Madrid: Museum of the Almudena Cathedral, The Treasury

Too good to give up?

You are NOT supposed to take photos in the Treasury at the Museum of the Almudena Cathedral.

But I couldn’t help taking a sneak pic of these beautiful pearl and diamond brooches. One shot was all it took to get the guards running and I wasn’t able to take any more. But a little telling off was worth it to be able to bring you this picture and this story.

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Madrid glossed over

A Load of Bull: an Englishman’s adventures in Madrid by Tim Parfitt

Its the late 1980’s. Publishing giant Vogue aims to launch in Spain. With six weeks to go, and production dangerously behind schedule, a young and naive Tim Parfitt is sent from London to Madrid to get things back on track.

Fighting culture shock, lousy bedsits and haphazard mealtimes, Tim saves the day. The Spanish don’t want him to leave. Six weeks turns into nine years of intensive Spanish lessons, serial flathunting and massaging the egos of the rich and famous, all distilled into this slim volume. Read more…

Bruges: Disappointing diamonds

The Diamantmuseum, Bruges. Don’t. Do chocolate instead.

There are so many reasons for visiting Bruges: chocolate, cobbled streets, chilled beers in chilled bars, chocolate, beautiful buildings, chocolate, cool canals, sizzling street markets and chocolate.

Jewellery isn’t a reason for visiting Bruges. Save for a brief moment of glory in the diamond polishing world during its medieval heyday, Bruges lost out as the trade moved to Antwerp, then Amsterdam, before returning to Antwerp and staying there. After a brief resurgence of the diamond polishing industry in the early 20th century, Bruges slipped back into picturesque irrelevance as a centre of the jewellery trade.

That hasn’t stopped the proprietors of the Diamant Museum in Katelijnestraat 43 from opening daily, but it has given them the headache of what to fill the museum with. Its a problem they haven’t really solved. Consequently, the museum is distinguished by a proliferation of wall mounted information boards, with only a few of the topics covered having any substantial connection to Bruges.

For example, there’s a section on the Lesotho Promise diamond, a 603 carat stone purchased by Laurence Graff.  There’s an interesting computer simulation of the stone in its natural state that shows the challenges involved in cutting and polishing diamonds. But the diamond was finished in Antwerp, not Bruges. Similarly, there’s a small section on panning for gold in Brazil. All very interesting but again, no pretence of a connection between Brazil and Bruges.

Apparently, there are daily demonstrations of diamond polishing at the museum. However, thats at an additional charge to the admission fee. So, a hint from me to you: save your Euros for the chocolate. Bruges does that much better.

 

 

Why Tbilisi?

If the aim of this blog is to uncover hidden gems in the jewellery world, then I’ve struck gold in Tbilisi.

Like most of the best discoveries, it really wasn’t planned. A trip to Georgia had been on my family radar for a long time. I knew the food was good and I’d heard that the scenery was breathtaking.  Georgia is a must for foodies, walkers and hikers and wine buffs. But it should also be on the radar of jewellery mavens. Its almost a crime that the two magnificent jewellery collections that I feature on this blog are so unknown outside of the country.

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Tbilisi: contemporary jewellery

Cloisonne set, by courtesy of Monte

Cloisonne pendant at Pokany

There’s gold in them there shops (but only 14k): again from Monte

 

Think jewellery in Tbilisi: think cloisonné. At least, that’s what you’ll be presented with on the tourist trail.  Still there’s nothing wrong with cloisonné, and contemporary Georgia does it very well.

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