The Polar Express

Add sparkle to the season with natural diamonds.

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Photographed by: Andrew Werner

Van Cleef & Arpels Platinum Polar Bear Brooch

What are you doing New Year’s Day? The Coney Island Polar Bear Club, founded a century ago and famous for their annual January first Atlantic Ocean plunges, is happy for you to join them in this intensely masochistic activity. The party starts on the boardwalk in the morning and thousands of people show up, but, in all honesty—why would this be fun?

Especially since winter weather offers so many other compensations—those famous roasting chestnuts on an open fire (Question: Has anyone ever eaten these?); those magical holiday windows (dwindling! Bring back department stores!); the excuse to swath yourself in piles of cashmere, and not least, an opportunity to appreciate our snowy Polar bear friends, who, unlike us, are happy no matter how frigid it gets. Dazzling in their splendid animal glory, they are never as shimmery as this one, rendered in natural diamonds and platinum and lurking here.

Van Cleef & Arpels “Cerf” Deer Clip

Long before discussions of diversity and inclusion were central to the national debate, there was Rudolf. Reviled and mocked by his fellow reindeer—because he was different; because it glowed! —, he was elevated by Santa who saw his inner qualities and the special role he could play. 

How old is this beleaguered fictional mammal? According to the Smithsonian: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer first appeared in 1939 when Montgomery Ward department store asked one of its copywriters, 34-year-old Robert L. May, to create a Christmas story the store could give away to shoppers as a promotional gimmick…In the first year of publication, 2.4 million copies of Rudolph’s story were distributed by Montgomery Ward. May’s brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks, decided to adapt the story of Rudolph into song. Marks’ musical version of ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ was recorded by Gene Autry in 1949.”. 

In the ensuing decades, how many of us have felt ourselves excluded from reindeer games, only to triumph later in life? This exquisite and fiercely eccentric deer rises far above the common herd with its shower of stones, and if his nose isn’t red, it certainly glows, along with the rest of him, composed as it is of natural diamonds, black spinels and pearls.

Chanel Comète Earring and Ruban Ring

My parents wouldn’t take us to the Radio City Christmas Show. I don’t think it was only because we were Jewish, though of course that didn’t help, but my dad, a proud union stagehand, actually had a taste for higher forms of mass entertainment—a Sondheim show, say, rather than a circus. So it wasn’t until I was an adult and went to the Radio City Show with Michael Musto and his aunt—a genuine nun!—that I saw the Rockettes, along with the abbreviated version of The Nutcracker, which is a part of that wonderful, unchanging New York institution.

And one thing is for sure—no matter how splendid this art deco architectural masterpiece (“They all laughed at Rockefeller Center, now they’re fighting to get in!” Ira Gershwin wrote in 1937, five years after it opened) we are positive that the Chanel jewels decorating this nutcracker would look far better shining on your pretty finger or dangling from your little ear lobe than bedecking this wooden fellow.

DeBeers Classic Star Pendant

I have never been skiing. When I was in college, I have a dim memory of spending the weekend in a lodge somewhere in the snowy north—Maine? Vermont? —wearing a puffy little velvet number and getting quietly sloshed and never leaving the lodge. This utter lack of athletic ability (I suck at summer sports too) has nevertheless not prevented me from being quite the aficionado of the Winter Olympics, not at all embarrassed to comment harshly on the form and function of prospective medalists from the snug lair of my sofa.

Would I perhaps be more inclined to tiptoe to a slope, or at least make a snow angel in Central Park, if I were wearing a DeBeers diamond flake around my neck? (Ohh—cold and wet! So maybe not…) But a diamond snowflake—the flakes themselves, like natural diamonds: no two exactly alike—would certainly enhance whatever ski bunny gear one dons this winter.

David Webb Heraldic Snowflake Brooch

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars,” my very good friend, the brilliant Oscar Wilde, observed in 1892. Poor Oscar, born so far before his time—what a star he was in his own short life, and what a star he would be if he were with us now, striding our same streets, trapped in the muck of our plebian lives but staring up at the heavens.

The dual meaning of Star is never more potent than in this winter season, bringing to mind the luminaries that we revere—not just entertainment stars but stars of kindness and wit and generosity! Those unsung stars who make our own lives rich and wonderful, along with the celestial bodies that gleam high above us in the winter sky. Could any blaze shine brighter than this homage to the galaxy, an almost ridiculously elaborate, breathtaking David Webb creation flaunting brilliant cut diamonds?