Lee Radziwill has long been a subject of fascination for many. She has always been terribly discreet and not spoken publicly about the family. Recently she has spoken to Sofia Coppola for a charming filmed interview that introduces a new generation to her husky, alluring voice and disarming candor. My aunt and Lee were friendly at Farmington.
To me, platinum is the gold standard of precious metals. As the price of metals surges and dips on the market, I remain immune to the trends in my old-school preference.
Antonio de Ulloa, platinum pioneer
To be clear, I adore all the metals. Gold and silver are both unique in their properties and appearance. Even the flash of rose gold currently all the rage...including Tiffany's new rubedo...has its appeal.
The "new metal" rubedo from Tiffany & Co.
But platinum--especially when we're talking about engagement and wedding rings--has a certain eclat and age-old appeal that resonates for all time. I also am convinced that certain stones look better in a platinum setting. Diamonds and sapphires being "cool" stones, seem to be more at home surrounded by icy tones. Diamonds in particular sit better without the residual shadow effects and reflective yellowing that a gold setting sometimes achieves. (This is of course, my opinion. I have many friends with gorgeous rings set in gold.) Platinum's origins intrigue me. Its name is derived from the Spanish term platina, or "little silver." It is a dense, malleable, ductile, precious, gray-white transition metal and is one of the rarest elements in the Earth's crust. Known as a "noble metal," it was used by pre-Columbian Americans near modern-day Esmeraldas, Ecuador to produce artifacts of a white gold-platinum alloy. The first European reference to platinum appears in 1557 in the writings of the Italian humanist Julius Caesar Scaliger as a description of an unknown noble metal found between Darién and Mexico, "which no fire nor any Spanish artifice has yet been able to liquefy." In 1741, Charles Wood and Antonio de Ulloa were both credited with the discovery of platinum.
I was raised with the concept that platinum was the only proper metal for engagement and wedding rings. This was clearly a prejudice. I grew up looking at my grandmother's rings from 1920 and beyond, and my mother's and aunt's 1950's ones. All were that somewhat dull, dense silvery color. My mother went so far as to compare its neutral shade to that of the proper blonde color for hair. A pale, silvery blonde was preferable to a brassy, yellow blonde. Again, out of my mother's mouth.
Clearly partial to platinum
In addition, my intrepid mum shared distinct instructions that I would likely have to "bring along" any prospective suitor on the preferred setting for any diamond in my future. Ironically, the world seemed to catch on a but in the last few years. Platinum has begun to be recognized...imbued with a special allure of exclusivity and timelessness.
Today I chuckle a bit about the "platinum or bust" principle. It seems antediluvian, tied to such cliches as the lockjaw and the hope chest. But it was a charming conviction that was reflective of its time and place in my family. Platinum forever, ABL
mother died in November. She was 90. I and others expected she would keep on
going. For the longest time she was extraordinary.
Mummy at her 60th Skidmore College Reunion, 2004.
her family, stuff was important. New England antiques, family portraits, sterling flatware. I grew up listening to the tutorials, learning the provenances,
absorbing the differences between Sheraton and Hepplewhite, Chippendale and
Queen Anne. I was a dutiful student, never straying into mid-Century or French
Country as I ventured into living on my own.
just staggered up from our basement, carrying a large packing box, one of
dozens from the place where we rented the U-Haul we used to clear out first her
condo, then the assisted living facility where she lasted only two weeks. My
fifteen year-old daughter had packed the box, as she had so many others filled
with ephemera and heirlooms, detritus and divines. She had stood tirelessly in
the kitchen in my mother’s last real home, surrounded by her things before they
were scattered to a different setting, intact but never again together in the
same conformation. It took hours to wrap teacups, saucers, salad plates, butter
plates, soup bowls, dinner plates and serving pieces. Impatient in daily
matters, my daughter took time and worked silently.
Standing now in our kitchen, I pried open
the stubborn crab-trapped cardboard flaps and began the unloading and storing.
Sunday supplement-wrapped dinner plates. Where was the eighteenth? Crashed
against the rocks of a cocktail-y dinner party, the hapless victim of slippery,
soapy hands afterward? The familiar pink-and-white of my memory: English
Chippendale Johnson Brothers transferware. Not my mother’s best china, but her
favorite. “DESIGN PATENT 103232. ALL
DECORATION UNDER THE GLAZE DETERGENT & ACID RESISTING COLORS. A GENUINE
These were the blank canvas of so many holidays, filled to the brim with my mother 1950’s housewife shortcut-driven
recipes, never homemade. Brilliant gouaches: Stouffer’s green beans, Pepperidge
Farm stuffing from a bag, sweet potatoes in a marshmallowy slop, frozen
Butterball turkey at center. I had been at first a fan of my mother’s cooking.
By my twenties it was an embarrassment. Having had maids and cooks growing up,
she had never really taken to the culinary arts. For a long time we had Arthenia Porter in our
kitchen, whose southern-tinged creations gave my mother another reprieve from
recipes and execution. The small eating audience of my early life seemed to
have discouraged her inner Martha.
What mother of her era wasn’t in the
kitchen, baking and cooking away? It seemed to me that all the mothers I knew
were superb graduates of the Cordon Bleu, rendering their own spectacular
versions of duck a l’orange, beef wellington and risotto for their families. My
mother remained immune to the allure of the stove and cookbook in the sixties
and seventies. Cube steak, spaghetti by Ragu once a month, overcooked pot roast
were her specialites de la maison. There was no rare meat, no tell-tale pink
her pink china, each plate now wrapped as a babe in swaddling by my mother’s
granddaughter: tightly wound round, first one way, then the other in a
full-color display of supermarket specials and clippable coupons for snack
bars, dishwasher detergent and baby diapers.
I worked quickly, unwrapping and balling
up the sticky newsprint. I cleared out some summer plastic patio plates and
made room on the pantry shelves. It all fit.
I ran my hands under the water, stained
blue and red from the Sunday papers, wrapped by my daughter, read by my mother. Tabling my sadness, ABL
Hardly the respite from winter's cold it usually represents, this year Spring arrives as an afterthought. Amidst the record-breaking March balmy temperatures and premature blooms and buds, we pause to embrace (anyway) what is always joyous: the renewal of nature and the coming of summer's long days.
Living well is the best revenge...and a choice we make every day. Join me as I celebrate the bounty of beauty in all its forms: fashion, homestyle, accessories and everyday richness...as I juggle the roles of Mommy, wife, daughter, dog mommy, creative director, Zumba instructor, volunteer...all with more than a passing glance backward to an old-school, classic time when style was a way of life