aqua, red  and white diamonds—as current as the day I bought it. Don slipped away and returned with its surface re-brushed and all the dings removed.

The other is quality. Artwork Gallery work with unusual and exquisite materials (not only precious stones) and use world-class cutters. Nearly all the pieces are made by them; and they also carry a small selection of vintage, some Georg Jensen, and divine rings and earrings by the ultra-hip Holly Dyment.

But then, the prices. That shop is a pick-up-a-bauble-on-a-whim place for some, but not us.

The next day we visited the Art Gallery of Ontario, whose museum shop includes a sprawling section of artisanal jewellery with prices one can rationalize as "a little treat"—the "relaxed real" level. Susan admires Montréal designer Anne-Marie Chagnon, whose spring collection had just arrived; the cases were full of her modern, distinctive pieces.

The "Kristen" necklace is an ingenious composition of detachable strands so the wearer can adjust the hanging sections and length, or detach a section to make a bracelet. The elements are pewter, freshwater pearl, glass and resin on a rhodium-plated chain.

Below, the necklace in two palettes, "Mist" and "Calypso"; the latter is the brighter composition she chose. What I can't show in the photos is a third section attached to the clasp, about three inches, which can be moved to the front. So many options in this piece!

Susan was comfortable with the price but there's an even more important criterion: she will be comfortable wearing it anytime. Like so many women, she has a tendency to let her most expensive pieces sit unworn, saved "for good".

The Artwork Gallery bracelet is luxurious yet discreet—and bang on my taste. The Chagnon necklace is striking, versatile, and available in various colourways. Both levels have their pleasures, their fans, their notable makers.

Fine jewellery delivers the distinct pleasure of superior craftsmanship and materials. (It will also hold value far better.) I have never regretted a purchase. If you have ever bought art of any kind and thought, "I can't believe I'm doing this, but I'll love it all my life", save for the best you can reasonably afford and then wear it to bits.

If you wear more of the relaxed real category—typically around the price of a good restaurant dinner (with a nice restorative glass of wine, like we had) or less—be just as particular.  When I shop that level, I still want the purr of "it's perfect!"

Look for balance, solid construction and honest materials. (No fake pearls, for example, and be wary of gold and silver plate as these days it is often very thin.) Simplicity delivers a better result than busy design (but if I see another teeny bar stud, so help me.)

Regardless of the price, wear and enjoy it—and if you can support a local artist with your business and your gratitude, you are a gem!


Laura J said…
Excuse me while I swoon over that bracelet!
LauraH said…
Love that bracelet...and the story.
Wendy said…
I’m with the Lauras—love that bracelet. It is timeless, classic, but definitely not boring!
Unknown said…
Duchess, thanks for introducing me to Artwork by Collins and Chandler Gallery. If that bracelet in the photo is indicative of the style, quality and craftsmanship of the items they produce, then I just found myself a new jeweler!

As for the museum shop at the AGO, their selection of artisanal jewellery is outstanding. Pieces by Elaine Wigle continue to spark joy, while the works of Kim Paddon are a new discovery for me. And, members get a discount…just sayin’.

One of the things I love most about Passage des Perles is learning about new places - your haunts, your ‘finds’ – and your willingness to share them. You are a pearl!


The posts with the most