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LIMITED EDITIONS – TOUCHSTONE LTD. UK 1980-1985

 

The Beginning

Touchstone, founded by the Doultons, was an outgrowth of a commission it obtained to create a series of limited editions as artistic gifts for important Middle Easterners.  The Islamic Hadith (99 Words for God) was chosen in developing the theme.  A renown Arab calligrapher was retained to devise a series of sculptures depicting the more evocative of these 99 words such as: Trust, Hope,Charity, etc.  These were cast in very small numbers in 18 carat gold and mounted on a base of black onyx.

 

The Doultons were then asked to devise a board game depicting the global assets of one of the world’s richest men.  To our knowledge Triopoly was the first board game created which was derived from the base rules of Monopoly.  Triopoly won the London Telegraph’s Game of the year award for 1979.   Sixty units were crafted with gilded gold pieces and it was packaged in finest harness leather.

 

Based upon these two successes, Touchstone was launched in 1980 by Elaine and a staff of three.  It was possibly the first, or at the least one of the very first, company devoted to marketing high-end limited editions solely through direct response marketing techniques.  Editions costing in excess of $10,000 each were successfully sold through a letter of solicitation and an elegant brochure using an American Express Gold Card mailing list.

 

The Legendary Dhu’l Faqar

Touchstone designers personally visited Helmut Nickel, of  New York’s  Metropolitan Museum, a leading authority on Sassanian  swords;  the curator of Swords and Armour at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England; and the master of ancient Islamic weapons of the Topkopi, Istanbul, in determining  the recreation  of the Dhu’l Faqar. The Dhu’l Faqar is the  legendary magical sword of ‘two rings’, and equates to England’s Excalibur in the Middle East.

 

Wilkinson Sword, holder of the Elizabeth II Royal Warrant, was commissioned to craft the Dhu’l Faqar sword.  Each sword was manufactured as a practical fighting weapon using techniques developed by Wilkinson over their two hundred and fifty-year history.  Each sold for the equivalent of slightly more $10,000 US.  The very first order Touchstone received was from Chase Bank. The order was for 17 swords and the letter of credit issues was for $186,000.  These swords were personally inscribed and gifted to seventeen Middle Eastern rulers and royalty.

 

Sword of Justice

Touchstone’s second sword is the most venerated symbol of English jurisprudence.  The Blind Justice statue above London’s Old Bailey Court holds a sword aloft and it is called  the “Sword of Justice”.  The original of this sword was smithed in 1542, and it hangs in the court of the senior presiding judge.  At the opening of court each court day the Clerk of Court ceremoniously marches this sword through the corridors and down the center aisle of  “Courtroom Number One” where it hangs through out the procedings of the day.

 

Under the auspices of the then Lord Mayor of London, Sir Christopher Leaver, and the City Corporation of London, Touchstone was allowed to remove the original sword with Wilkinson  disassembling and  recasting its parts to create a faithful reproduction.  The Lord Mayor to the Chief Justice of the United States, Warren Burger, was gifted sword #1/350 on his official visit to London.  A replica of the Sword of Justice edition can be viewed at the Wilkinson Museum in London.

 

Prince Charles and Lady Diana Wedding Sword

Just 30 days before the wedding, in strategic alliance Wilkinson Sword, Touchstone was chosen by Buckingham Palace to offer the official wedding sword of HRH Prince Charles and Lady Diana to collectors in non-Commonwealth nations.  All of Touchstone’s prescribed numbers were sold to its existing customers, just from a 8”X 10” color transparency and a personal letter written by Touchstone.

 

Medallia

Under the auspices of M. Delahaye, Directeur General of Le Monnaie de Paris (the official Mint of France), which dates back to Charlemagne and the oldest mint in the world, Touchstone commissioned the two largest commemorative medallions ever produced.  Weighing a full kilo (1000 grams/2.2 pounds) of pure silver and gold with diamonds, each medallion measured 7 inches in diameter.  It took 20 hits of a 20-ton Kiesselbach and Baum press on medallions heated to 900 degrees each time, over a 20- day period to produce the deep relief found in Touchstone’s medallions.

 

The medallions were presented in a hand-blown leaded crystal presentation case prepared by the Daum Crystal Company, England, the largest hand blown object created by them up to that point.  Some  editions were presented in embossed cubes of black leather with gold decorative bands.  The leather boxes were fashioned by a family of Florentine craftsmen whose workshops have stood at the base of the River Arno at Ponte Veccio Bridge since the Renaissance.

 

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia presented the Medallion pictured to special guests.

 

Sculptures

The Spirit of the Wind was crafted by Spencer Hodge, the well known wildlife artist. This was his first sculpting commission.  The original clay work was done in a field of Arabian Horses in the French Commargue.  It was then carried 300 miles to the Fonderia Venturi Arte in Cadriano Italy, the foundry of choice of Picasso and other great contemporary artists.  For one month Hodge slept in the studio assigned to him by the foundry where he completed his work and until the first pour.  Like most Touchstone commissions, the Spirit of the Wind pushed the boundaries in lost wax casting as it was cast as a single piece.

 

The success of the Spirit of the Wind encouraged Touchstone to commission the South African Sculptor, Emiel Hartman, to create The Falcon and Gauntlet.  Measuring almost a meter in height (36”) and weighting 25 kilos (60 pounds), this work was cast in Pietra Santa, one of Italy’s oldest and most prestigious foundries (Henry Moore and Frederic Remington). While Venturi Arte employs space-age techniques, the foundry at Pietra Santa has changed little over the last 350 years.  Many of its tools date back to the 16th century.

 

Original Oil Portraits by RA Artists

Touchstone entered into a marketing alliance with the National Portraiture Association, comprised of 21 noted artists and members of England’s prestigious Royal Academy of Art.  Each artist granted his or her talents on a fixed contract basis.  Using photographs provided by their clients, Touchstone sold original oil portraits of a number of Middle Eastern rulers which hang in Foreign Embassies and official residences.

 

The Touchstone Legacy

The vast majority of Touchstone’s customers were wealthy individuals or major corporations; all had high expectations.  Suffice it to say that most were repeat customers and Touchstone in its five-year history never had a single item returned because it was unsatisfactory or less than anticipated.

 

Touchstone’s success was based upon producing very high quality with very few editions targeted to a select customer.  By 1985 there a number of imitators entered the marketplace.  The market for high-end limited editions soon became over saturated and limited edition offers accompanied almost all gold credit card monthly bills.  

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