Fine. I’m Fine. Everything’s Fine.

I had way too many people over to my house last night and one woman, who was the wife of one of Top Cat’s friends, waved her hand at me to show me her ring and bragged, “It’s a ruby.” (This is an internet photo of a cabochon ruby below.)

I should mention that this scenario was a dream I had last night but now that I’ve got your attention, I’ll continue: I looked at the stone and I knew it was not a ruby so I said, “No, it’s not a ruby, it’s red coral,” because I am part Vulcan and I cannot lie. (Internet photo of cabochon red coral below.)

The woman got all snotty at me and insisted that I didn’t know anything and that if there was a jeweler in the room he’d set me straight and tell me that this was a ruby, because it’s a family heirloom and Grandma said it was a ruby and everyone in the family knows it’s a ruby.

I woke up then, with a weary apathy that was a very familiar feeling of mine from the days when I worked as a jeweled objects expert at Christie’s auction house. I used to have conversations like this one in my dream all the time with people who wanted to bankroll their retirement by selling off a family heirloom that, I had to tell them, in reality would, maybe, finance a retirement party for four at Olive Garden. Lordy, I could tell you stories about the stories that get handed down from Grandmas.

P.S. Myths about family heirlooms happen even in the best families:

Do you see that large cabochon (polished, dome-shaped gem) in the middle of Queen Elizabeth’s crown? It’s been  called The Black Prince’s Ruby ever since it was handed down from the Black Prince, the Plantagenet forbear of the Queen who lived 1330 – 1376.  But it’s not a ruby. It’s a spinel,  a type of gem that was differentiated in the 18th century as another very nice red stone that is actually redder than most rubies, but not a ruby. They sell for 30 – 50% the price of ruby, but I don’t know of many people who are clamoring for it. The pertinent thing is, it’s not a ruby.

I have not dreamed about my old job for many years and I was momentarily perplexed at why one would crop up now. Then I remember that I watched Antiques Roadshow the night before and had seen an old boyfriend on the TV screen. He has appeared on Antiques Roadshow, off and on, as one of their expert appraisers since its beginning in 1997, the year after we broke up.

I used to wish that I had stayed at my Christie’s job a little longer because maybe I could have ended up on TV too, but you know how it is, you see an old boyfriend on the TV show you used to wish you could have been on and you think, Wow, it’s been 21 years since we broke up and he still has awesome hair and then that night you have a dream about things that are not rubies.

Wait. 1996 was 21 years ago?!?!?!? And no, this guy is not my ex-boyfriend.

Maybe you have been in the position of having to give, or receive,  information, such as the kind that I used to give all the time when I worked as an expert appraiser. To me, the information was neutral: it was fact, in that it was based on my degrees in Gemology and my expert knowledge of the market value of certain objects, which I earned through my daily interaction with that market and on my many years of experience with those kinds of objects, or ones that are quantifiably similar in ways that I have been expertly trained to translate into dollar value. It was my job to know these things.

This guy is not my ex-boyfriend either.

To the person receiving the information, however, the information appears to be merely opinion, especially since it does not agree with what they wanted to hear. 80% of the time, when my information was rejected, the excuse was that the owner of the object under scrutiny had a “feeling” that it was worth more. (To be fair, there are times when objects put up for auction smash their pre-auction estimates, but we’re talking about the very rare, or one-of-a-kind items that are not anything like your Grandma’s Ansonia clock or her Piaget wristwatch, or the 19th-century Italian shell cameo that was smuggled out of Europe 300 years ago when the ancestor was a maid to the Queen of France during the persecution of the Catholics — that last one is a true Grandma story which was so wrong on so many counts that I didn’t know where to begin.

God no.

In time I came to understand that what a lot of people called a “feeling” was in fact a “wish”, and that most people prefer to live in their “wish” world than in the world of true information. And since then I’ve been very careful to question all my “feelings” to make sure they aren’t “wishes”. There’s a difference. It’s good to know the difference.

And I also thought that the reason I had this dream that dredged up those old feelings of what I call weariness and apathy (if they are not one and the same — we have so few words for nuanced emotions) is because I feel the same way when I hear the debate about gun control. The NRA and their lackeys have a shitty red coral ring that they believe is ruby, and they won’t listen to an expert opinion because facts make them feel like you hate their Grandma and they will defend their Grandma to death so all of a sudden you are dealing with someone who is screaming at you for hating poor little old law-abiding ladies who never did a thing to hurt you and why would you want to take her ruby ring away from her when it’s all she has???? It makes me weary.

Here on Long Island we had Spring For a Day — sunny, warm, blue skies — and Steve went roll a roll on the grass of our front lawn and came back looking like this:

I didn’t do much painting this week; all I had to do was re-do a portrait of Claude Monet. I used two references, one from 1886 in a painting by Monet’s friend, John Singer Sargent:

And this one, a photograph from c. 1920:

At first, I thought I could get away with this (it’s just a doodle for the margin):

But, no. So I did this:

OK. Now I see it: I got the head position and the shift of his whole posture wrong. And what’s with that paint brush in his right hand? I will have to have another go at it, which is the norm for this book. I think I’ve painted every single illustration at least twice; some, more than eight times, until I get it right. Because I am part Vulcan and we are sticklers for the truth.

