Interview with Derek Anastasia

Here is a short interview with Derek. I hope you gain more insight into what is enamel cufflinks. Do visit or drop derek an email if you have more questions for him.


THE Cuff Link Collector

1.  What prompted your interest to start cuff links collection?
My single-minded affair with cuff links was first awakened 24 years ago when my grandfather presented me with an antique gold pair upon my graduation from The Indiana University School of Business.  Moving to New York City and working on Wall Street were instrumental in my eventually becoming a ‘Collector’s Collector.’  “I was in an environment where people were wearing French cuff shirts — mainly bankers and lawyers — a working situation that fostered stylish dressing.”  ” The appeal is as practical as it is aesthetic. At first I collected all genre of antique and vintage cuff links and then became more familiar with enamels.  My eye naturally gravitated toward them; there is something about the gem-like brilliance of enameling that just stands out and above the rest.  To me, the enamel just seems to capture the fire from which it was made.”
Another thing that fueled my interest in collecting was the discovery of a fascinating group of like-minded individuals who collect cuff links of all types — The National Cuff Link Society.
2.  How old were you when you started collecting them?
I was 21 years old when that first pair came my way via a gift from my grandfather.  They are still in my collection today.

3.  Any unusual adventure you had to undertake in order to obtain a pair of cuff links?
The most “unusual adventure” I undertook in the hunt for old enamel cuff links to add to my collection was, without doubt, the infamous Black Widow Incident
It was 1997, New York City, I met a young women of means, both financial and otherwise, at the weekly 26th street Flea Market on a early Saturday morning.  After chatting about why we were both up early on a very cold December morning, she said she did in fact have several pairs of old enamel cuff links at her apartment on Central Park West.  The building she lived in is quite well known in the city for it’s celebrity clientele and its’ exclusiveness.  She explained if I would like to see her pairs, the cuff links, to stop by the next morning around 8:00AM before going down to the Sunday flea market.  It seemed like a reasonable proposition.  But then again … anything is reasonable to me when it comes to adding a pair to my collection.  
So, accordingly, waking early and throwing on some perfunctory biking clothes, I hopped on my mountain bike and dutifully made the trek over to the west side from my east side residence.  As the doorman showed me and into the elevator, I wondered what beautiful pairs waited for me on the 21st floor.  With great anticipation, I rang the doorbell.  The door swung open to reveal this young women smiling ear to ear, decked out in a black, semi-transparent, flowing chiffon negligee accompanied by her best diamond saturated jewelry.  I was, shall we say, stunned. 
Just behind her I could see the formal dining table completely set with exquisite formal dinner ware for at least a five course meal, centered by a tremendous bouquet of flowers and a maid in standing near by at the ready in full maid’s regale uniform.
And I thought I was the hunter.
Needless to say, it was a successful adventure ending with me be given an elegant pair to hold in my collection.  And the added bonus … a smile on my face the rest of the day!  
4.  You have a collection of cuff links, so, why did you start collecting this particular item and what do cuff links mean to you?
See the answer to question #1.
5.  Could you give us some insight into the history of cuff links? (strike this > this jewel)
The history of enameled cuff links is still largely uncharted territory. It seems most likely that with the advent of cuff links around the early 1700s, enameled links would have been a rare sight indeed; a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry, until the mid 1800s. Until that time, only the upper class could afford such unique, hand-wrought craftsmanship, using gold and silver.
The invention of the Tour de Guillocher machine came in the early 1800s, revolutionizing the process of cuff link production. This machine could single-handedly design the cuff link’s detailed metalwork patterns quickly and efficiently; eliminating the labor-intensive work that had previously been done by hand. This new invention, now enabled cuff links to be mass-produced and adorned with a beautiful, polished enamel surface in a fraction of the time. Of equal importance, with the coming of the Industrial Revolution, the enameling process could be achieved at an affordable price so that all income levels could enjoy adorning themselves with this beautiful artwork.
Another factor that greatly stimulated enameling’s popularity throughout the continents in this century was the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Russian artisans, most famously The House of Faberge, had catered to the Czar’s family and other nobility. After the Revolution, these artist dispersed throughout Europe and the United States. Along with them, they took their experience in the highly specialized art of enameling and taught others their unique and expert skill.
Enameled cuff links, now mass produced in volume and fired in large industrial kilns, became readily available to the general public. The popularity of the enamel designs reflected the art movement of its day and the sensibility of style within that time period. This vogue reached its zenith in the 1920s and slowly declined throughout the 1930s as new plastics were invented and enameling’s labor-intensive production became cost-prohibitive.
6.  How many pairs you collection boasts?
As of this writing, my museum-like collection has grown to 2,033 pairs and 696 singles (a cuff link who has lost his mate — I try to reunite them) but I must remind you that I still haven’t picked up my mail today.  Dealers often send treasures via the U.S. Postal Service – my collection grows weekly.
7.  What would be the value of your collection by now?
Invaluable.  In order to amass this collection over 24 years it took the will of 10 people and a single-minded passion that only one person I know of has.  Every pair in my collection is in excellent to pristine condition.  There is no damage to the cuff links whatsoever.
8.  What is the most expensive item of this collection?
There are two answers to that question: monetary and intrinsic. 
The most money I have spent on a set was the crown jewel pair of my collection, the enamel on gold Faberge cuff links made during the time of Tsar Nicolas II reign circa early 1900. 
Intrinsically, there’s one pair that stands out above the rest because it’s the pair that I call the ‘Mother of All Enamels’.  Why?  Because it has the image on one face of the Tour de Guillocher machine and on the other face it has an image of an industrial firing kiln.  It might not sound all that exciting to anyone else, but I couldn’t believe it when I found it — a pair of cuff links bound with the actual image of its maker.  Divine intervention!  I thought at the time, only I knew the significance and immeasurable value of this find.  It was the epitome of what a collector searches for.
9.  Describe your favourite pair of cuff links please?
It’s very hard to have a favorite because they all make the collection for a special, unique reason.  Therefore, I have a lot of favorites and they all have a special meaning to me.  It’s akin to asking a parent which of his children is his favorite.  All of them.
10.  Any pair in particular you would like to add to your already existing collection?
I would be very proud if I could find a pair of René Jules Lalique’s cuff links to add to my collection.  The only problem may be is that they were never produced by his workshop.
11.  Which of them were the hardest to obtain and why?
Easy.  That was a pair for which I jumped in my car around midnight and drove 6 hours through the night just so I could be to an antique show upon it’s opening.  The dealer I was buying from had described them on the phone a couple days earlier but said he would not mail though the postal service.  The drive was the drive from Hell trying to stay awake and not crash and the roads to get to the small town were horrendous.  The adventure ended well though, I came away owning that pair and three others.  A good nights work!
12.  Any specific criteria you follow or detail you pay special attention to when choosing a pair?
Well… I am very glad I stuck to my original theory for collecting enameled links which is to get there first, with adequate cash or credit, and decide promptly.  If the pair makes you ‘see God’ and the detail, craftsmanship, originality and design have all come together — then it’s a done deal.  I know within an instant of seeing a pair of links whether or not they’re right. It’s greater than just my subjective taste — I’m continually building upon a museum-quality collection.

