Appraisal of the Family JewelsThursday, October 10, 2019
Since I was a little boy I was fascinated by my grandmother and mother talking about “the jewels”.
My grandfather Don Tirso de Irureta Goyena wooed my grandmother María de los Dolores Reyes (who was living in Manila) from Paris by sending her jewels he had made for her there. This was a vast collection of lovely jades, pearls and diamonds that slowly with the financing of the divorces of my Aunt Dolly and Uncle Tony (both in Buenos Aires) was reduced to what was left when my mother died.
I will never forget that my Aunt Dolly called me on that day to tell me that it was a pity that my mother had died while being a thief.
Years ago when I photographed P.D. James I told her that her novels were strange for me as most murders and criminal altercations in her books were due to wills and last testaments. She was accurate in this I have since then realized.
My grandmother died without a will so my aunt and uncle wanted to divide those jewels in three parts. I told my mother that since we had the key to the bank safety deposit box her brother and sister could take a hike.
Not part of that collection was a beautiful Spanish fan that was owned by my concert pianist great aunt, Buenaventura Galvez Puig. The fan had her name in emeralds and diamonds. When my Aunt Dolly and my mother laid claims to it my mother told her sister to remove and keep the stones. We still have that fan. The idea that my Aunt would have pawned the whole fan was anathema to my mother.
Part of that lore of my boyhood was listening to my grandmother and mother talk about the jewels that they kept in a locked, black strong box. My grandmother might have asked, “Are you going to wear the little angel, the heart of diamonds or the jades to the party?” In other occurrences they would talk about the Hungarian jeweller called Verga. I would blush as in Argentine Spanish that is an item that a man has that women don’t have.
As a young teenager in Mexico City there were trips to the Banco de Londres y México on Balderas in downtown where the two would open that safety deposit box to return or take out some piece of jewelry. We keep our valuables in a box at the Bank of Montreal.
At age 77 my Rosemary are putting together a will with ample assistance from our Kerrisdale branch of the Bank of Montreal.
Today we went to Harling’s Jewellers, downtown. We were met by a pleasant gentleman in a back alley of Howe who directed us to an underground parking lot (the jewellery company does not have a store front but a splendid showroom in an office space). I felt we were dealing with spies in a secret operation! But the procedure has all to do with the company's concern of safety and the protection of clients coming to see them.
Christian Fernández, a pleasant cababayan, gave us an immediate assessment but we will get an official appraisal (he told us the difference between those words) in a week.
Before today we had divided the jewels into those that were obviously valuable from those, that while not being worth as much, carried a sentimental value. Fernández weighed the gold and checked for karat stamps. Few of the jewels had those stamps but the jades had Chinese stamps. We found out some interesting facts. One was that gold unlike other metals does not have a smell. He was able to discern this in my Rosemary's grandmother's gold watch (a mass produced Elgin we were told) and could smell copper in the alloy.
Rosemary and I will inform our two daughters of our action and it is our hope that somehow the collection will remain as one.
P.D. James might have had something to say about this.