Ernest Thesiger’s



Mercury Glass

“I have a shelf all round my dining room about a foot from the ceiling and there my lustre lives, out of reach of possible breakages, or so I thought.  During the war I took every piece down and stored them in safety.  When the bombing stopped they went back to form a glittering frieze which brightens the room.  But, alas, I didn’t realise that the foundations of the shelves on which my treasures stood had been weakened by the vibration of the guns, and one day I heard a terrifying crash as one third of the shelf came away from the wall and with it about twenty pieces of glass which lay in smithereens on the floor, among them some of my much valued ‘Varnish London’ pieces, which though heavier and more solid than the fairings, were too badly damaged to be repaired.  In order to console myself I told myself that the fewer pieces there were in existence of this particular make the more valuable the survivors would be.”


“I have always had a weakness for rings and have more than once been asked why I wear such large ones.  My answer always is ‘Because I have large hands.’  I was so excited by the first ring I ever had - a present from my mother, that I refused ever to take it off - even when bathing in the sea - but the sea won and off it came, never to be seen again.  I hadn’t learnt my lesson and the second one - a gold snake with small diamond eyes which my father gave me - disappeared in exactly the same way.  But my favorite aunt had the ditto of it and this she gave me and I have it to this day...

Often I am laughed at when I first am given a part, because I say at once - ‘What rings shall I wear?’  Luckily I have some hundred and fifty to choose from and I can generally find one that suits the character.”

Ernest Thesiger, from his unpublished memoir, I Was.

Ernest Thesiger, from his unpublished memoir, I Was.

Ernest at home with his mercury glass and wearing two of the rings from his collection, c.1950s.  Photo:  University of Bristol/ArenaPal;

The Tatler, October 9, 1957