Being a connoisseur, after all, is about making distinctions through slow, comparative observations and systematic studies of jewelry history books — with a small dose of emotion thrown in.”  Descartes said that too much wonder can “pervert the use of reason.” Well, I think I blew right through that a long time ago! (laughing)

13.  Do cuff links have different categories and what are they?

My antique enamel cuff link collection has many collections within it … just like the cuff link category in general.  There are specific makers and designers, different types of fastening mechanisms, different time periods when the cuff links were made, different countries from which they were originated, metals of various alloys, mixed decorative jewels along with the enamel, etc.  The list is quite lengthy … it goes on and on.
14.  Where do you tend to buy your cuff links?
The Internet is a great source; all the major online auction sites have enamel cuff links worth looking at.  Also, visiting antique shows in your home city and when traveling are viable sources for hunting these small treasures.
15.  Would you consider Christie’s or Sotherby’s auctions a good occasion for finding a unique pair o would you rather look in another places?
A unique pair can be found anywhere at any time. The major auction houses tend to be much more pricey given their nature and the types they tend to sell: karat gold and platinum.
16.  How far would you go to get hold of a unique pair of cuff links?
See the answers to question #3 and #11.
17.  Metropolitan Museum of New York expressed interest in one of your collection items. Which one was it and how did it all happened?
A piece from the Anastasia Collection — an extraordinarily rare, one-of-a-kind pair of enamel on gold cuff buttons from the second Egyptian revival, circa 1860s — rests in museum. That is the epitome for a collector — it’s beyond cool.
18.  Any Cuff Link Collector Club you belong to?
The National Cuff Link Society was around for several years but the owner supposedly sold it off to a person none of the core group knew of and it published one rambling newsletter and foundered.
19.  What’s the best way to keep a pair in a top notch conditions?
A jewelry polishing cloth and unadulterated love.  All things follow.
Derek Anastasia
Copyright © 2008, Inc. All rights reserved.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.