“Going, going and sold,” the auctioneer said as his hammer struck the podium. Litza was so used to the words of the Sotheby’s auctions. Her life of studying at Carnegie School of Art was paying off as she climbed within the ranks of the appraisers.
The hum of the room increased as the crowd got up to look over the recently sold items. One early American corner table that looked so innocuous was worth $750,000 and sold for $875,000. The amount of money people spent on rare items seemed limitless.
Litza went forward to check on the next round of items up for auction.
“Have you seen the jewelry that Bradley has lined up for sale?” It was Bernadette, a fellow art appraiser.
“No, I haven’t had the time. Is there anything special?“ She responded after assuring herself that her table was in order.
“There is a sapphire necklace that someone said is probably the largest Kashmir sapphire outside of the Smithsonian.”
“I’m sure I’ll get a chance to look at it before it leaves the house,” Litza replied as she reached for her buzzing cell phone.
“Hello, Mother,” she answered the phone with a wry smile on her lips.
“No, I can’t come home for lunch today. It’s an auction day,” she answered. “No problem. I never mind you calling me. I’ll call you back when this is over.”
She loved her mother and wished she didn’t live alone. If Dad hadn’t died in Vietnam, he would have been seventy years old. Litza mused on her mother. It was not easy for her to live alone even after forty years.
“The next auction will start in ten minutes, if you will kindly take your seats.” The auctioneer spoke closely into the microphone.
Litza went back to the storage room to take a quick look at the jewelry. A guard stared at her until she flashed her ID badge clipped to her waist. The placard in front of a little brown box caught her eye.
“Rare 1882 sapphire necklace from the region of Kashmir.” She wasn’t an expert in jewelry but this obviously was a special stone.
“Do you mind?” she asked the guard as she went to lift the necklace. It was a deep peacock blue, almost as clear as glass with a velvety texture just below the surface. She ran her fingers over the exquisite stone. It was impressive at just 23.66 carats, but it was hard to believe the estimated price of $2,500,000.
“What a treasure. What’s the history?” she asked the last question to herself as she knew that so much of an item’s worth was based on its past.
She lifted the box from the table. Lovely burr yew wood box, with box wood stringing, decoration with brass lion mask handles and brass lions paw feet. Sheraton period, circa 1780-1800, English. She knew English art as she spouted off the description in her head.
There was a bit of paper sticking up from under the velvet cushion for the necklace. Carefully, she lifted the cushion to free the paper. There were several folded papers and envelopes, some that looked old. She knew she had to go, but not before she glanced over the contents of the first sheet quickly.
“Natasha, what words can express the love you have brought into my life…” She jumped to the signature, “Faithfully and lovingly yours, Patrick Corry.”
Litza was puzzled. She seemed to remember the name from a conversation with her mother or somewhere. She folded the little letter and replaced the cushion and necklace gently in the box.
She had three minutes to spare before it was her turn to present her antiques.
“Does the name Patrick Corry mean anything to you?” she texted her mom. She set her phone to silent knowing it would be a while before her mother responded. It was her auction now!
“We will take a thirty minute break and then move on to the jewelry,” the auctioneer stated after she finished her sales. Litza walked back to the water fountain remembering to turn her phone on. The familiar little envelope was there on her phone.
“He’s my father,” were the words staring at her.
“Huh?“ Her mother’s last name was Schumacher. That didn’t make sense. She dialed her mom’s phone.
“Mom," she was trying not to sound impatient. “Why did you say he was your father?”
“He is my real father. I was adopted at birth,” she said simply. “Why are you asking me?”
“I have to call you back. “ Litza snapped her phone shut as she pushed her way back through the secured storage room.
“Brad, what’s the story on the sapphire necklace?”
He looked at her in surprise. “What’s the inquisitiveness all about?”
“You have to tell me!” she insisted.
“It’s from an estate sale from Viktor Alexandrovich. His wife just died and he has been dead for at least ten years. Apparently, there are no heirs so his lawyer is selling everything off. The necklace was from his wife who escaped from Germany in the thirties. It is pretty old. There are love letters in the box authenticating its age back to the late eighteen hundreds when the first sapphires came out of India.” Brad enjoyed talking about his finds. “It will probably break the record today for the most expensive sapphire.”
“Oh my God. What if there is an heir?”
“What do you mean?” Brad looked at her over his reading glasses with a puzzled look.
“Really,” she insisted. She wanted him to pay attention to her. “If there was an heir, would the sale go through?”
