Evaluating Some French Gold Chrysoprase Earrings

France, c. 1825
Earrings, enamelled gold with chrysoprases  V&A Museum

In today’s post I am going to discuss these beautiful earrings, courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum.  Firstly, we know they from between 1819 to 1838 as the V&A tells us they are marked.  That will also be how we know they are French.  But even if we didn’t know this, the style is very much from that era and typically Western European.  Many earrings designed like this from the time would have been called ‘day to night’ earrings and you would have been able to detach the bottom part of the earrings if you choose to create a less showy look; V&A doesn’t tell us if this is the case or not but I strongly suspect it is.

Another thing we can surmise is that the gold is a high karat, at least 18 karat, as this would have been usual for gold jewelry of that era and especially in France. The gold also appears to be rose gold, which would mean it would be alloyed with copper.  Rose gold is typical of the entire 1800s and early part of the 1900s.

The stones are chrysoprases, which are a type of chalcedony.  They are really very common in Victorian era jewelry.  The stones in these earrings appear to be cabochons (unfaceted) but it is possible that the larger stones have some subtle faceted around the edges, it is hard to tell with the way the light is shining on them.  

Another notable thing about these earrings is the way they are bordered with grainti.  This is typical of the era, particularly in France where the technique was first revived.

The metalwork itself is openwork and would have probably been made from separate pieces soldered together.

The enamel work is created with a simple technique, I believe by looking at it is Champlevé enamel work, which would be created by making hollowed out indentations in the metal and then filling with the enamel.

The blue flowers are reminiscent of forget-me-nots which was a common motif in that era and could have been meant to convey a message.

Also, very typically of the era, are the findings, which appear to be the front closing kind.  This kind of closure nearly always places earrings as being from before 1882.  However, it is always wise when evaluating a piece of jewelry to look at all the clues as a whole.

Earrings

V&A Museum

Sources / further reading:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrysoprase

http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O115145/earrings-unknown/

Evaluating a Rolled Gold Griffin Locket

In this post, I’d just like to discuss this rolled gold griffin locket from my personal collection and breakdown how we can evaluate it.

There are several clues which help:

The first prominent clue is the fact that it has a maker’s mark from S & B Lederer & Co. This was a company founded in Providence, Rhode Island in 1878.  They later operated from Fifth Avenue in New York City. They produced gold plated and silver jewelry of good quality. They used a variety of signatures including S.B.& L, sometimes with an inverted triangle and sometimes with a star. They eased operations circa 1931 so we know this piece is from before 1931 and after 1878.

The style of the griffin motif (created with repoussé and chasing, probably using a machine stamp) itself is very ‘Art Nouveau’.  The griffin and mythical creatures in general were popular motifs in the Art Nouveau era.  However, it is the more the recurrent whiplash motif which genuinely place it as in the style of Art Nouveau. So we know that it is at least after the date of 1890, when Art Nouveau first came about and it is likely to be from before 1920, when Art Nouveau styles ceased to be the height of fashion (and we know it is not a replica because of the marker’s mark).

There are other clues to look at.  The barrel clasp on the necklace is indicative of a piece from before the 1940s, as after that date necklaces were made with the circular clasp we are familiar with.

Another clue is the rose hue of the gold.  Rose gold was very popular in the Victorian era. The gold actually tests as 9k rolled gold or gold fill. This places it after the date of 1844 when rolled gold was first introduced to the USA (I will discuss rolled gold more in a future post).  The fact that it is 9k rolled gold suggests that it from the Victorian era as 9k was very common in mid-priced jewelry like this.   But the biggest clue is that it has no hallmark for the gold purity. This places it from before 1906 as purity marks were required in the USA after that date, even for gold fill.

Some other clues to look at are the relatively large link size on the belcher or cable chain.  It was likely that although the links of this necklace were machine made, they might well have been assembled by hand. As mechanization improved, chains became finer and had smaller links. The length of the chain (it is 17 inches long, by 1920 longer chains were in fashion) also suggest it is from the late-Victorian era, as does the relatively large size of the pendant itself.

The glass paste gems are in imitation of diamonds and diamonds were very popular in the late Victorian era.  In addition, they appear to be foiled and possibly Swarovski Crystals, which place them after 1892.  They are cut, rather than molded, which make them higher quality and also indicate that they might be Swarovski Crystals.

So, all in all, we can say that this Art Nouveau 9k rolled gold American locket and belcher chain with glass paste gems is most likely from between the years of 1892 and 1906. As they were slightly later in adopting Art Nouveau style in the USA, it is likely to be towards the later end of these dates.

Evaluating an Enameled Holly Brooch

Brooch

France, c. 1865
Enameled gold and coral brooch
V&A Museum

Today, I’d just like to discuss this one piece of jewelry.  A mid-Victorian era piece, the style is Naturalistic which was a popular style throughout the Victorian era (and many would say the forerunner to The Art Nouveau Movement).  We know that it is from before the date of 1890, because of the type of C-Catch fastening on the back, and also because it has a ‘tube’ style hinge, rather than ‘ball’. The fact that the pin extends outside the edge of the piece, places it more towards the mid-century, rather than the end of the century.

Brooch

The coral beads are cabochon (unfaceted) and would be completely natural and undyed. The color of the coral is salmon.  There are fine gold pins attaching the coral beads to the piece.  The holly leaves themselves are enameled over a fine engraving, in a kind of enamel technique known as Basse-Taille.

Although the Victorian and Albert Museum don’t tell us the karat of the gold or anything about the hallmarks, they do tell us it is French.  This means that it probably 18 karat or more, although if it was meant for export it might be less.

It appears that it is constructed with one central, quite thick wire, with other small wires soldered on to it. These would have been shaped into the form you see.  After this, sheet gold would have been taken and cut into the shapes of the leaves and then would have been formed into the dimensional shapes with repoussé and chasing. They probably would have been enameled before soldering onto the wire form.

The style of brooch itself is a bodice brooch and would have been worn in the center of the dress.

19th century people, particularly in France, assigned meaning to every kind of plant or flower.  The meaning assigned to holly was ‘Defense, Domestic Happiness and Am I forgotten’.  At some point in our history, holly did come to be associated with Christmas, so it could also be that this brooch was considered a ‘Christmas brooch’.

A truly lovely piece!