Is It, Or Isn’t It? Heart Pendant – First Impressions

April 7, 2011

One of the joys and perils of knowing a little bit about old jewellery is that people want to know what they have. Though Antiques Roadshow makes it look very easy to spot a piece and be able to wax lyrical about it for hours on end, the truth of the matter is that a lot of research goes into a single viewing. Personally, I like to be certain about a piece and I can often be wrong, so in the interest of opening the door for all us amateur historians, let’s take a quick look at this pendant and try to reach some conclusions.

Stylistically, it lends itself to the first half 18th century, the lack of facets and the curve to the crystal is more common with that era, as opposed to the sharper edges of the earlier times. Then there is the conflict of the cipher inside, which is more common with earlier pieces, but for the period of 1680-1740, that was quite common, so it’s not really a conflict at all.

You’ve got the fleur-de-lis forming together the crown, which is rather nice, though they are a little ill-defined for a piece of high quality, though that could simply be the pictures.

Also, the wire-work to the surrounding gold is rather simply done in that it is uneven and forms heavier at the bottom in the dollop of gold.

With the arrow and quiver, you’ve got the motifs for mortality, so that combined with the initials up front makes it quite likely a mourning piece. The crown may denote either a literal or figurative connection with royalty (to be considered royalty or actual aristocracy) and all in all, I rather like it.

It’s obviously had a bit of a life as well, I think the imperfections make it special, but as far as a ‘Georgian Heart’ goes, I think it fits the category well.

But, is any of that correct? This piece was submitted by Rob Jackson and this is the first time I’ve seen it. I’ve made some rather grand statements and I’d prefer to back a lot of it up with proper evidence. What are your thoughts?

3 Responses to “Is It, Or Isn’t It? Heart Pendant – First Impressions”

  1. My first impression on this pendant is that it has been re-purposed from at least two older pieces. I say this purely from a design perspective, as I cannot see its construction.

    The top part of the pendant looks very much like the top of a wax seal, or ‘sceau’ as they are called in France. I have used them in my antique assemblage jewelry designs and have bought and sold a few over the past 3-4 years. The fleur de lys would suggest to me French origin as I do not see it much on pieces of non-French origin, though this is not impossible.

    The lack of finesse in the execution of the fleur de lys design would suggest to me a more practical original purpose for this piece, rather than being purely decorative – hence my thoughts that it could be from a wax seal. A wax seal did not always have to be the most perfect piece of metalwork ever made as its purpose was foremost functional, and sometimes also aesthetic.

    The looping border of the heart is a style I have seen a lot on early 1900s French jewelry, particularly ‘portes photos’ or photo/picture pendants. Also in the late 1800s/early 1900s there was a lot of Georgian revival jewelry around. In France they produced many pieces in remembrance of Napoleon I, and the Louis XVI style also enjoyed a revival.

    That being said, I recently acquired an early 1800s (circa 1790/1810) French mourning locket in 18K gold with a looping border, though the loops were threaded through seed pearls.

    Is it 18K gold? If 18K it would suggest an earlier origin to me, whereas 9K or 14k would suggest later.

    I’m not an antique dealer, I’m a jewelry designer. I have handled hundreds of pieces of antique French jewelry over the past few years put forward this assessment as an alternative to it being a very old piece.

    • Melanie, this is a superb appraisal of the piece; if you would like to work with me on an article to discern the honesty of a particular jewel, I would like that very much.

  2. Melanie Dooley Says:

    My pleasure Hayden. Happy to contribute anytime. In fact I am still working on an article you mentioned to me some time ago – about my collection of antique assemblage jewelry designs using mourning jewlery – I’m nearly done.

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