I came across an interview this week with Lynda Resnick, the marketing genius and billionaire [former] owner of the Franklin Mint. You remember the Franklin Mint, right?
Ms. Resnick doesn’t own the Franklin Mint anymore, having made a bundle off it in the 1990s and then selling it for a crap load of money a few years ago. She now makes her pile with other businesses including Pom Wonderful — the woman is a marketing GENIUS.
She recently went through a round of interviews to promote her new book, whose title I’ve forgotten, about how she can sell almost anything to almost anybody. All this is just prelude to the most interesting thing I’ve ever read: In one interview, Ms. Resnick is asked whether there is anything she regrets selling. (Mind you, this is the woman who sold so many crappy Princess Diana dolls, etc., that the official Princess Diana memorial Fund called Ms. Resnick and the Franklin Mint “vultures feeding on the dead.”)
Do you know what Ms. Resnick said she regretted foisting onto the American public?
This line of kitty cat plates.
She said that she regretted making a product that stooped to a “taste level” she didn’t believe in.
Note to self, re: my future Cat Book: GO FOR THIS EXACT SAME TASTE LEVEL. Ms. Resnick made $25 million on these plates. That’s a lot of cat food and a lot of cases of Champagne-O-Meters.
And I got to thinking. Because, as you dear readers may or may not know, I used to be in the business of Good Taste.
As the Faberge Expert for Christie’s Auction House in New York, I had quite a hoity-toity level of taste, which I have not lost lo these many years later. Yes, I still have great taste, I’m just saying.
I actually handled this Faberge Egg (above), the Nobel Ice Egg, in 1994. We acquired it in America, but sold it in Geneva. More hoity-toity that way.
I had to fix the jeweled watch “surprise” that came in the egg (all of Faberge’s Imperial and other Famous eggs came with “surprises”). The egg and watch had been made c.1910 and things get rusty if you don’t play with them. The Nobel egg was made for Emanuel Nobel, nephew of Alfred, the Nobel Prize guy. It sold for $220,000. I later wrote a whole scholarly article for a hoity-toity antiques magazine about the designer of both The Nobel Ice Egg, and this one:
I had my hands on this egg, too — but this one is an Imperial Egg, made for the Romanovs. It is called The Winter Egg and it was quite exciting when it appeared on the market, having been “lost” from sight for about 50 years. It sold, again in Geneva, for $5.6 million. It later sold again, in 2002, again at Christie’s, for $9.6 million. It was designed by a young woman–the only woman allowed to design eggs–called Alma Piehl (Peel). That’s who I wrote about, bringing her name and work to public attention for the first time. Because I had the good taste to recognize that the same hand was at work on these two eggs and I researched to discover the lovely girl who came up with this most original idea of “ice” eggs. She also made a number of “ice” jewelry for Emanuel Nobel, who was quite a ladies’ man.
At the time of its creation, in 1913,the Winter Egg was the most expensive Romanov Egg every made. It is small and heartbreakingly lovely. I am glad that I had the chance in my lifetime to handle such extraordinary object of art.
But you know, the Faberge Eggs were not always revered as objects of great taste. They were once thought of as tacky, second-rate tchokahs. They were poo-pooed by the art establishment, and I remember reading that in the 1950s the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York was offered a few eggs for their collection and they looked down their noses and refused to take them. So, again, back to the issue of “taste”.
These days, if you want to decorate your home with objects of good taste, you can buy reproduction Faberge eggs from something called House of Faberge. Let’s investigate the “taste level” of House of Faberge, for example, in this egg:
This might not seem to be in the same category of hideousness as a Franklin Mint cat plate, unless you know can compare it to a similar real Faberge egg:
Mid-Post aside: This might be a good time to apologize to all those lovely Commentors whose Comments I have inadvertently deleted from Posts Past. I am so sorry: I was trying to clear this blog of its 10,000 spam “comments” and I wiped out a few good friends. I will be more careful in future. And in future: if you are a new Commentor, please feel free to Comment here–Comments are the heroin we bloggers blog for–and then email me to let me clear you as a first-time member of the peanut gallery: vivianswift at yahoo dot comm. Thanks.
This egg was made in 1901 for a wealthy family called Kelch. It’s called the Kelch Apple Blossom Egg. It’s made of jade with three colors of gold for the tree branches. The little enamelled flowers have diamond centers. I also handled this egg, and it was an absolute delight to thold. It’s the biggest egg that Faberge ever made, yet it still has a gossamar heft. It has a wonderful Art Nouveau look that still communicates the trademark Faberge charm and wit. Last time I saw it, in 1994 (it was a very good year for Faberge eggs) it was being sold in Geneva for $857,000, to an anonymous Russian buyer.
It’s now in The Principality of Liechtenstein, having changed hands at least twice since I’ve seen it.
Now, you may think this egg is not as gorgeous as a more typical Faberge egg.
You might wish this egg had a little more ooomph, like in the Renassance Egg, or the Coach Egg.
And how about that Lily of the Valley Egg???
Plus, some people don’t go for that color of nephrite jade.
That’s why some people at House of Faberge decided to “improve” it.
You can also get it in pink.
Now, I know that the readers of this blog are the most tasteful people on earth. So, for the sake of the children who are in danger of going “Ooooooh! I want that!” over House of Faberge eggs, the world needs a list of the objects that best exemplify Good Taste.
Blue jay feathers. (Well, really, any feather is a work of art, but esp. blue jay feathers.)