The Great American Elm
Cat’s Eye Tourmaline
Designed and built by
Maine Artist Gary Roe
I remember the night vividly, I’d asked a petite, long haired, dark eyed girl out for a tree walk date and dinner. We lived in Portland, Maine across the alleyway from one another. We walked from our apartments down Cumberland Avenue, up Mellen Street and down Deering Street beneath a twilight sky and towering elms, to the Eastland Hotel. We rode the elevator up to the Top of the East roof top restaurant overlooking Portland. Dinner was nice, but what I remember most about that mid-summer evening was our walk back home and pausing mid-point on Deering Street. The street lights filtering down through the elm trees, moths swirling in the yellow tinted light, and the elm tree branches hanging down, shadows swaying, spilling shadow and light on the sidewalk.
In my mind’s eye, I can still see the two of us standing there on the sidewalk and me talking about how we were losing our elm trees and that someday the elms on this street would be gone and that we must savor and remember what it was like to walk beneath elms on a summer night. We continued dating for almost a year. She married someone else. I still love elm trees.
Our great American Elm ring starts with an exquisite deep green gem, a cat’s eye world tourmaline (not Maine). This gem and its crisp bright cat’s eye is my night on Deering Street beneath the amber street lights shining down through the leaves on that summer night. The ring is adorned on its east and west wings with 18K yellow gold hand-pierced, hand-dapped and engraved, shaped, and formed elm leaves. The gem and the ring is a Great American Elm memory.
A note on Cat’s Eyes: when you buy this ring you’ll receive two pen-light flashlights. Move them in different directions left and right across the top of the gem. The cat’s eye will open and close. The eye winks. It’s a fun feature for you, and the kids will love it. This is a great ring to honor the great American elm.
Nantucket Island, off of Cape Cod, has the best preserved stand of original elm trees in America. Being isolated on an island has protected the elms from Dutch Elm Disease for many years. We visited Nantucket 18 years ago to do beach and island research and were surprised to find this most delightful town of Nantucket with its bonus endowment of American elm trees.
If you are an elm tree lover go! If you have memories of New England streets lined with these majestic cathedral-like trees go! If you’re too young to remember elms and the aura they created on American streets go! Visit Nantucket to see the last great stand of original American elm trees before it’s too late.
I’ve read that Nantucket has lost several important trees in recent years but still has an impressive display of elm trees.
Elm Tree Bicycle Shade
Our farm was in Gorham, Maine near the Westbrook line. Summers were long, and with no air conditioning, summers were hot. We lived on top of a hill. There was a small grocery store about a mile away in Westbrook. It was all downhill from the farm. We found an excuse to hop on our bikes and go to the variety store several times a day. To get there we would use the front road. It was all tar, few trees and because of a steep hill, it was a fast cool ride. Our strategy coming home was to take the back road. It was mostly a dirt road. It was longer, but it was lined with trees, almost all elms. We peddled back home switching sides to follow the shade beneath elm trees which were our favorite tree. A kid develops an affinity for a tree that offers an air conditioned shady ride home.
Elm Trees Along the Stream
I grew up on a farm in Gorham seven miles from Portland. We had rolling hills, open fields, and streams that cut through our property. There were five elm trees that followed the stream through the property, two of the trees were over 80 feet tall.
On the first elm tree at the high end of the stream, my dad hitched an old tire to a long single rope which hung from a very high branch. The tire on its rope had a very long swing and sweep to it. I never figured out how he got the rope up there. I never thought to ask. Dads just did stuff like that, with little fanfare. I’ve thought about his tire swing many times as I’ve attempted to put a swing up suspended from a branch 20 feet off the ground.
Our elm trees were majestic as they snaked down through the field. I miss old Portland, nicknamed “Elm City” for the thousands of elm trees that lined our city streets.
American Elm Cat’s Eye Tourmaline
From the Gary Roe Collection
I bought the gem from an international gem dealer who specializes in gems of the world. A rare and exotic tourmaline cat’s eye. My original thought was to make a ring for myself. While we mine tourmaline here in Maine, never have I seen a tourmaline of this size, 20 carats, color Forest Green, or purity of eye, straight north-south. I bought the gem almost 30 years ago. Every few years I would take it out, admire it, then put it away.
Years ago there was a designer jeweler based in Philadelphia. Over the years I’ve seen a half dozen of his rings, each with a big gem: tourmaline, amethyst, aquamarine, citrine. All were handmade with a heavy wire understructure. The sides of all these rings were decorated with leaves: oak, elm, maple, grape. I’d never seen anything like them. The look, the feel, the patterning, each leaf was clearly laid out by hand, hand pierced and individually layered in and soldered in place. Once you’d seen one of his rings, his creations become immediately recognizable. His name was Mr. Oaks. We know little of Mr. Oaks. We know him only by his body of exquisite work left behind. Because oak leaves seemed to be his favorite, I’ve often wondered if the name Mr. Oaks was assumed because he worked with so many oak leaves.
One of our jewelers has worked on a number of Mr. Oaks’ ring designs. We got into a conversation a few months back about Mr. Oaks’ rings and I was surprised to learn that he too had developed a love for everything created by Mr. Oaks, his high carat green gold, the grace, the flow, the logic of the gem and leaf pattern. I talked about building a collection. My jeweler was enthused. My jeweler said at most he could make eight to ten rings a year.
The first ring made in the Gary Roe Collection, had a SparHawk mint-green-teal Maine tourmaline with Ginko leaves on the sides. We completed it on a Monday, sent an email to 11,000 of our closely connected Cross family customers. The ring was chosen within hours. Our American Elm Cat’s Eye tourmaline is ring number two. Gary Roe is the collections name, a philosophy of gem design, precious metals, construction and crafting. It’s a collaboration of gem cutter, designer and craftsperson. I’m as anxious as I imagine some of you are, to see what his next designs will look like.
Rings in the Gary Roe Collection will be mostly larger, important gems. Part of the reason is the amount of time these hand-crafted designs take to make. There will be no commission projects. Everything made in the Gary Roe Collection will be pieces designed and specially built for our Cross family of email friends who always get the first view of special new creations.