On Saturday July 11th, 2009, The First Lady of Ghana, Mrs Ernestina Mills presented The First Lady, Michelle Obama, a Backes & Strauss timepiece known as "The Star of Ghana" worth $48,000. This really was a lovely gesture, except the people of Ghana were slightly perplexed, to say the least, as to why the expense of this gift was only topped by Saudi Arabia's King Abdallah's $132,000 ruby and diamond jewelry gift.
This information came to light, on January 18th, 2011, when the State Department released the Federal Register itemizing the gifts given to President Obama, First Lady and Family.
Government officials cannot keep the gifts, but the gifts are accepted as "non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S government". Gifts to the President and First family go to the National Archives.
As it turns out this gift was not given by Ghana's First Lady, as itemized in the State Register, (see above)
In fact the government of Ghana states that "The First Lady of the Republic of Ghana, Mrs Ernestina Naadu Mills, did NOT present Mrs. Michelle Obama with a Backes & Strauss wristwatch valued at $48,000, when President Barrack Obama and his wife paid a state visit to Ghana in the second week of July 2009. During the visit of President Obama and his wife, through the Government, all kinds of gifts were presented to them. One such gift is the said Backes & Strauss wristwatch which was presented to Mrs. Obama on behalf of Ghana by B&S And Africa Watch Trading Co Ltd (representatives of B&S in Ghana)."
Backes & Strauss London website states " Backes & Strauss London, in association with The Africa Watch Trading Co Ltd and on behalf of The Republic of Ghana proudly present THE STAR of Ghana, a unique and one off piece from their Regent Collection. As Masters of diamonds since 1789, Backes & Strauss the world's oldest diamond company craft and create exclusive watches, combining art and science, light and time." (No mention of the First Lady of Ghana)
I will not delve further into the controversy since I am eager to describe this watch, but click here should you want to know more about the exact details of the story.
I must admit the watch is a treasure, and although embroiled in controversy,is a lovely representation of Ghana. The flag of Ghana is situated boldly at the 6'o'clock position displaying the Pan African Colors. Ghana, after all, in 1957 was the first sub-Saharan African country to gain independence. The Red symbolizes the blood shed to achieve independence, Gold represents Ghana's large amount of natural resources, and green is the richness of Ghana's agriculture. The striking black five pointed lodestar is
“symbol of African emancipation and unity in the struggle against colonialism." -Ghanaian Flag Designer: Mrs. Theodosia Salome Okoh
Within the flag is a moon phase complication, and below the 12 'o'clock is a large date aperture. A rotor equipped with a platinum segment winds the mainspring. The automatic movement is housed in a 18k Rose gold case. A bezel studded with three rows of comprising of 288 diamonds and weighing 2.35 carats surround the beautifully designed oval dial marked by hand polished rose gold Arabic Numerals. Backes & Strauss signature "Jewel in a Crown" is marked by a .09 carat ideal cut round diamond set upon the crown.
Thus, this watch baring the vibrant flag of Ghana, rests in the National Archives, and will remain there from year to year and from president to president, no matter who presented it. It is a gift from Ghana.