Peter Carl Faberge – “Europe’s Greatest Jeweller”

Pick any TV antique show and the item that is likely to cause the sharpest collective intake of breath is an object fashioned by the late 19th century, St Petersburg Imperial Court jeweller, Peter Carl Fabergé (30 May 1846 – 24 September 1920).

Fabergé was the first of two boys born to a Baltic German jeweller father, Gustav Fabergé and his Danish wife, Charlotte Jungstedt. Gustav’s family was Huguenot of French origins who had fled France in the early 1800s.

In 1862, having retired from the family’s jewelry business, Carl’s parents moved to Dresden, where he studied for several years. Carl was heavily influenced by the contents of Dresden’s ‘Green Vaults’ that contained inspirational figurative jewellery and, somewhat prophetically, various ornate Egg designs.

During his apprenticeship, Fabergé travelled extensively in Europe but in 1872 he returned to St Petersburg where for the next ten years, under the tutelage of Hiskias Pendin, his father’s trusted work-master, he worked to engage the Imperial Court with his beautiful bejeweled objects. During this time he also worked in Tsar Alexander III’s “Winter Palace” – The Hermitage – where he was entrusted to renovate ancient and damaged artifacts.

The Fabergé family business was located on Bolshaya Morskaya Street and was described as a dealer in “petty jewellery and spectacles”. In 1882, Carl took over the business and in 1885 his German-born designer brother, Agathon, joined him. They formed a formidable team and under Carl’s leadership they determined that the business would become “Europe’s Greatest Jeweller”.

Between 1882 and 1917 it is believed that the business made around 200,000 unique objects.

Oddly for a man who’s output and reputation are somewhat defined and characterized by bejeweled objects featuring diamonds and other rare and precious stones, Fabergé was said to be ambivalent about the gems used and more interest in the worthiness of his pieces as art rather than an object of great value. He described himself as an “Artist Jeweller”.

The awards from international exhibitions followed and Fabergé’s place at the heart of the Imperial Court was secured.

Perhaps the items of most international renown to bear the “Fabergé ” name are the astonishingly intricate Easter Eggs. The first was produced in 1885 and was a comparatively simple object. Commissioned by the then Tsar, Alexander III, Fabergé made the “Hen’s Egg” of white enamel egg with a yellow gold interior and accompanying gold chick. It was an Easter gift for Alexander’s wife Maria Feodorovna, an existing Fabergé customer. Her first purchase of a pair of cuff links had assured the House of Fabergé of work as the jeweller of choice for the fine gifts that the Imperial Court was obliged to give to visiting dignitaries. The beautiful objects performed an almost ambassadorial role boasting of the great beauty that Russia was capable of.

On 1st May 1885, so delighted was Maria Feodorovna with her gift, that she bestowed the title “Goldsmith by special appointment to the Imperial Crown” upon Carl.

Access to the Hermitage meant that Carl could study the great works preserved in its huge collection. This re-ignited his interest in the art of enameling that the House of Fabergé used to astonishing effect. His preferred method was a process known as “guillot charge” in which concentric lines are engraved onto the surface of an object, which is then carefully coated with layers of liquid and coloured glass, which when fired, build up on the object’s surface. The stunning results achieved using this method gives the piece both a depth of colour and radiated light.

In 1887, Tsar Alexander gave Faberge a free hand in the design of subsequent Easter Eggs, his conditions were that they had to be intricate and contain a surprise. He commissioned one egg annually for his wife.

In 1889 Nicholas, his brother and several courtiers, undertook a nearly year long journey by sea from Trieste, on Italy’s Adriatic coast, to Vladivostok. He left with a large quantity of Fabergé pieces that would be given as gifts to his various hosts. At some point in the journey supplies ran short and more were requested from St Petersburg. The Siamese Royal family, who welcomed Nicholas to what is now Thailand, was particularly enchanted by Faberge’s Eggs and became avid collectors and Fabergé customer. The 1891 Easter Egg depicts a golden replica of the Nicholas’ ship on an aquamarine tablet sitting inside a deep green egg decorated with ‘waves’ of gold inlaid with diamonds.

