The Charleston Silver Lady
This beautiful neck chain was made in France in the 1870’s. It was crafted of French Standard silver. a completely different alloy than American sterling.
French silver remains rare and highly collectible as it was never made en masse. This necklace adorned my great grandmother Victoria Petrie’s neck. It was a gift from her mother before my grandmother came to America and South Carolina. It represents love of country and patriotism in design.
We know the Fleur De Lis is associated with France.
My great grandmother was likely given this when she was of marrying age as a token of love and devotion from her parents with the idea that one day their daughter would likely travel to another country. This necklace would remind her of home and family.
Passing along wealth played a part of gifting loved ones with items made of precious metal. The idea of having something to part with in hard times made this an even more treasured gift from a loved one.
I knew my great grandmother for about 10 years. She was old when I was born. I knew her to be high spirited and easily annoyed so my love was tempered with fear.
She was, however, an elegant lady who made others feel at ease when they visited our home. I wished she was nice to me but that rarely happened! With nearly 80 years between us, I now know I am lucky she was civil to me at all.
Those of you who read this column often know many of her recipes and how she taught me by example to use the ‘good’ plates , silver and crystal every day. She made it clear that her family and friends were special. If a plate or crystal stem was broken, it was not the end of the world.
I credit her with my ease with fragile and valuable things. I think of her often when I am appraising fragile items of great value and thank her for that gift.
I saw her wear this necklace often. After she passed, no one in my family could bear to wear it. I treasure it for all the lessons its wearer taught me.
This is one of her favorite recipes for winter fruit compote. We had this often and the ingredients varied according to what we had on hand. Most of the fruit we used was from Christmas as we decorated with fruit and live garlands so there was often much left over. ‘Waste not, want not’!
Winter fruit compote
4 oranges sectioned
2 grapefruits sectioned
1 ripe pineapple in bite size pieces
1 cup port wine
1/2 cup of local honey
Juice of 1 lemon
Mix port wine and honey to make a dressing ‘for the fruit. Mix fruit in a lidded container. Cover with dressing and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Spoon marinated fruit over meringues, pound or white cake. Strain and add remaining marinade to a pitcher of seltzer water to make 4 cups.
Serve cold along side the fruit .