Gilding the Silly – the Most Expensive COVID Mask in the World

One of the most pressing questions of our time, obviously, is: what would Scrooge McDuck do if he had to live in the world of COVID-19?  Do you honestly think that he would be hopping into his massive vault of filthy coins, paddling around in them and just soaking the virus in through his pores?  Of course not.

First of all – and we won’t dwell on this, but it has to be said – McDuck would be severely brain damaged or dead if he did that once, because coins don’t displace like water does.  But second of all – and far more importantly – McDuck didn’t get to where he was by being stupid enough to bathe in the ‘Rona.  So, what would he do with all his literally filthy lucre?  He’d buy a $1.5 million coronavirus mask made of gold and encrusted with diamonds, naturally.  And if you’re thinking that this sounds right about on par with the fictional character, you’re in for a shock: somebody’s actually doing this.

In Motza, Israel, Isaac Levy – owner of the cleverly-named Yvel jewelry company (you see what he did there, right?) – has been commissioned to create the most expensive coronavirus mask in the world.  According to the AP, the two conditions for the sale were that, and that he be able to finish it by the end of the year.  Levy wouldn’t identify who was making this purchase, but said that it was a Chinese businessman living in the U.S.  So…that’s great.  The mask is set to be made from 18-karat white gold, and will have 3,600 white and black diamonds.  Oh, and because it’s a COVID mask and all, it will also be fitted with N99 filters.  One might wonder if those are to make sure the virus can’t get in, or that all the smug won’t leak out.

The mask is going to weigh over half a pound, so even if the owner’s head doesn’t hang forward out of embarrassment, it will almost certainly do so from neck fatigue.  But the practicality of the thing doesn’t seem to be what’s most of the mind of the investor, and Levy is more than willing to make sure that he gets what it is he’s wanting out of it.  “Money doesn’t buy everything,” says Levy, “but if it can buy a very expensive COVID-19 mask and the guy wants to wear it and walk around and get attention, he should be happy with that.”  Fair point, of course.  One of the byproducts – for good or ill – of the free market system is that a certain amount of wealth-preening is going to happen.  You might not like it, but it’s just another part of the things you do like, if you like capitalism (and let’s face it; it’s a pretty minor price to pay for living in a free society where the opportunity for upward mobility is spread in all directions toward every individual).

Furthermore, Levy points out what might be the most important (and certainly least eye-roll-worthy) detail surrounding the whole business: “I am happy that this mask gave us enough work for our employees to be able to provide their jobs in very challenging times like these times right now,” he said.  Game, set, match?  The modern view of wealthy people as evil, greedy jerks who ride roughshod over the backs of the poor is easy enough to understand with a story like this at first glance – but perhaps only at first glance.  Assuming that the wealthy Chinese businessman in question didn’t make his millions illegally, one has to admit that even in the creation of something so wildly pretentious, he is providing jobs to people who need them.  It would be ridiculous not to point out that the $1.5 million could be used to far better ends than it’s being used – this is a no-brainer of the highest order.  Nevertheless, the money belongs to the businessman: if he wanted to put it all on a giant pallet and light it afire à la the Joker in The Dark Knight, he’d be completely within his rights to do so.

Ultimately, it seems likely that the piece will someday end up in a museum somewhere, a testament to the wilder elements of what was already a wild time.  One has to imagine – and not without a little bit of a shiver running up the spine – future historians uncovering this thing somewhere someday, and what sort of wonderful tales they’ll tell about how utterly insane the early 21st century was.