The 1891 Easter Egg

Upon the Tsar’s death in 1894, his son Tsar Nicolas II continued the tradition and commissioned one egg each year for both his wife and Mother, by 1917 a total of fifty eggs had been made. Maria Feodorovna had thirty and her daughter in law, Alexandra Feodorovna, had twenty.

In addition to intricacy of the Swan and Peacock automatons eggs, probably the most beautiful egg is the “Winter Egg” of 1911 (our featured image). Designed for Maria Feodorovna and secreted a basket of spring flowers inside a white crystal egg engraved with frost and inlaid with white diamonds.

Whilst many of the eggs are now in private collections the whereabouts of up to fifteen are still unknown.

The influence of the stylized chrysanthemums from the Imperial Court in Peking returned to St Petersburg after Nicholas’ visit inspired Fabergé to create a series of flower studies including the Lily of The Valley, Violets and Cornflowers. Many students of Fabergé’s work believe his flowers to be his very finest.

In 1900 the workshop and retail premises of the House of Fabergé moved to bigger premises on Bolshaya Morskaya Street. Carl had his own apartment ‘over the shop’. Output had to be stepped up and at its height the business employed over 300 jewelers, goldsmiths and stonemasons. The organisation of the business was divided into small teams under work-masters who operated and were incentivized by effectively running their own businesses under the Fabergé umbrella. A few were permitted to add their own initials to the company’s mark. Untypically for the time, the staff saw the benefit of an in-house doctor and a daily canteen.

In 1903 the House of Fabergé opened its first store in London, at 173 Bond Street. Fabergé’s objects become the gift for Edwardian lovers. Whether it was a simple bejeweled eyed rabbit given to a loved one at a country house party or a cigarette case in cobalt blue enamel with a diamond inlaid serpent biting its own tail, given by his “favourite”, Mrs. Kepple, to King Edward VII, the shop specialised in discrete gifts.

The growth and development of the Fabergé business was conducted in the rarified air of the Russian Imperial Court where the Royal Family’s tastes were excessive. They seemed oblivious to the suffering of more lowly Russians. Famine and cold killed many. The Winter Palace tragedy in 1905 seemed an inevitable turning point. By 1914, a year after the flamboyant celebrations of the 300th anniversary of the Russian Throne, Russia entered the First World War. Lacking a military training many of Fabergé’s skilled staff were killed in the early months of the war.

By 1917 the Russian Revolution was underway and the Bolsheviks nationalized the Fabergé business. Carl was said to be heart broken and left on the last diplomatic train out of St Petersburg and headed for Switzerland. He died in Lausanne 1920. Following his wife’s death, five years later, their son Eugene buried their ashes in neighboring graves in Cannes in the South of France.

To the shock of the civilized world, Tsar Nicholas II and his family were summarily executed in Yekaterinburg in 1918. Several of the female children had enormous quantities of diamonds sewn into their bodices off which bullets were said to ricochet.

Post 1918 many Russian aristocrats sought to sell their Fabergé pieces. USA dealers including Armand Hammer amassed vast collections that they returned to New York in the early 1930’s to sell. The newly rich, having recently emerged from the ashes of the Wall Street Crash into the Jazz Age, was a ready market.

Hammer was approached in 1937 by Russian émigré, Sam Reuben, who sought a name for his new perfume business, Hammer suggested Fabergé. This saw an explosion in the 1970’s of fragrance products bearing the Fabergé name often accompanied by sexy images of heartthrobs such as Farah Fawcett. In the mid 1980’s a TV advert featuring former heavyweight boxer, Henry Cooper, encouraged young men that “Nothing beat the great smell of Brut!”

The Fabergé family sued, seeking to protect their ‘name’. They settled for $25,000 and Reuben sold his business a few years later for $24m

It is hard to see how the worlds of Fabergé’s as the purveyor of fine court jewellery and the promoter of “Brut” to masses could have been more different!

In 2009 a group of financiers acquired the worldwide exploitation rights to the Fabergé intellectual property and have revived, with the aid of several small European artisan jewellers and members of the Fabergé family, a new jewellery business that is loyal to the qualities and tastes of the Founder.