Here’s a Monet fact you won’t read any where else: In 1901 Monet took home the equivalent (in 2017 dollars) of $1.7 million from sales of his paintings. In 2016, one of his pictures of a grainstack made $81.4 million at auction in New York — at my old stomping grounds, Christie’s.

And that’s how you bring a blog post full circle, Dear Readers.

And now it’s time to go back to real life in America, back to another day in the demise of democracy in the Drumpf administration.

We made it through February, Dear Ones: we will get through March, and we will get through it together. See you here next week.

Have a great weekend, and please don’t have bad dreams about work or old boyfriends unless it’s a good story and then I definitely want to hear it.



11 Comments, RSS

  1. Megan

    Really Vivian, no photo of the old flame with the great hair, you are a tease. Love crumbed Steve, he looks like my dog Molly, if it is not cut lawn it is dead leaves. Like the Monet portrait… I have a teak table which someone told me is in fact a piece of western red cedar… it’s one of those things. Weird as we lived in a house with cedar cladding and windows and this table does not smell the same. I did not take offence when the very nice furniture restorer told me what his opinion was, he is after all the expert. I don’t think that Christie’s would have an appraiser who didn’t know her gems!

  2. Kirra

    Nice look Steve – very grassy!

    I think this is a great comparison Vivian, people do confuse ‘wishes’ and ‘feeling’. You must have lots of interesting stories from your old work at Christies, entertaining for us, though I hope the dream wasn’t too bad. And thanks for telling us about the Queen’s not quite a ruby on the crown!

    I think your Monet paintings are good, though it looks tricky to me to try and get a combination of the painting and photograph. I know you’ll get it in the end though!

    I’m not sure if you’ve got the cold weather that’s hit Europe/UK but I hope you’re all keeping warm and get some nice spring days like you had the other day.

  3. Well, this post was so full of interesting information I barely know where to begin! I learned about cabochons and spinels (both words I’ve heard but couldn’t define) and yes, it IS funny what turns up in dreams. I almost never remember my dreams, which is probably just as well, but when I do they’re always mystifying.

    We don’t have any jewelry stories in my family, but we do have some artwork stories. I have a feeling when we eventually get things appraised we’ll be told that it’s all not nearly as good as we think it is.

  4. Susan

    Your ruby story is hilarious. Little did this ring owner know she was in the company of a gem expert from the Christies world! So true about people putting a ‘wishful’ high value on their possessions. That said, if they inherited the item, they were probably told it was ‘extremely valuable’ by the original owner. More wishful thinking! Your Monet painting is evolving beautifully. I am so amazed, you know exactly what adjustments to make to achieve perfection. Genius. Steve is looking good and the grass on his coat signals Spring, sunshine and warmer days. The sooner, the better…

  5. ann

    Love your Monet!

    You make it look so easy.

    He does appear deep in thought.

    I’m with Susan, little did this person know.

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. Hi Vivian,
    I’m going to the Met’s garden show on Thursday.
    Lucky me.

    Loved your gem stories….
    The only person I knew who was on Antiques Roadshow was poor Dean Failey who died young.
    We must get together .
    ps North Shore has some lovely pups recently who need to come to your house and love you.

  7. I’m so bad painting people. I loved all your Monets. I need to draw more people…

    I think you should work with the theory that ex-boyfriend is wearing a very good toupee. So good you’d never know. If you’re going to be in antique fantasy-land, may as well extend it to the appraiser.

    Steve has a life. Isn’t it nice to know he has a life? As long as he come back to plexi-home when it’s cold? Gotta go. Lizzie has decided it’s dinner time. It’s only 4. We will negotiate. I have the thumbs.

  8. Sweet Steve was just enjoying your day of springtime!
    You do entertain me with your humor. Love it so much.
    Isn’t that strange that you have been dreaming of your old job. I have had the strangest dreams the past three night and many of them involved my old work and people in my past all coming together from different worlds, yet all of a sudden they know each other. Hoping for a better night tonight. I think the gods are trying to message us and we must listen.

  9. Becky

    I had to laugh about how people think their heirlooms are worth millions. It is so true that more things are given within the family and are deemed “priceless”.
    Steve knows how to live in the moment. If you decide to adopt a dog you will find that they have that perfected to a tee. (Although the kitties you show aren’t lacking in the trait). But when you walk a dog you get a whole new appreciation for the day and your surroundings. Are you still thinking about it?
    Your rendition of Monet is wonderful. It is so hard to draw people.
    Yes we will make it through March….April and beyond in drumpfville which seems to be more to say than for the people leaving the WH in droves….HA HA HA

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