Heurs et Malheurs díun Collectionneur:

a little story by Francis Michel

Fortunes and misfortunes of a collector, it sounds quite sad (cíest triste) in English. In French it rhymes and it is more positive--that is what I would like to tell.

Once upon a time GeneviŤve and Francis owned two cars, it was in the golden sixties. But GeneviŤve had an accident and the insurance gave us the money for the broken R4 Renault. We decided that one car is enough so we went downtown to see what we can do with the money! We saw a lovely Austrian artnouveau jewel in the St Hubert gallery a lovely place for jewelers at that time. It was just the price of the car and we bought it. The color of the sapphires are exactly the same color as the car.

Now we call the jewel the "R4" (see above) and we still have it of course--the car would be dead since a log time. That is the strength of art, it never dies. But it happens that a person would like to mould the jewel to get the gold? My grandfather would say ď cíest rare parce que Áa casseĒ, itís rare because itís fragile. The same for the jewels, it does not break but people take the stones and the gold to make money or new jewels. In Finland during World War II, a lot of jewels disappeared to make money to defend against the soviets.

At that time also I began my photo album I still use. I take a picture of each jewel and the marks and I try to tell something about it. Now I have about four thousand pictures! A lot of these jewels are given as gifts or sold but I keep track. I think that I have about four-hundred in my private collection, (one for each day of the year) because they must be wearable by us in the everyday life-- itís a condition to buy it. Lets have a look to the photos together......

This gold necklace (right) is one of my first acquisitions. I bought it at the Sablon a very nice flea market every weekend in Brussels. Of course I know everybody and when I go there it is more babbling than shopping! But the necklace was waiting for me. Sometimes you wait several weeks before buying but the jewel is waiting for you. So I got the gold filigree. It was in a lovely box from Anthony, famous jeweller who worked with Wolfers in the beginning of the last century. Could the jewel be from that workshop? Impossible to say but I like to believe. Where is the necklace now? I gave it to my daughter in law when she was engaged with my son--so goes the wind. 

When I bought this little art nouveau silver pendant (left) I was sure it was an original. Of course, some weeks later I saw another one in a shop and I bought it also. When I saw the third one, I began to be anxious and I went inside to ask.  It was the workshop where the craftsman made the copies! Never mind, they are lovely and I wait to have three granddaughters to offer the three copies. It may be a secret with them like the three boats in the secret of the unicorn (le secret de la Licorne) in Tintin's famous Belgian book, but I did not discover it yet.

This is a great Mexican brooch (right). I got it through my family. One of my uncles lived in Mexico as an artist painter. He gave the jewel to my grandmother in the forties. I inherited it but I did not like it. I do not understand Mexican jewels though they are fantastic--that is not my roots. So recently, I sold it for not much because it was not valuable for me and the friend who bought it was very glad to get it. My wife is still angry with that, so are the women, ‚pre au gain, one penny is one penny and that was a cadeau. It does not matter for me. I know where it is--by a women from South America, back in its native continent--itís good.

Recently I bought on eBay a David-Andersen that went to America with the emigrants. The grand daughter of the emigrant decided to sell the jewel. She told me she is very happy it goes back to Europe--same philosophy.
The Florentine mosaics (left), pietra dura in Italian, are very famous. I collected for awhile but now they are rare and very expensive. I found those little stones together and I went to a very good jeweler in Brussels-- Hollemans (now they are nearby Cartier on Avenue Louise, very chic) to made a pendant and a ring. Of course they broke the little one! I sent the jewel to Florence to a workshop to repair, but it was impossible and the stone came back. They put some resin in it, and I paid nothing. That was a long story and about one year to wait. But the lesson was good and worth the stones. Do not make transformations and be careful with the repairs. My jeweller now is fantastic, a little workshop nearby where I know the people, en confiance  (with confidence). They can do anything and exactly what I ask for without disturbing the original design. Itís a big opportunity and quite unusual.

Wow, thatís my wife and me in a medallion! ( right)


At that time I did business with a nice workshop (Carette is now in Mexico as a gemmologist) and I saw a lovely poire aigue-marine (aquamarine). I ask to make a jewel around it but they convince to make the drawing myself, so I did, but it is not quite mathematics (I was a math teacher at that
 time). But it was my first try and May was very happy with the gift. I never really
knew why. Some people liked it also but the artist is still perplexed. Artists are never satisfied of course, they are always running to the inaccessible.





And so we go to bed.


Visit Francis Michel at: www.francisMICHEL.com

Article by Francis Michel
Photos courtesy of Francis Michel
Web design by Marbeth Schon

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