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All of Aestheticons posts – aside from some imagery – are the original property and all rights are reserved. Copyright Mark FR Wilkins 2021

René Lalique

Founded in 1888 by René-Jules Lalique, the French jeweler and glassmaker had by 1890 opened his first workshop in Paris’ Opera District at 20, Rue Thérèse.  From this new location he experimented with glass and enamel fused with diamonds and gold to create some astonishingly beautiful statement jewelry. 

He usually stamped his Art Nouveau creations with the distinctive sword and “RL” motif.

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During his years of study at Paris’ “Ecole des Arts Decoratifs” and continued studies in Sydenham, SE London, Lalique’s apprenticeship included providing design services to companies such as Cartier. 

By 1905 he had become very well known for his jewelry and opened a retail shop at 24, Place Vendôme. The new store was adjacent to that of Francoise Coty, the noted Corsican parfumier. Lalique started making perfume bottles, in the Art Deco style, for Coty’s broad range of products including “Ambre Antique” “Heliotrope” and “Styx”. 

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In 1921 Lalique, opened his glassworks in Wingen-sur-Moder in the Eastern French Province of Alsace. From here he further developed his signature style through the contrast of combining clear and frosted glass manufactured using the “cire perdu” or “lost waxtechnique.

Between 1925 and 1931 Lalique’s new factory focused on glass car bonnet ornaments. These wonderful frosted glass mascots, which could be illuminated for maximum effect, graced the bonnets and radiator covers of cars designed by Hispano Suiza, Bugatti and Bentley.

The Breves Gallery in London’s Knightsbridge was retained by Lalique to sell to British customers and they subsequently acquired commercial rights to Lalique mascots for the world. The name “Breves Gallery London” was stamped on each mascot’s mount. 

The mounting rings offered by the Breves Gallery meant that the car’s owner could add to the aesthetics of their already beautifully styled cars by the addition of these trophy mascots.

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During this era, a range of twenty-nine designs were made available including the famous “Sirene” (“Mermaid”) statuette, which was available in two sizes.

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Lalique also sold the same products mounted on a metal or glass base as paperweights. 

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“La Grande Libellule” (the Large Dragonfly), “Five Horses” – the first mascot to be commissioned in 1925 for use on the Citroen’s 5CV – “Victoire” (“Spirit of the Wind”) – which originally sold for £2-12/6 – “Vitesse” and “Chrysis” are personal favourites. 

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The base of each genuine Lalique glass mascot is signed with a stamped, molded or etched signature that usually simply reads “R. Lalique”.

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Seven of the original designs continue to appear in the current Lalique catalogue. These include “Chrysis”, “Eagle’s Head” and “Cock’s Head”. Lalique & Co, which ceased to be in family ownership in 2008, still sells these designs as paperweights.

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Inevitable Heath and Safety concerns have weighted heavily on the car mascot market. Since 1968 in the USA and 1974 in Europe, cars have had to conform to rigorous rules governing exterior projections that are fixed to their bonnets. 

Rolls Royce invested heavily and devised a retractable solution – see our earlier piece on the iconic Spirit of Ecstasy here – The Spirit of Ecstasy – Mercedes-Benz also developed a spring-loaded flexible mount that folds on impact.

Image Credits – R Lalique et Cie, Maison Coty and Wartski.

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Triumph Stag

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My wife loves horse power, yet she is not much of a Petrol Head. However, she does drive a cute Mini Cooper but her absolutely favourite car is a burgundy coloured Triumph Stag.

As a kid my pal’s Dad had a Triumph 2.5 PI, with which he used, sorry other road users, to tow a caravan. Temperamental would probably be the best description of this car’s mechanics. Along with the guy ropes and tent pegs he’d carry a heavy rubber hammer. The normal assumption would be that this hammer would be used to see home the awning pegs – oh no…In an act of naked frustration this charming architect would administer the Petrol Injection system of his 2.5 a sound thwack – with the rubber hammer – in order to re-engage it to its primary purpose – to pump petrol!

The Triumph Stag – a 2+2 Convertible – launched in 1970, was spared the engine and fuel injection system of the PI and it was clad in well designed Italian loveliness. For me there were relatively few style icons of the 1970’s, certainly compared to the previous decade, but I am delighted to celebrate the Triumph Stag.

