So, what do you want for Christmas? The New York Times “Home” section, one of my favorite catalogs for the aspiring nouveaux, has any number of inspirations for valuable junk you can give to friends and relatives, or, better yet, ask them to get for you. I love looking at this stuff. It’s so hilarious! Consider, for example, the stone platters edged in gold leaf, at $375 apiece an item you surely will treasure for the rest of your life and hand down to grateful children. Speaking of leaf, we have these fine leafy spoons, designed to scrape the hide off your palate, at $195 to $275. And who wouldn’t appreciate a framed collage of dried weevils, your loved one’s for a mere $700!
Surely we must all be guilty of coveting some useless object that costs more money than anyone has good sense.
Moi, I want a set of Christofle sterling silver flatware in the Cluny pattern. The going rate for this stuff is $990 a place setting, or $7,920 for eight place settings; but one place online will let you cobble together eight place settings for a mere $4,640 (shipping free!).
What makes this wee craving especially ridiculous is that I already have a perfectly fine set of Cluny in silverplate.
Yes. But…I want it in sterling.
Having received precious few of the pieces of the Royal Danish we registered for our wedding, after my ex-husband made full partner in the tony law firm where he worked, he and I set off to San Francisco one year in search of a set of sterling that would meet our tastes, which had evolved somewhat since the day we were joined in holy matrimony. As a young thing I had selected Royal Danish because it vaguely resembled the pattern I really wanted, which was George Jensen’s Acorn. Why did I think I had to have that? Because one of the other budding partners’ wives selected it.
She and her groom, however, could afford it. We could not, and amazingly enough we had enough sense to realize that we never would: today eight place settings will lighten your load by $11,625. IMHO, it’s not that much better than Royal Danish: they’re both kinda ugly.
By the time XH and I went in search of sterling, I had decided that I wanted something astringently, Spartanly plain. No frou frou. None. No curlicues, no roses, no leaves, no “acorns,” no acanthi that look vaguely like “acorns” that look like acanthi. What I wanted was something that would resemble the few 19th-century coin-silver pieces handed down from my great-great grandparents through my mother.
Do you know how hard it is to find sterling flatware that is free of gew-gaws?
It’s hard, that’s what it is.
We had just about given up when we stumbled into Neiman’s—it was the last place we were going to look. If we couldn’t find what we (i.e., “I”) wanted, we would resign ourselves to living with our perfectly fine, breathtakingly expensive Danish stainless. We explained what we hoped to find to the sales lady (at Neiman’s, we don’t drool over the silver in its glass cases: we ask to be shown the silver). Forthwith she led us to the sliding wooden cases where the Christofle resided, and by golly, there was a perfect rendition of what I had in mind.
However, in those days Cluny was not produced in sterling. You could only get it in plate. At that time and in that place, the silverplate cost as much as an American set of sterling. XH was prepared to buy sterling, and I expect he would have bought it in sterling were it available. I’m sure, however, that he was privately relieved when I announced I loved the pattern so much that I had to have it, plate or no plate.
I’ve treasured this stuff since we got it. After I exited, I left the fancy Danish stainless with XH and decided that I would use the Christofle every single day, the theory being that when you save things for special occasions, you never do use them. And I have. Not only that, but I wash it in the dishwasher. It has held up well: the plate is so thick that after 18 years of daily use, it shows no sign of wearing through.
But, it being plate, it goes clunk when a couple of pieces bump together. I want my Christofle to go ping!
I ask you: is that unreasonable?