Confessions of a Jeweler
June 15, 2011 | by Clancy Martin
Last we checked, Martin was about to close a deal in New Orleans for a twenty-two-karat rose-gold cuff by Van Cleef & Arpels. He was wearing the trousers of former Parisian Nathaniel Rich after being booted from his hotel room. Martin needs to return to New York so he can resell the cuff and pocket the difference, but he’s running out of time. Click here to start from the beginning.
At $11,000 he said, “Mazel.” I paid him the cash on the spot, right there in the restaurant, counting out each hundred dollar bill into his moist palm.
“I am giving you this piece, my dear,” he said, when he rolled the money in a gray rubber band—he had an even thicker roll from which he’d removed one of the rubber bands—and stuck it into his pocket. “Because I have heard of your troubles. Our friend Nick Mehta speaks of you often, and not without sorrow and concern. If you should ever come back to our business, you know you could find a helping hand there. The gold market in India is booming. All of the software money from Mumbai is going straight into wedding jewelry.” Nick Mehta had known me since I was doing the runs at Fort Worth Gold and Silver Exchange when I was fifteen years old. The first time I ate poori bhaji it was made for me by Mrs. Mehta at ten o’clock at night on a dark, icy Friday in December. At that time I was picking up a seven-karat, half-million-dollar ruby for a client that was viewing it at nine the next morning, before we opened the doors for regular business. They officed in one of the big diamond buildings off of 635 in North Dallas, and it would take me two hours, on those winter roads, in my little nondescript Toyota truck (when you’re doing the runs in the jewelry business, you don’t drive a car that attracts attention) to get back to downtown Fort Worth.
I did not know what stories Drew might be referencing, and I chose not to ask. I paid the check and left him there, finishing the last two inches in that lovely bottle of Roederer, and took a taxi straight to the airport to catch the next flight back to New York.
June 14, 2011 | by Clancy Martin
Yesterday, Martin was standing in the middle of New Orleans, kicked out of his hotel room, with only a towel to serve as his pants. He had come to the city after seeing the Van Cleef & Arpels exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York, and was hoping to score a deal using his experience in the jewelry business. To start at the beginning: “Nathaniel Rich’s Trousers.”
The pearl choker was a counterfeit. It was stamped VCA—the salesman cannily allowed me to be the one to discover that fact, pretending he hadn’t noticed it himself—but the hallmark looked like it had been imprinted by a chimpanzee hours before I arrived at the store, and the stringing of the pearls and the faux-silk thread was contemporary mainland China rather than early-twentieth-century France. It was raining now, I had holes in my shoes, and I stepped through the puddles of the broken-brick-and-cobblestone streets of the French Quarter with increasing despair. What absurd burst of enthusiasm had inspired this doomed pot-of-gold mission? New Orleans as Emerald City?
Maybe my soon-to-be ex-wife was right: perhaps I am bipolar and incapable of recognizing when I am in the midst of a manic episode. How were Nathaniel Rich’s trousers helping me now? The cuffs were muddy and wet, and I worried about how and where I would have them laundered, as I slumped from jewelry store to jewelry store in apathetic parody of my former life, stepping on my heels with my toes in the air. The bars were beginning to be populated, and the cold beers and tall, colorful potions and modest glasses of cheap red glistened their eyes at me like snakes or flying monkeys (I don’t drink, but sometimes still want to).
There was another door, on Royal. Jack Sutton Antique and Jewelry. I knew the name; he was on my list. He has an eye and a reputation, so if it's in his case it's the real thing. We had done business years before on three half-carat pink diamonds I had bought in a Fort Worth oil heiress’s estate. Just in case Jack was in, I ran my fingers back through my hair and slapped both my cheeks. The rain was coming down harder. I thought about stopping by a hotel lobby to “borrow” an umbrella before entering (to lend a modicum of dignity to my appearance) but then thought, Screw it. Inside it smelled like lemon oil, that fine, calming, luxurious smell of freshly rubbed antiques from my childhood (my stepfather owned Calgary’s largest antique store, Collector’s, and as a kid I polished thousands of Scottish and French antiques).
June 13, 2011 | by Clancy Martin
I was standing shirtless in a black-and-white houndstooth blazer and wing tips with no socks at the corner of Marengo and Saint Charles watching the trolley cars rattle by. I still had my cell phone and was trying to think whom to call with a gentle heart and moral imagination in this occult, steaming city. I had a number. I dialed.
“Hello. Is this Nathaniel Rich?”
I hurried to explain who I was and how I’d obtained his cell-phone number.
“Well, to tell you the truth, I’m in a bit of an odd situation. I have to meet someone in an hour or so, and I don’t have any pants. Or shorts. What I’m trying to say is, frankly, I’m not sure how to explain it, but, to cut to the chase, all I have is a towel. That’s what I’m wearing right now.”
It was a blue terry-cloth towel that I’d taken from the B&B when they threw me out. They’d held the rest of my clothes hostage until we settled a dispute about the bill. Fortunately it was a short walk from the house to Saint Charles where I thought, given that this was New Orleans, a cab might dare pick up a seminaked man with his wallet in one hand and his cell phone in the other.
It was about a nine-block walk to Nathaniel’s duplex. Happily, it was a warm, clear day, cloudless sky and all. The birds were singing in the pink bougainvillea and the calm palm trees. I tucked the towel snugly around my hips, put my phone and my wallet in the pockets of my blazer, and stepped gingerly—feigning boldness—across Saint Charles.