The Stag was blessed with a Triumph 3.0 litre V8 – increased to accommodate the then new and stringent US emission regulations – and in a production run lasting until 1978 nearly 26,000 were made and many were exported. It is believed that as many as 9000 survive today.

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The Stag was designed by Italian, Giovanni Michelotti, who’s reputation had already been cemented in the UK with the Triumph Herald, the GT6 and the Spitfire. His target was to compete with the sports models of Mercedes Benz. Harry Webster, Triumph’s then Director of Engineering, had given Michelotti a Triumph 2000 – the antecedent of the 2.5 PI – in the mid-1960’s an the Stag was conceived as a styling experiment with this car – common ancestry was noticeable and much of the Stag lines were incorporated into later Triumph 2000 models.

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In 1978 the Stag was “replaced ” by the unattractive Triumph TR7. The Triumph trademark is currently owned by BMW which was acquired in 1994 when BMW bought The Rover Group. BMW have retained the Triumph brand along with Mini and Riley. The Triumph brand last saw the light of day in 1984 isn’t it time for another successful revival?

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In an era of close links between TV/Film business and the car industry it comes as no surprise that James Bond in “Diamonds Are Forever” relieves a diamond smuggler of his 1970 Triumph Stag. See here the car with its clear nod in the direction of the Ford Mustang with its “Stag” grill logo. See here our earlier piece on the iconic Ford Mustang Ford Mustang

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If you’d like to add a version of this splendid Bond car to your collection please link on the following AMAZON link –james bond 007 diamonds are forever triumph stag yellow film scene car 1.43 scale diecast model

The iconic Haynes Manual will get its own standalone Aestheticons’ post – but for now you may like to buy a copy of this classic publication that dissects the Triumph Stag.

Please click here for the AMAZON link Triumph Stag (70 – 78) Haynes Repair Manual

How about the accompanying T Shirt? Haynes Workshop Manual 0441 Triumph Stag Black Men’s T-Shirt

Adding a Triumph Stag mug to your collection is a winner – click here Triumph Stag Mug with Caption: “Life isn’t complete without a Triumph Stag” Mug ideal gift

Or how about the simple line drawn Triumph Stag T shirt, a great present for female fans:

Triumph Stag Black Women’s T-Shirt Size 10 (M) (White Print)

and for blokes

T34 Triumph Stag Brown/Hazelnut Men’s T-Shirt XXL (Black Print)

And don’t forget the kids!

T34 Triumph Stag Red Kids’ T-Shirt 11-12 Years (Black Print)

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Image credits with grateful thanks to Thoroughbred Cars and Haynes Manual

Land Rover Defender

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The Land Rover Defender (known by most – depending on the wheelbase chosen – as either a Land Rover 90 or 110) was a British built 4 x 4 utility vehicle developed from and finally replacing the iconic Land Rover Series first launched in 1948. First introduced in 1983 the last model of this design classic was produced in January 2016 when European design regulations rendered the Defender’s design redundant.

The post 1983 may seem in many respects similar to Series III version of the Land Rover but this re-imagined Land Rover had for example permanent four wheel drive – derived from the Range Rover – and progressively over succeeding years more powerful and varied choices of engines were made available from 2.25-litre petrol and diesel engines, to 2.5-litre petrol up to 3.5-litre petrol only version and a V8 was particularly used on the 90 version.

Either by cleaver placing or by coincidence, the use of larger 4×4 as private vehicles – as opposed to their more agricultural focussed predecessors, played well into Land Rover marketing. Using the badge “County” the Defender 4x4s were sold as multi-purpose family vehicles with improved interior trim, ride, colour options, wheel rims and seating.

Land Rover was beginning to capitalise on its home market and to make an impact on the European market but elsewhere in the world the legacy of poor quality from the days of British Leyland meant that in other target markets such as the Far East Toyota Land Cruisers and Nissan’s Patrol were dominant.

Due to the introduction of the Discover model in 1989 the old 90/110 was re-christened the Defender when it acquired the new and well performing 200Tdi engine which improved the Defenders ability to cruise at higher speeds and tow heavier loads.