“No, of course not, but I did my homework and there are no surviving heirs. You would legally have to prove the validity of your claim. “
“Hold off on the sapphire until the end. Wait for me,” she called over her shoulder as she brushed against him to leave through the back door to her car.
“Mom,” she talked into her cell phone as she maneuvered her car out of the parking lot. “Can you get ready to come over to the auction? I need to show you something.”
“Litza? Sure. Is everything all right?” her mothered questioned in her gentle accent.
“Yes. Do you have any paperwork that shows you were adopted?” Litza knew her mother was well organized.
“Sure. I have both of my birth certificates.”
“Get them and be ready to meet me at the street in ten minutes.” Litza explained.
She pulled her car into the traffic on 72nd Street. It wasn’t four-thirty yet, so the traffic should still be moving okay, she comforted herself. Only a few blocks to Lexington. Litza honked for her mother so she wouldn’t have to find a parking space.
Her mother was already coming out the side door of her building with her purse and papers in her hand.
“Hi Mom. Sorry to rush you like this but I have to get back to the auction.” Litza apologized and excused herself at the same time.
“No, that’s alright. Do I look okay?”
Litza glanced at her quickly. Her aqua green turtleneck and brown skirt were simple but adequate. “Sure, you look great. There’s a string of pearls in my purse if you want to add a little sophistication.”
“So Patrick Corry is your father?” Litza asked, working her way back down to the auction house through the slow traffic.
“Yes. I was adopted at birth because my real mother was Jewish and had to escape from Germany during the beginning of the war. I told you that before.”
“So your maiden name would have been Corry?”
“Yes. My mother was Natasha and my father was Patrick.”
“You are not going to believe this!” Litza was trembling with excitement. “I think we are auctioning something today from your mother and we have to stop the auction.” She wasn’t going to tell her mother the extent of her discovery until she had a chance to see it with her own eyes.
“From my mother? I thought she was dead. My father never found her.”
“You are almost right. She is dead but she only just died. She married Viktor Alexandrovich in Poland.” Litza pulled back into the guarded lot. “Come on, we have to hustle!”
“Litza.” Brad was worried. “I only have two more items before the sapphire. What’s up? Hello, Mrs. Adams.” He almost forgot his manners.
“Get this. Mom bear with me and Brad listen. My mother, Mrs. Adalie Adams was originally Adalie Schumacher. However, that’s only part true. Her birth name is Adalie Corry, daughter of Natasha Corry and Patrick Corry. She was adopted at birth!” Litza was glowing.
Mrs. Adams looked at her daughter quizzically. Why was this information important? Brad looked at her with widening eyes.
“Patrick Corry? The name on the letter?! Oh geez. We have to notify the auctioneer that the necklace can’t be auctioned today. Hold on.” He rubbed his face as he went to place a call on the house phone.
“Mom. You have to look at this,” as she brought her over to the now almost empty table. The little brown box sat waiting.
Brad came back to Litza. “You are going to have to get a lawyer to verify this right away. Mr. Heinrich said you could use the Sotheby’s guy, Mr. Fawthorp, since you are an employee.”
Litza went and made the phone call on her cell. With a smile, she approached her mother. “It’s all set. Mr. Fawthorp said he will make the phone calls and get the paperwork lined up.”
Mrs. Adam moved over to look at the little wooden box. She picked up the placard. “Two million, five hundred dollars?” she exclaimed. “Is this right?”
“Yes. This is a very rare sapphire and highly sought after,” Brad said. “You will probably want to keep it under our security until you can arrange your own. However, I think you will enjoy reading the letters included with the necklace.” He smiled and pulled up a chair for her to sit on as she started to open the letters.
(Dated: September 25, 1882, Written in print on the letterhead of General Redvers Crediton)
My Dearest Audrey,
It is with great fondness that I present to you this necklace. I count myself as having won the greatest prize of all in wedding you. Take this gift as a symbol of my love that will last for generations to come.
Your Humble Servant,
General Redvers Crediton
(Dated December 10, 1910, Written on the Crediton Family letterhead)
Forgive me for waiting until I am on my deathbed to give you this special treasure -- my blue sapphire necklace. Although you may remember some of its history, I want to write the words myself so you have record for your children. Your father purchased the sapphire a few months before we wed. He was commissioned by the English government to check on the affairs of India, specifically in Delhi. He met miners on the streets with the stones in wheelbarrows who bartered with him for salt. The story is that there was a landslide in the hills outside of town and the poor miners discovered a deposit of the most clear blue rocks that we know as sapphires. Other English officials told father of the jewels and he picked the largest one offered. A silversmith in India who was known for his exquisite work for the Indian Royalty, handcrafted the silver setting. I am sorry for father’s death -- he was a wonderful man and made his family and our beloved England proud. He gave this necklace to me as a symbol of his love as I do to you. Carry it with you, dear George so that when this ugly cancer has taken its toll with me, you will still remember your parent’s love.
