Growing up in the jewelry business has allowed me over the years to hear about some pretty outlandish stories involving nature’s gems and human behavior. Here’s a story that my father shared with me when I was younger. It peaked my interest in gems and gemology and I’m reminded of the story every time I travel by this Groton landmark.
The local landmark is the gorgeous Branford Estate at Avery Point in Groton. So as any good investigator knows it’s time to follow the money!
Many locals are aware that the Branford Estate was the summer “cottage” of Morton Plant. Mr. Plant was an extravagant playboy in his younger years and the son of a very wealthy railroad and steamship baron. His father, Henry Plant, was no fool. Henry decided to skip a few generations with the inheritance to keep Morton from spending the family fortune. Plant’s wife and Morton petitioned the court, however, and had the will overturned.
Despite Morton’s playboy ways he eventually became a success on his own. He was an entrepreneur in railroad, steamship, and banking endeavors. He also turned out to be extremely generous to Groton itself.
So now that we followed the money let’s get to the pearls! After the death of Morton Plant’s first wife Nellie Plant; Morton (age 61) fell in love with the beautiful Mae Caldwell Manwaring (age 31) better known as Maisie. I believe this was the moment that Morton Plant met his match!
The couple was married at the Branford Estate in Groton but also had a residence at the corner of 54th and Fifth Avenue in New York. One day Maisie was window shopping and caught sight of a double strand of Pearls reputed to be the world’s most expensive pearls at a whopping one million dollars. (In today’s dollars this would be about $16 million dollars.) The pearls had just toured Europe with all
the rich and famous flocking to see them. They were now in New York being featured at Cartier. Well, it was simple Maisie had to have them!
This is where the history gets a bit fuzzy. The facts are clear on one point, the Fifth Avenue home owned by Morton Plant was becoming more and more of a business zone and the big name old money were moving uptown! So the Plant’s put their home in the city up for sale. Coincidentally, the asking price was $1.2 million dollars! It’s said that Morton, who was generally very generous to Maisie just couldn’t imagine spending a million dollars on a pearl strand and refused to purchase them for her.
History’s first version was that Louis Cartier finally “finagled” the Fifth Avenue property from Plant. Plant then traded the building for a dollar and the marvelous two strand Cartier natural pearl necklace valued at $1,000,000 which he then gave to his wife.
The second version is unwritten but my money is on Maisie. I don’t believe that Morton Plant was “finagled” by a stranger! I do believe, however, that Maise was very pleased indeed by the deal.
I hope you enjoyed this bit of jewelry history that relates to our home. Next time you drive by the Branford Mansion give a little smile to Maisie for me!
Your friend in the Jewelry Business... Mark Grader. www.gradergems.com