Recently, there was a very odd auction in London: all these diamonds that a philandering husband gave his wife after each affair. And here's what's particularly bizarre:
Says Reuters, "Every time British businessman Robert Charlton cheated on his wife, he bought her some extravagant jewelry to try to make amends. After 26 years of marriage, long-suffering Elizabeth Charlton had more than 40 glittering pieces" of antique jewelry worth some 300,000 pounds, including a 54-diamond "riviere necklace" that fetched a lot when the couple's daughter auctioned off the guilt stash.
According to the TImes of London, Charlton was the owner of an underwear packing business and two nightclubs, and apparently his philandering was "an open secret" to family and friends - indeed, it's his daughter who explained the collection's provenance to the auction house. But did he talk openly about it? Were the gifts apologies, or more like notifications of the affairs? Did everyone know? Did she wear them? Did the caliber of gift vary with the philandering? And was his largesse motivated by guilt, or a sense of decorum? Did it start as one and become some kind of deal with the devil? Lots of people cheated, not everyone ended up with the Crown Jewels.
In any event, this seems like the final humiliation. In case you're wondering, the Daily Mail trumpeted, "Cuckolded-wife-amassed-300-000-guilty-conscience-jewellery!" But what's so odd about the story is not the "cuckolding" (if that even makes sense) but the open pragmatism of the relationship - and the extent to which destigmatized divorce has altered the dynamic. It's interesting too to think of the fact that the extravagant jewels - a traditional symbol of patriarchal buying-and-selling, the traditional badge of both gold-digger and wronged wife, didn't find any takers amongst the couples's descendants: apparently they unanimously decided to sell. Cash may not be forever, but for good and ill, "forever" isn't really a requirement any more.
£6,000 A Fling: Philanderer Robert Charlton's 'Guilt Diamonds' Sold At Auction [TimesUK]
Diamonds: A Girl's Best Compensation For Infidelity [Reuters]
£300,000 Guilt Trip: The 43 Jewels Of Wife Who Received One Each Time Her Husband Strayed [Daily Mail]