Theft #2

 I only buy statement or fantasy costume jewellery today as all my antique 'valuable' jewels have been stolen one way or another.

I inherited my grandmother's Victorian jewellery via my mother. One lovely ring in particular was given to my mother, Peggy, on her 18th birthday and passed on to me on mine in a presentation box with a dedication from my mother.  This along with a silver snuff box on a silver decorative chain was stolen from my flat in Bayswater years ago.

When my mother finally died at the grand age of 89, I inherited what she had not given away to relatives. In  particular, a pale blue and green Victorian fine bead daisy chain necklace, a beautiful heavy double necklace of jade carved beads she had inherited from her sister Doll in Cape Town with matching earrings originally bought in Hong Kong in the 60s. Too heavy to wear but nice to behold! Then my mother had a lovely twisted 60s gold twisted chain from Boodles which I wore sometimes as the colour gold with black was di rigeur in the 80s. I also inherited a charming circular gold locket on a fine twisted slender short gold chain. Inside were sepia photos of both my grandparents who I had never known. Both were antique dealers in Swansea with shops. My mother constantly wore this as a choker and, after her death, so did I. I inherited from my maiden aunt Gladys a gold and amethyst delicate necklace. Too pretty to wear. Too feminine for me. I always had my own style even at a tender age.

When I was commuting to Paris, wheeling and dealing in vintage collectables in the late 70s, I was asked to bring Victorian rings from London by Helene in Marche Biron where she had a stand. She asked me for 18 or 22 carat gold rings encrusted with sapphires, emeralds, pearls and rubies. I obliged because she was honest and shared her knowledge of precious stones with me. We were colleagues but also my other colleague Italian Maria in Portobello had a large jewellery stock with very good quality authentic rings and trusted me to 'run' a dozen rings at a time to Paris on consignment. I earned 20% of the deal and more depending on the rate of exchange. I would pass through customs wearing the rings one on top of the other! Martin called me a dealer in contraband! Savvy Helene did not put them through the books nor have them 'poinsonee' as she should have. I asked no questions and she told me no lies. Life was good until Mike a jealous British dealer in Biron denounced her. He was opposite her and could see me sitting with her behind her counter taking the rings off my fingers. Soon she was out of the jewellery business as an inspector called to check her books! She gave up the stand almost immediately so Mike, the culprit, had no competition. However, as commission, apart from money, I intelligently took two Victorian rings which later served as 'engagement' rings so my dear future husband, the magical pioneer Martin Breese, never bought me an engagement ring! One of the beautiful rings was with emeralds, diamonds and rubies and the other I wore atop it on my forth finger on my left hand, was a thin pearl, diamond and sapphire ring. These two I wore over my gold inscribed wedding band from my grandmother which contained a lock of hair on the inside that had been my grandmother's, so in fact I was wearing 3 rings and looked chic!

In the late 80s my husband announced he would only travel on cruises to see the world. Cruise wear and jewellery was a must so I put some of my best jewellery from the safe into a beautiful Rhino leather jewel box I had bought in South Africa. The gold locket and necklace plus some coveted Parisian vintage costume jewellery were inside. When we returned, I was lazy putting the jewellery back in the safe leaving the box on the mahogany chest of drawers that graced our balloon toile de Jouy (le ballon de gonesse) bedroom in Kensington Park Road, Notting Hill.

One not so fine day, Martin was watering the plants in our front garden when a dealer of sorts passed by who we knew by sight as he had dreadlocks and was very noticeable. The dude stopped at our gate and asked Martin if he wanted any antique furniture relacquered  as he knew a cabinet maker locally. Now why did he suppose we had antique furniture in our house? Had he spied on us with a telescope? Our living room had magnificent draped curtains over original tall Edwardian shutters. I had designed and decorated the whole room dark green and burgundy and the adjoining back room in reverse colours with burgundy and gold  Fleur de Lis John Oliver hand blocked wallpaper. If one peered in beyond the tall palm tree in the front garden, one could see an interesting Edwardian salon beyond.  But only a burglar would look in supposedly!

That same night we went to bed at our usual time around midnight. Normally Martin read until 1.00 while I slept peacefully in our French bed but that night he didn't and fell into a deep sleep after a tiring magical day in his office. Martin never went out, the world came to him! For some reason unknown to me, I had removed both my 'engagement' rings and left them in the bathroom on the side of the basin. I kept my wedding band on however. Why I took those rings off that particular night is a mystery to me.

I awoke suddenly as Martin slept soundly. We always left the hall light on in case either of us wanted to go to the mezzanine bathroom in the middle of the night. The bedroom, while in darkness, always had a ray of light filtering through into the silent bedroom on the first floor overlooking Kensington Park Road.  Suddenly I saw the door slowly and silently closing with an arm across the shaft of light. My heart was thumping loudly.  My mouth went dry.  I gulped. My throat was dry and I swallowed with difficulty. I was paralysed with fear!

Finally after what seemed like a few minutes, I shook Martin awake telling him in a low voice that there was an intruder in the house. He shot out of bed, put his glasses on and for some reason went to the french windows to look out. Next he crept out into the landing to climb up to his office on the second floor and whispered I must call the police from my office which was next door to the bedroom. We had no phone in the bedroom. Both of us had forgotten there was an alarm button direct to the police station next to the bed on my side! We were nervous because for all we knew the burglar could have still been in the house and attacked us.

The police arrived in 5 minutes, all 3 officers heard my story. In the beginning they were wary of my story but then they found a mobile phone on the front doorstop which they took away for fingerprints and to trace the number. All the pharmaceutical drawers in the hall had been pulled out, my rings were gone from the bathroom, my jewel box from the chest in the bedroom and finally my beautiful red leather Vivienne Westwood handbag with £50 inside and personal stuff which had been left in the Art Deco Biba kitchen as the fashion designer Barbara Hulinicki had been the previous house owner. Strangely enough on the kitchen floor was a metal badge with the letter 'B'. 'B' for burglar, perhaps?

We immediately suspected our Jamaican neighbour who lived diagonally across from us in the basement flat knowing via the grape vine that he was a drugs dealer. The police, despite having his mobile which had fallen from his pocket as he had bent his knees to open our letter box and push a metal clothes hanger up to open the lock, did not follow up the clue. We later learnt this method of entry was well known trick if there was no lid on the letterbox, which there wasn't.

That night I lost my inherited and earned jewellery. The rest, a Victorian diamond antique 'S' shaped ring, a 1937 sapphire eternity ring from when my parents married and another antique diamond platinum ring were 'stolen' by my dear departed husband after 25 years together. Martin forced me to put them into Gorringer's auction house in Lewes as we later moved to Brighton along with the antique inherited silver. Without telling me had the cheque and paper work made out to him. I ended up with nada!

Today I do not mourn my loss, in an odd way I celebrate it. It was a big leaning curve for me that material things are not important in life, relationships and sincere friendships are. You come into this world alone and naked. You go out of this life as you came in!

Written on the plane from Palermo back to London. 13.1.17.

(To be read in conjunction with Theft #1)