In 1998, the upcoming Euro III emissions regulations the Defender was given an all-new 2.5-litre, five-cylinder in-line turbodiesel engine, badged the Td5. For 2002 model year, the Td5 engine was further refined to satisfy ever-more stringent emission regulations. Again to clear emissions hurdles for the 2007 model the TD5 engine was replaced by Ford’s Dagenham built DuraTorq line engine.  Combine this with the replacement of  four inward-facing seats with two forward-facing seats and the Defender 90 4×4 a four-seater vehicle and the Defender 110 4×4 a seven-seater.

External and internal safety regulations due in 2015 spelt the death knell of the Defender. On the plus side various reports suggest that the Defender’s replacement may be announced by Land Rover – in part based on the DC1oo concept car shown at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show – before the end of 2106 – we’ll have to wait and see.

Photo from Land Rover

 

Polaroid Camera

Designed by Edwin Land 1948

Edwin Land, an American scientist, in 1947 founded Polaroid  and invented instant film. He unveiled the first commercial instant camera, the model 95 Land Camera, in 1948. The camera used a self-developing film that created a chemically developed print which became visible moments after the shot was taken.

Polaroid’s various cameras have used different composition of films and formats. The first examples had positive and negative film rolled onto the cameras spindles. Most recent models used the more convenient integral film which contained all elements for film printing and was offered in the a versatile square format becoming a favourite with creative artists.

The Polaroid model became a firm favourite with traditional photographers for scene setting and ensuring that the composition was correct. The found a natural home in film production with set designers, script and continuity editors to ensure that the set was dressed identically for each shot and that the actors took their correct marks. They were extensively used for ID cards and the instant printing of ultrasound image.

Polaroid was for more than fifty year a company that had advanced a specific technology that was rendered virtually redundant with arrival of digital photography, leaving instant cameras a niche/collector market.

In February 2008, Polaroid was forced to close its manufacturing facility and file for creditor protection under the US Chapter 11 arrangements. In 2009, Polaroid was acquired by PLR IP Holdings, LLC which markets various products such as the Polaroid branded Fuji Instax instant camera – which has acquired a new market particularly younger consumers who are not used to printed photographs – which become excellent keepsakes from a great night out, for example.

My Polaroid: A friend, Stephen Mahoney, the respected Fashion and Media PR is heavily involved in the London fashion scene and had a weekly column in the Evening Standard. He was regularly out at film premiers and other highly visible social occasions taking his Polaroid camera to each event. He would take a shot of a celebrity and they would sign the resulting photo. The best of these shots  were collated for his weekly column which was always eagerly anticipated.

 

 

 

Rover Chair

Designed by Ron Arad 1981

Industrial designer, Ron Arad for his first piece of furniture design, combined two existing – but separate – pieces of car seating and a tubular frame to become the postmodernist Rover chair. The components were obtained from a scrapyard in North London’s Chalk Farm,

The red leather seat came from a Rover P6 which was produced from 1963 to 1977 and  if a 2000 cc engine was installed it was often known as the “Rover 2000”. The chair is held by a black painted curved steel frame – which history tells us came from a Kee Klamp milking stall built by Gascoignes in Reading since the early 1930’s

In 1981 you could buy an Arad Rover chair for £99.00 with originals now commanding thousands at auction.

Many of our followers will recognise the Rover chair from its prominence on the set of BBC TV’s “Top Gear” where it has appeared since 1988.

PS. I have recently been advised that the Green Chairs as used in “Top Gear” are not in fact Rover or Arad chairs. They are either Wolsey or Austin. Although they are regarded as being “after Arad” they appear not to be originals!

Moleskine Notebook

Probably one of our most recent design classic the Moleskine comes from an Italian manufacturer, papermaker and product designer and was co-founded in Milan in 1997 by Maria Sebregondi.

Moleskine produces stunning re-imagined classic notebooks stylised to follow the aesthetics of a ‘traditional’ black notebook with rounded corners and ivory-coloured paper. Bound in cardboard with a sewn spine that allows the notebook to lie flat. An elastic band is used to seal the cover, a ribbon bookmark is included along with an expandable pocket inside the rear cover.

