In the Sky With Diamonds

The 60th anniversary of the Winter Antiques Show at New York’s Park Avenue Armory: the Diamond Jubilee. So it features special showings of diamonds, of course. And a lot of people are dripping with their own, too. One pouf-haired dowager in black stretch pants nearly blinds us with her sizable diamond pendant while scoping out the Tiffany Studio micromosaic table at the Associated Artists stall. In 1891, Tiffany designed things besides jewelry and lamps.


There are thousands upon thousands of match-head sized wood chips embedded in this decorative band that resembles cross-stitch, or snakeskin. Imagine the work that went into its intricacy. The table is the only one of its kind ever made, and with two matching chairs is priced today at 1.4 million dollars.

Going, going, gone, to the lady in the diamond dazzler.

There are a lot of things I love at the show. A small but powerful watercolor of a snarling but somehow jolly wolf circa 1800 gives me a welcome jolt of Savage Girl.

snarling wolf

There are girls here too, including one hand-sewn, winsome doll with brown velvet hair.


One baby Amazon in glossy marble.

baby amazon

I see a trio of ventriloquist dummies dating back to 1875. Oscar and Louise Shaffer, along with their musical troupe, toured the east coast throughout post-Civil War America. Oscar was the ventrioloquist. His three “friends” were Jerry Doyle, D Day and Sassafras Jones.


Louise Shaffer was billed as “the most versatile lady artist in America.” She was renowned for her cornet solos and banjo stylings.

Louise probably could have managed this enormous blue guitar, hand-crafted and reminiscent of Picasso’s famous Blue Period painting, The Old Guitarist..

blue guitar

I really like this chair, too. One of my favorites in the show.

worn chair

Now that’s what you call antique. The leather has received its share of buffing and burnishing by uncountable weary behinds.

At the Winter Antiques Show you can buy a quartet of really important geodes, if you have a couple large in your pocket.


We stand at a counter admiring diamond rings set with emeralds and rubies, next to a gentleman in tweeds examining a set of cufflinks displaying horses, a bargain at $1,400. I don’t ask the price of the rings. I have just been chastised by a guard for attempting to snap a picture of Queen Victoria’s tiara from 1840, ablaze with sapphires along with diamonds and prominently on display. There’s a shot on the show’s website, however.

Queen Victoria's tiara

Tiaras have always intrigued me. We think of them as belonging exclusively to princesses. There was a time, however, in the late nineteenth century, when the only thing that kept a woman from wearing one is if she couldn’t afford it. You didn’t have to be royal. According to one expert, “By 1894 nearly 100 tiaras could be counted among the possessions of New York’s social leaders.” That’s a lot of tiaras. If you were really well off you might have two or three to choose from when you went out to the ball. Tiffany could barely keep enough in the pipeline, churning out beauties like this 1894 piece assembled of gold, platinum and diamonds.


If you wore one, like Consuela Vanderbilt in 1902, you could imagine yourself to be royalty. She had an Alice in Wonderland neck and a trompe l’oeil waist.


Maybe that’s how that multi-faceted woman in the pouf-hair and leggings sees herself.


Filed under Art, Culture, Fashion, Fiction, History, Home, Jean Zimmerman, Savage Girl

4 responses to “In the Sky With Diamonds

  1. There were about ten string instruments displayed with it, each one homemade, all fascinating.

  2. I love auctions and antiques. Such lovely and interesting items. I especially loved the guitar. You were right. Very Picasso-ish.


    Good one!

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