Gold was at the origin of what became the New World. It made Spain the most powerful country in Europe and a favorite target of pirates. The waterways of Southeast Louisiana were a pirate’s dream for escaping authorities and moving goods. Perhaps, then, piracy gave rise to New Orleans. The debate rages, and always will. That New Orleans and piracy grew up together is a point long-settled, however. The house where the Lafittes, legendary buccaneers, helped Andrew Jackson plan the Battle of New Orleans still stands in the French Quarter.
It is said that on making the California discovery that began the 1849 Gold Rush, James Marshall yelled, echoing Archimedes, “Eureka!” (“I found it.”) Gold’s supremacy continues with its contemporary status as an investment. By almost miraculously combining high yield and low risk, it routinely outperforms stocks and other securities, real estate and more. Gold performs its magic in the marketplace, it seems. And the boardroom and the bar. This precious metal pervades our world through a constant display of countless rings and chains and earrings and bracelets, pendants and pins.
Through all of these manifestations of gold runs the power of allure born of beauty. This aesthetic virtue has always pervaded New Orleans, as well. Given that fact, the city’s love of costume and the enduring place of piracy in our civic life, New Orleans naturally offers rich opportunities for purchasing powerful pieces displaying gold at its best, from the traditional to the cutting-edge.
Located at the bottom of Canal Street, Jack Sutton Fine Jewelry reminds us of the old days on weekends when shoppers of all stripes descended on Canal Street. (The scene is memorialized in the opening of the legendary New Orleans novel, A Confederacy of Dunces.) Sutton specializes in diamond jewelry and pieces with white gold. The engagement and wedding rings effortlessly sparkle with elegance and taste. This fine store also carries brands of watches and fleur de lis jewelry.
Wellington & Co., located in the French Quarter along Royal Street’s antique row, also carries stunning lines of watches, gift pieces, and diamond and gold jewelry. It features antiques, contemporary work that carries on the traditional, like Tacori, and the hip designs of Alexis Bittar. Wellington is also known for its philanthropic efforts. Shopping here does some good for the world. The Maison Royale, also in the French Quarter, carries fine art and antiques along with its jewelry. This classic Quarter building and store specializes in natural, fancy-colored diamond rings. Perhaps the spot most likely to reveal an utterly unexpected treasure.
[q]Gold—the power and allure born of beauty[/q]
However overused the word, “iconic” best describes the city’s internationally acclaimed designer and business owner Mignon Faget. A fifth-generation New Orleanian, since 1969 she has designed work to reflect the natural forms of Southeast Louisiana and the architectural forms of New Orleans. Whether in an amulet, something from the bamboo collection, the moving Full of Grace pendant or one of the eccentric Gemmas, gold runs throughout her collection. Faget also carries a line of home goods, including for baby.
History shows that gold and the meaning it has for human beings can both destroy and build. The trick for jewelers is expressing the allure beneath these two powers in the beauty of human design. That root is life itself, captured best by the fine jewelers of the city that throws sorrow a party. Like Archimedes and Marshall, everyone finding just the right piece will shout, “Eureka!”