As the historical note found in each Moleskine’s expandable pocket tells us, legendary authors, including Hemingway and Chatin and artists, Van Gogh and Picasso, used simple rectangular black books with rounded corners sealed with an elastic strap as made by a small French bookbinder. Indeed it appears that this notebook was Bruce Chatin’s favourite and it was he who christened it “moleskin”.

In 1986, the family owned manufacturer of the little black notebook in the French city of Tour went out of business which prompted Chatin, prior to his departure for Australia, to try to buy as many copies as he could, with little success.

Maria had the idea of resurrecting the iconic notebooks and put it to Modo & Modo who subsequently trademarked the Moleskine brand and began production. By 1998, Modo & Modo were producing 30,000 notebooks a year.

In 2006, with demand apparently outstripping supply, Modo & Modo SpA was purchased by the private equity firm, Syntegra Capital. In August 2006, investment fund Société Générale Capital purchased Modo & Modo SpA, and invested in its continued expansion and diversification, changing its name to Moleskine Srl.

In March 2013 the company announced an IPO, becoming a joint-stock company and renamed Moleskine SpA.

Moleskine’s assessment of their simple and beautiful product is that “it represents, around the world, a symbol of contemporary nomadism, closely connected with the digital world.”

My Moleskine Notebook: I have used two notebooks for years Moleskin is my preferred notebook when travelling or in meetings. Its ivory acid free paper is very forgiving for my scruffy handwriting and its size sits well next to my iPad.

Given the final comment from Molekine, just above, I have been in numerous meeting particularly with those involving either an entrepreneur or an investor in the world of digital media and the vast majority arrive with a pen and their little – usually black -Moleskine.

There are other beautiful colours available, my wife particularly loves the red version, which I suspect stands out well in the dark depths of a large handbag.

Your Moleskine Notebook: Please feel free to share your experiences of Moleskine notebooks. We’d really like to hear them.

Photo from Moleskine

RM Williams’ “Craftsman” Boot

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Reginald Murray (‘RM”) Williams was born into a pioneering settler family in 1908 at Belalie North about 200 miles from Adelaide, a horse trainer and bushman who rose to be a millionaire entrepreneur.  His adventures in the outback created a recognisable and iconic Australian style of bush-wear.

RM was taught leather working by a horseman, Dollar Mick, including making bridles, pack saddles and riding boots. In 1932, to fund the hospital care of his son, RM founded “RM Williams” and he began to sell saddles. In 1934, he established and rapidly expanded a small factory running in his father’s back shed at 5 Percy Street in the Adelaide suburb of Prospect.

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RM’s most iconic designs were his handcrafted riding boots. They are formed of a single piece of leather or suede and stitched at the rear with elasticated sides.  As of 2013, the company’s handcrafted riding boots comprises 70 hand processes and a single piece of leather.

RM sold the business in 1988 but sadly it entered receivership in 1993. The company was then taken under the control of RM’s long-time friend Ken Cowley who, with businessman Kerry Stokes, and Ken’s family ran R.M. Williams Ltd. for over twenty years.

RM died in November 2003. In March 2013, the Cowley family released a statement of an intention to sell the company to a new owner for AUS$100 million sum. In April 2013, R.M. Williams sold a 49.9% stake to L Capital, the private equity affiliate of LVMH.

These guys a wish list item for me. I have known of them for over twenty years as a friend from Sydney had the well known classic Craftsman boot which at that time he had owned for over fifteen years – they were pristine with minor tell-tale wear and a fabulous sheen.

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In July 2016 I was in London and went to the new Westfield Shopping Centre at Shepherd’s Bush. I walked into the newly opened RM Williams store to discover I was in fact the very first customer.

A charming girl who had been seconded from RM William’s office in Adelaide was so well informed and enthusiastic in her desire to impart details about the hand-made boots I felt almost rude leaving after the limited time I had ran out…only to be stung by the excessive parking charges at Westfield!

She explained that they would prefer – if I lived in the UK – that I should opt to have a rubber rather leather sole, as the leather is so thick it took a while to dry out and risked deteriorating if not totally dried before it got wet again. She explained the use of kangaroo hide – which caused my son some disquiet – but it was explained as a by-product of meat production.

