21 Ultimate Gifts: Desktop Dazzlers

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E-mail is convenient, but it cannot offer the satisfaction derived from sending or receiving a handwritten letter. Nor should it; etiquette experts insist that certain highly personal forms of communication, such as thank-you notes, remain in the analog realm of pens and paper. While writing a letter can seem like a chore, it does not have to be if you take a page from our forebears. The well-heeled of centuries past demanded beautiful, functional, high-quality writing instruments, recognizing that such luxuries can help elevate any act from a task to a pleasure.

This notion is not lost on the house of Cartier, which earlier this year completed an Art Deco–inspired desk set that will charm the most reluctant letter writer. Ten craftspeople labored for three years on the 11-piece set, which is lavishly decorated with rare and exquisite materials: 18-karat gold, coral, mother-of-pearl, agate, and more than 30 carats of diamonds. The fountain pen, one of two pens included in the set (the other is a ballpoint, which is not pictured), is made of yellow gold, with coral gracing the cap and diamonds on the clip. It draws its supply of ink from a rock crystal inkwell that has a hinged cap crowned with yellow gold, diamonds, and agate. The blotter extensively features mother-of-pearl, as does the pen tray. A coral detail shared by the blotter and pen is repeated on the 8-by-10-inch rock crystal frame, which will display a 5-by-7 picture. Smokers will appreciate the set of four ashtrays. The letter opener, that most critical component of a desk set, has a mechanical watch built into its handle. The leather desk pad features subtle accents of gold, diamonds, and coral, and measures 22 by 16.5 inches when open. Complementing the set is a 5.9-inch-tall mechanical clock with emeralds placed between the gold Roman numerals and on the connon pinion, which fixes the diamond-studded hands to its mother-of-pearl face.

The one item that could enhance such a gift is an equally elegant vintage writing desk. Newel Art Galleries, a 64-year-old New York antiques firm, is offering a 1940s-era writing desk (or “bureau plat”) created by noted French furniture designer Jacques Adnet. The brass-mounted, ebonized desk, which stands 293/4 inches high by 71 inches wide and 321/2 inches deep, features a tan Hermès leather inset top and five drawers with small brass sunbursts decorating their locks.

Together, the Cartier desk set and Jacques Adnet desk will negate any excuses for not writing a heartfelt thank-you letter for this exquisite gift.


Price: $955,500

Contact: Cartier, 212.446.3546, www.cartier.com

The price includes the cost of transporting the desk, but not the cost of insuring it during transport. The desk tray and the ballpoint pen from the Cartier desk set are not pictured.

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