I write a letter to about 30 people, once a month – really about things that have happened to me, or about things I have seen. This piece is part of July’s epistle – published as my first Shop Review because I thought the shop should know how much I enjoyed my visit yesterday…

… but I got distracted (I am so easily distracted by beautiful things), by a shop. Deakin & Francis, in The Piccadilly Arcade just up the road from the bookshop.

In the window were some cufflinks of a diver’s helmet. Now – there are certain shops that you know that are out of your price range – because you have to buzz into them, and there isn’t a price tag to be seen – they have a sort of style, almost of a gallery, an exhibition… Their displays in the window have that certain ‘something’, and so it was with this shop – a shop of cufflinks. Including some of skulls with hair – wild hair – which were amusing to say the least. In fact, they had quite a number of skulls of different designs.

The diver’s helmet stopped me, because I am always on the look out for submarine related things for Peter, who likes them – but I knew that I wouldn’t be buying – it was that sort of place. They were well out of my price range – the black (blackened silver) style of helmet (the better material in my view) were more expensive than the gold, if I remember correctly – and those, the Internet tells me retailed at £270. Really an impossibility. They weren’t even submarines!

Along with designs reflecting people’s interests: banking, drones, horses, dice, aeroplanes, ladies, jets, golf, rockets, Great Britain (Bulldogs), and the like, they also had a fine display of enamelled cufflinks, which I’m afraid I felt didn’t have that certain something. Lovely patterns, bright and pretty, but just, in comparison, so boring against the other rather extraordinary designs.

Then there were the crystal cufflinks – the first pair I saw were part of a dress set (cufflinks and studs) – of wasps. They were stunning – quite beautiful, and the detail was extraordinarily clear. They looked so real, that if they hadn’t been in a case, I might have thought they were likely to fly around the shop.

The assistant – I feel he should have had a better title, but it will have to do, was very kind and brought things out for me to look at, even though I made it very clear that I knew I wasn’t able to purchase now and probably wouldn’t be able to in the future either; I was just stunned and curious.

I was told that the image is carved into the crystal, and then that is hand coloured, and placed so that the uncarved side is face up (and domed) – so that it looks three dimensional. Behind the back is placed a piece of mother of pearl to give it more brightness and then the whole is encased in precious metal. I’m afraid I rather fell in love with these. I knew of them – the process was used in Victorian times, but to see them in the real light, as it were, in perfect state, was marvellous. I think I was told that their cufflinks were made by a grandfather and his granddaughter, though it may have been father and daughter. It’s of no matter. Their work is quite remarkable. There were various designs, including pigs, horses head and bears. The bears, depicting a brownImage for 18ct Gold Hand-Painted Crystal Pig Cufflinks  bear and a polar bear were particularly stunning – the polar bear looked to be coming out of the crystal.  There were almost too many designs to gaze at and my new friend was very happy for me to treat the shop as a miniature museum – which was lovely. A museum with price tags. The cost of that wonderful wasp set – two cufflinks and set of studs was only £9,495.00

Quite stunning.

I suggested to my curator that perhaps they should think of producing earrings in a similar style as studs – where they would be much admired. It seemed unfair that it would be mainly men who would receive or wear such pieces of art. Which would be hardly noticed; when worn as stud earrings they would certainly be admired. I was told that they did a selection of ladies’ jewellery, but then a ‘real’ customer came into the store and I told him he should return to serving them and left the shop.

In the evening I went onto their Internet site. Compared to their gem of a shop, it was a poor reflection of the joy to be had in that small emporium. They do ladies’ jewellery its true, but rather prosaic in style, more like the beautiful enamel studs.  Simple earrings of rather traditional styles. Not what I meant when I made my suggestion in the shop at all…then I saw them – something I have often thought should be out there as a piece of jewellery. Ever since I began to collect them. A pair of cuff links made in the shape of Image for Spinning Top Cufflinksspinning tops. When unscrewed one half of each ‘link’ can be spun on the table – a  beautiful simple design – matt black and silver. The price of these tiny toys was a rather pathetic £110.00 which, when compared to those beautiful crystal creations is barely anything at all… They don’t, however, do them as earrings, which is probably a good thing. An item that combines both my collections would be hard to resist.

They also do ‘Accessories’ – including a beautiful Image for Moving Owl Cufflinksmechanical pin in the shape of an owl. Gently put pressure on his feet, and his wings open, and his eyebrows rise in surprise. The cost – just a snip at £205.00 The cuff links to go with him, also mechanical, are priced at £420.00 for the two – why that should be I don’t know, perhaps cuff links are more expensive to produce than pins…

Their Internet site is http://www.deakinandfrancis.co.uk, but do go and visit this jewel of an emporium – their products are quite exquisite.

Worth every penny, though I’m afraid I don’t have quite enough pennies to be able to have one of these gorgeous things. For those that do, though – the workmanship is worth it, and you can’t go wrong by visiting Deakin and Francis to purchase. For those that don’t – it is worth visiting if only to gaze in wonder, through the window.