It was the mid-eighties, place was Fort Worth, Texas, a buyers' market of elegant antiques, upper-middle class trappings, even sometimes the rare and unique. My love had always been Chinese and Japanese art, the older the better. An estate sale in a posh part of town, Monticello, introduced me to a Dr. Kennedy, a man who had all but deserted his dental practice to tour the world and collect his taste in Chinese antiquities.
Nothing particularly rare but a luxury apartment full, even a Chinese wedding bed. He had acquired this extravagant habit by being paid large sums by oil companies for oil leases that had been in the family for generations. However the oil depletion allowance stopped all that, hence the buyers' market.
One thing stood out to me, the pieces of a broken 300 year-old ginger jar with the famed cobalt blue that, at the time could only be fired by the Chinese without that dye running, like that of the flow blue found in Early American attempts. A museum quality find, even if in pieces, I bought them for $10...which will, when this story goes further, lead me to something of a minor drama involving a lost Alistair Crowley/Golden Dawn prize.
But I digress. Kennedy was an interesting man who seemed to delight that his precious collection was, at least in part, being obtained by an appreciative. Because I liked him, I came back a day or so later to share with him my most wonderful Ming jade horse. He sat fondling it for hours as we talked, remarking about how cold it stayed in his hands.
Now to Lavonne, the lady that restored my ginger jar and asked me about a most odd and heavy candelabra.
Lavonne had a little shop way out on East Lancaster where she repaired porcelain, especially the rare figurines, like those of early Dresden and Austrian make. She had some to sell that she had acquired from customers that didn't want to pay to have them restored. A pleasant lady that didn't mind sharing knowledge and was grateful to obtain it. We hit it off well enough. In the course of our conversation she asked if I would come back the next day to see something she thought worth my time. I could fathom it was something she was guarded about and so secretive I immediately agreed out of curiosity.
The next day I arrived and was shown in. Lavonne locked the door behind me and went to a back room. What she carried back with great effort I recognized immediately. “Do you have the other one”, I asked. “The other one?”, she answered.
There were originally two of these, heavy 30 to 40 pound candelabra that had adorned the altar of the Golden Dawn at the time Alistair Crowley had officiated ceremony there.
Looking over the one of Lavonne's, beneath it's mercuric sheen, I could see the play of precious metals poured so poorly they had separated into rivulets of colors, the cold gray of the platinum (little prized at the time,) the yellow of the gold, the white of silver. I scoffed in my mention, “exceedingly poor attempt at electrum”. But then evil requires no perfection. Unintentionally I had fed a fear already in Lavonne. Her shudder was apparent, even from across the room. “Should I sell it”.
“You do need to get rid of it, my dear. It's obvious it is already of some disturbance to you. As for me I would deliver it to the furnace and let a buyer salvage the metals. But that won't get you the best price”. She told me she had the intrinsic value estimated at one hundred thousand. I said more, closer to two. She asked how she could get more. I told her there were those of a certain ilk that would pay a quarter of a million but place it in a bank vault once it's known you have it.
Most of all I said, “stop handling it with your bare hands”.
Then there's the true tale of a gentleman that found a bathtub of solid platinum. But that's for another time.