JOANNA ELM, Author, Journalist, Attorney

On My Holiday Wishlist: Why It’s Not Books!


I have a long list of things I want to do when I finish the second revised draft of Book 3. Right now, I’m only halfway through my first revised draft, so it’ll be several months before I can start on my list –which includes (and this may come as news to my husband) a renovation of our kitchen and my workspace. That hasn’t stopped me from picking up little tchotchkes here and there which I think might look swell when I finish with the renovations.


For example, towards the end of summer, I wandered into the home furnishings section of Hildreth’s department store (established 1842) on Main Street, Southampton, Long Island. I intended merely to window-shop, but walked out with some spiffy little butter spreaders.

Not that we’ll really need new butter spreaders even after the kitchen is renovated. We already have a 120-piece dinner service and place settings for 12 ( which include butter knives)– and which we don’t use, or, at least, have used only about a dozen times in the 30 years of our marriage. But the butter spreaders looked cute and were marked down from $10 each to $6. I reported giddily on my savings to my husband who said: “I hope you didn’t buy forty of them.”

Well, phooey to butter spreaders anyway (and to books which I buy year-round for my Kindle or receive as gifts from generous besties at other times of the year.) Around this time of year, I get to thumb through all those gorgeous holiday catalogs. I’m not sure what Joe is going to say about the items I’ve picked from my favorite gift guide. However, I fell in love with M.S. Rau Antiques, a New Orleans dealer in rare antiques, fine arts and jewelry and the catalog publisher, earlier this year at the Palm Beach Jewelry, Art and Antique Show where it was an exhibitor — and where I ogled (and blogged about) their “nef” and 154-piece Faberge silver service.

The really great thing about M.S. Rau Antiques is that not only does it have the most beautiful objets d’art, but looking through its catalog is a learning experience. How else would I know what a “nef,” or an “etui ” (photo left) or a “cave a liqueur” (pictured above and below) look like?

Etuis Are For Love Notes

In their Ultimate Gifts Guide, M.S. Rau Antiques describe this etui (pictured above) as “small, and easily concealed” so that it could be “used to pass correspondence” such as love notes, or maybe spy instructions. The one pictured is an 18th century etui of yellow gold, enamel and pearl encased in intricate goldwork. I can imagine sliding one of these little suckers across the table to Joe with an after-dinner drinks invitation.  Cost? Cocktails: approx $6 a glass; Etui: $16,850.

Cocktails would be served from the Napoleon III “cave a liqueur” (pictured above and here) crafted by Baccarat around 1870. The price, $34,500, may appear a little steep — but the cave does contain 4 etched crystal decanters and 16 cordial glasses etched with  grapevine motif, and dore bronze framing the entire piece.

Singing Bird In Basket

I don’t yet know where I’d put the singing bird gold egg basket. If you look closely, you can see the diamond-encrusted bird which rises from within the egg at the push of a button. It then supposedly pivots, flaps its wings and tail and opens its beak to sing. M.S.Rau Antiques describes it as a one of the world’s finest automata (yep, had to look that up too: they’re “machines that perform functions according to a predetermined set of coded instructions”) with 900 grams of 18 k yellow, rose and white gold inlaid with 7.40 carats of diamonds and 139 pearls. Set at its apex is an 18th century French timepiece, and it comes with its original 18k gold, diamond-encrusted key.


I know Joe is going to ask me what song the bird sings. He’ll definitely want to know before he plonks down $348,500 for this one. I just hope it’s not in French!







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