Nelson Coleman Jewelers

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Miracle on Joppa Road

A true little story by Chuck Debelius

Several months ago, I asked Bettie what she wanted for Christmas. Without hesitating, she pulled out an ad that she had seen inThe Washington Post.Boone and Company, a jewelry store in Chevy Chase, MD, advertised “estate jewelry” for sale, depicting examples in the advertisement. She really admired the brooch. I had also seen the same ad several times during the past year, so I assumed that the beautiful brooch itself had long since been sold.

I quickly began a thorough search on the internet as well as in several local jewelry stores, including a visit to the Boone web site. I identified about ten estate sale brooches that had some similarity to the one in the ad. I showed pictures of them to Bettie, but she said that she would really want to see and touch the actual item before committing to it.

In the meanwhile, Bettie mentioned her desire to our son Ken who made frequent business trips to Portland, Maine, where Bettie knew some elegant jewelry stores are located. Ken also combed the net and visited some stores. He sent Bettie pictures of the best matches he could find. Again, she wanted to see and touch the right brooch before it was bought. She was not in a hurry because she knew what she wanted.

Early in December, I had a medical appointment at a hospital in Baltimore, after which we stopped at a jewelry store in Towson. This store and its own lineage is well known in our family. many years ago, Pop (Bettie’s father) had bought an engagement ring for Nana (Bettie’s mother) at Doederlein’s in downtown Baltimore. The same ring, complete with a new diamond, became an engagement ring for the first of our sons to get married. Pop had a diamond stick pin, a Doderlein product.

There were several subsequent interactions with this jewelry store, now being staffed and managed by the descendants of the original owners. I had bought a diamond necklace and matching diamond earrings for Bettie at Nelson Coleman’s on Joppa Road, successor to the downtown Doederleins. Ken went to Nelson Coleman’s to have another of Nana’s rings repaired and fitted with a new diamond for his daughter Colleen.

It seemed only natural then for Bettie and I to stop at Nelson Coleman’s when I was in Baltimore for the medical appointment in early December. We looked over the estate jewelry then. The case was filled with beautiful items including a brooch in the form of a diamond encrusted bow, but had nothing similar to the one in the newpaper ad. While we were there, we admitted an “Old Bay” set complete with pewter crab hammers, a shaker emblazoned with a crab logo, and a can of the spice.

I asked whether it might be possible to make a new brooch mirroring the one that Bettie liked. We were assured this could happen and we were given the name and number to contact for Coleman’s jewelry creator. Bettie briefly pondered the idea of having a new brooch made, but it was reasonably clear that she had her heart set on an antique brooch. In my internet searches, I had already found a different between “vintage” jewelry (e.g., made in 1970) and much older “antique” jewelry (e.g., circa 1913).

In the middle of December, we joined a wonderful family Christmas celebration hosted by Ken and attended by all of our children, three grandchildren, Maggie’s husband Mike, and Chip’s girlfriend Channing. Because attendees were traveling home to such places as Boise, ID, Blowing Rock, NC, Sutton, MA. and Arlington, VA, we exchanged gifts in the parking lot outside the restaurant.

We were so pleased with Ken’s generosity that we decided to go back to Nelson Coleman’s and buy an “Old Bay” gift set for Ken. (Ken drives a bright red Audi with the license plates proclaiming “OLD BAY”). While we waited for that gift to be prepared for shipping, I casually perused the array of estate jewelry. The diamond bow continued to sparkle and a multitude of old, yet beautiful, rings and necklaces winked seductively. But there had been a small change since our previous visit. A brooch had somehow been added to the display!

I asked if we could look at it more closely and manager Mark Coleman (son of Nelson Coleman) proclaimed, “That brooch is a real steal at the price marked on the tag. It is at least 100 years old, is in perfect condition, and Edwardian in style. It is just the kind of think that you would expect to see worn by the ladies during the pre-WWI era ofDownton Abbey.

In the center of the brooch is a rose diamond (per Wickipedia, rose cuts are seldom seen nowadays except in antique jewelry).

Bettie asked if the filigree surrounding the diamond was made of white gold. “No,” said Mark. “It is platinum and the pin mechanism on the back is yellow gold.”

It was obvious almost immediately that Bettie had fallen in love with this brooch. It met all of her criteria: genuine antique, the desired style, elegance without ostentation, one of a kind, quality materials, and affordable price. I bought it on the spot.

My concern that I had not yet found the perfect Christmas present for her disappeared. To have found and acquired this brooch is my Christmas miracle on Joppa Road!

Written by Chuck Debelius. Reposted with permission.

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