I am determined to return to place an order in due course – but suspect I may go for a suede pair.

Stop Press: Since we became an Amazon Affiliate in December 2017 I have now discovered that I can get my favourite RM Williams chocolate brown suede Craftsman via this source – so the order is on its way! If you’d like to join me in this please click on the link below the following image 

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R.M. Williams Craftsman chocolate/suede, Größen:43

Images from RM Williams

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Opinel Knives

Designed in 1890 by Joseph Opinel.

History: Opinel is a family run company that has manufactured wooden-handled knives since 1890 from Savoie, France. They sell around 15 million knives yearly.

Opinel knives are mostly made of finest grade Swedish Sandvik steel with a beechwood handle and famously float in water. In 1955 Marcel Opinel increased the safety of the larger knives in the range by inventing and patenting the Virobloc or twist lock safety collar mechanism that locks and prevent the knife’s blade from opening or closing inadvertently.

The curve of the original Opinel blade is a known as “Yataghan”. This blade is featured on the eleven models of the original product that are currently available.

The traditional Opinel is designed to be opened with two hands and there is a nail nick  on the blade for this purpose. There is a traditional way of opening the knife known as   “the coup du savoyard” which involves tapping the handle hard on a heel or table to release the blade which is then moved into place by the thumb.

My Opinel Knife: I have half a dozen of these knives in various sizes, I have them in the car, in picnic boxes and my tackle bag. They have been used to slice salami and baguette in France, rope in England and tortilla in Spain. They are beautifully made wonderfully versatile and a pleasure to use.

Your Opinel Knife – please share your experiences of using these fantastic little knives we’d love to hear from you. 

Photo of a No 12 Opinel Knife from Opinel

Swan Vestas Matches

Founded in 1883 in Bootle on Merseyside by the Collard & Kendall match company, the Swan brand began as “Swan wax matches”. These comprised a wooden splint soaked in wax.

In 1906 they were renamed “Swan Vestas’ becoming a brand of Bryant and May and by the 1930s ‘Swan Vestas’ had become ‘Britain’s best selling match’.

The brand is now owned by the Swedish Match company who manufacture Swan Vestas in Sweden from sustainabily grown aspen wood. They are the most popular brand of “strike-anywhere” matches in the UK.

My Swan Vestas: Two stories highlight the importance of this iconic British brand, one is true and the other is probably appocraphal.

The first, I recall from my Father who was senior in Marketing for Shell in London. Shell’s advertising agency for almost everything was Ogilvy and Mather. David Ogilvy, the genius advertising guru, was a pipe smoker who often carried Swan Vestas but not for simply lighting his tobacco. The story goes that he advised my Father that post a visit to an unfamiliar bathroom that the resulting odor could be quickly dispersed by the judicious use of a couple of struck Swan Vestas!

We have them in all bathrooms to this day and, as far as I can tell no-one in our house smokes a pipe!

When studying Law in the late 1970’s in order to illustrate the power of an enforceable Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) my Contracts Professor told the following story:

A pipe-smoker arrived at Bryant and May’s door claiming that he had a way of saving the company thousands a year but prior to disclosing his idea he needed the comfort of a signed NDA. The agreement would for the foreseeable future guarantee he and his descendants a percentage of the financial interest in the saving that the company would make as a result of his unique idea.

The company agreed and an acceptable document was drafted and signed by both parties.

Suitably comforted the pipe-smoker explained that he had smoked a pipe for many years and in all that time he had never had to resort to using the second edge of glass paper adhered to the box as only one of the two strips of glass paper had proved more than sufficient for striking all of the boxes “average contents” of 85 matches.

Enthusiastically, Bryant and May accepted his idea as the incremental saving on glass paper – by adhering it to only one edge – was, of course, significant. The story ran that our pipe-smoking hero and his family financially benefitted for many years from this cleaver thinking and the NDA assured them of payment!

Your Swan Vestas Matches : Why not share your experiences of using Swan Vestas Matches? We’d really like to hear from you.

Photo from Swan Vestas