With deep fondness,
The next letter was on a small card with a colored pencil drawing of roses on the front. Mrs. Adams read the letters slowly and handed them to Litza. The red-carpeted room was quiet with only the sounds of the auction going on in the next room.
April 10, 1912
My wonderful Katelyn, Need I say you make me so proud? Take this sapphire necklace as a small token of my love. My father gave it to my mother and now so do I to you.
Your Ever-Loving Husband,
A thin paper with the faint impression of roses in the background opened to show a neatly written letter with small slanted words written in perfectly straight lines.
December 10, 1912
Dearest Patrick, I am writing to you to tell you of your father. The events before you were born were horrific to me. The tragedy on the Titanic is not one I wish to discuss except to say that your father, George Crediton, was the finest example of a gentleman to the very end. Ours was a short but blissful time of love and your conception was the most exciting part of our relationship. I am deeply grateful to Martin for accepting me as his bride and your father. I hold a gift from your real father, a sapphire necklace handed down through his family. The necklace is yours as his rightful son. This letter is to serve as a legal document in the event of my death.
Your Mother, Katelyn (Crediton) Corry
“I guess that means she was a survivor on the Titanic. This card was written just a few days before the Titanic left Ireland.” Litza was fascinated by the letters, pausing only to look at the sapphire under the recessed spotlights in the ceiling illuminating the table.
Mrs. Adams opened the stiffer paper of the next letter. The ink was bold in beautiful, dark blue cursive letters on the Corry family letterhead, with an address of Ireland.
September 12, 1937
What words can express the love you have brought into my life over the past few months? You are indescribable and the delight of my eyes. I have a wedding gift that suits you so well, a sapphire necklace that my father gave to his wife, my mother Katelyn, at their marriage. I carried it as a prize possession from him, always wondering who the person was going to be that would wear such a beautiful piece of jewelry. Now I know. Wear it as a symbol of my love. I am including the penned letters my mother saved from her parents and grandparents.
Faithfully and Lovingly,
“So now the necklace went to Ireland,” Litza mentioned as she finished reading the letter along with her mother.
“Yes, but now look here.” Mrs. Adam said. “This letter has the address of Germany.” She opened the envelope stamped, RETURNED to find two sheets of very thin onion skin paper. “Ohhh” her voice almost cracked. “This is addressed to me!”
Adalie - What a pretty name for my beautiful baby. The time has come for me to leave you. Such horrible words but I will refrain my tears to speak of my love for you. Germany is no place for Jews like me right now. I fear for my life and therefore yours. Papa and I hoped to be able to raise you ourselves, but life has become too dangerous. You are going to live with a dear family who lost their baby to pneumonia. They have agreed to raise you as their own. I am leaving my beloved country, my family and my friends to find refuge in Poland. I hope to come back to you after the war is over. Never forget my love for you.
May 5, 1935
“I never got this letter. It is so sad!” Mrs. Adams said as she wiped the tears from her eyes.
Litza was silent as she also tried to hold back the tears as she opened the last letter.
“This one is from my father.”
December 25, 1940
You may not know of me as your father, but I think of you daily as my daughter. It has been five long years since you moved in with the Schumachers and I am so grateful for their kindness and for the happy life you must lead with them on their farm. Your mother was helped out of Germany by a kind lady named Johanna Kirchner, part of the Socialist Young Workers Movement. It’s because of the love and kindness of others that you are alive today. I continue to fly with the Luftwaffe but only because it is required of me. Please try to understand. I am including a letter your Mutti wrote to you before she left. Know that our lives did not work out as we planned but we will never stop loving you. I am constantly looking for your mother, Natasha Corry, but I do not know where to find her. Maybe when this war is over we can all get back together.
Yours forever and with the deepest love,
“It’s all here. What a legacy, Mom! Do you think your father is still alive?” Litza asked as she stood up and hugged her mother.
“No, I was able to find him when my adopted parents gave me my real birth certificate when I was twenty-one. The Germans have an extensive record of the graves of all the soldiers and unfortunately he did die during the war.”
“What a story. That sapphire necklace holds quite a history,” Litza murmured.
“You know this is your necklace.” Mrs. Adams smiled quietly as she looked at her daughter. “It was a symbol of love passed down through my family and you are my only child.”
2016 copyright. Use only with permission.