Here is an incredibly beautiful little brooch and not only exemplifies the style of the turn of the 19th century, but also is a wonderfully personal sentiment of mourning.

Firstly, let’s look at the shape. This piece is square, but also has a contour to its surface, sloping downwards from east to west. It’s remarkable that the bevelled glass follows this line so well, as this curve is quite difficult to fit. Obviously, the setting helps this, but it’s still quite intricate in its simplicity.

Take into account that this piece was made in 1805, a time when only five years previous, the Neoclassical style was in full bloom and a scene with the mourning woman next to a tomb, surrounded by the weeping widow was commonplace. This piece shows that very strong transition to present the hair as the memento. The use of enamel and its reliance as the artistic theme is quite bold, with this clean, straight edge and geometric shape becoming one of the true styles of the early 19th century (especially during the Regency). Use of stones was becoming more popular and simple shapes, such as ovals and rectangles, look for more on this in a future post.

But what are the two most wonderful things about it? Firstly, the impossibly personal sentiment on the front. ‘His hair / wove here / his memory / in my soul’ – what a beautiful statement of love? And a very genuine one, as this was not a common memorial dedication, it’s not generic, it’s speaking directly from the person who commissioned it. To go with this, the white enamel is the second most wonderful thing about it. The poor lad who died was aged only 19 (in an era of high mortality, this isn’t terribly young), but the white enamel speaks of his being unmarried/purity/virginity.

White enamel on a piece usually commands a greater premium, these pieces are harder to come by and the messages are often more unique to the wearer. It’s not a general rule, but if you have white enamel, you can often suggest that the piece is of a touch higher quality than the mass produced black enamel pieces of its contemporary time. Certainly not a rule to abide by as gospel, I’ve seen many reasonable, but not great, white enamelled pieces, but for a person who is more in tune with the sentiment over the construction, they do speak volumes.

Courtesy: Sarah Nehama
Country: USA
Year: 1806

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