Often when appraising jewels, it’s easy to lose sight of their fashionable purpose, of promoting an aesthetic that is beautiful and enhances the nature of the wearer. This particular piece is easy to stand back from and simply admire.

Spanish sentimental pendant 1700

This particular piece is said to have its origins in Spain or northern Italy (possibly Milan), however, its composition is consistent with pieces on the Continent and in the UK for its time.

The regal nature of this piece, extenuated by the green and white enamel transcend the latter basis of symbolism and are used for the purpose of being opulent adornments to the hair memento underneath crystal.

Spanish 1700 Pendant Enamel

The fleur-de-lis pattern surrounding gives credence to the Continental flavour of the piece, but certainly the most extraordinary is the size, the use of the green enamel and the pearls which all indicate its source.

Courtesy: Sarah Nehama

Further Reading:
> Revisiting a Pearl and Blue Glass/Enamel Brooch: How Trade Opened Up New Possibilities in the 18th Century
> Louis XVI Royalist Supporter French Ring
> The Further the Distance the Tighter the Knot; Eternity and Romantic Symbolism on a French Sepia Miniature

I’ve written quite a bit about memento mori, it seems to be one of those subjects that is as fascinating as it is polarising. Why is that so? Well, there are so many different connotations involved with the symbolism and that seems to be the crossroads (pardon the veiled pun) of what defines these magical pieces.

If you look to my post from Saturday about the 18th Century Skull on Pendant, then you will see the other end of the scale, which is clearly not a representation of death, but rather the statement of living. However, today we look at the other end of the spectrum with this very rare and very high quality ring from the collection of Marielle Soni is most certainly constructed with the intent of death and mourning. To discern this, firstly let’s look at the time and place of when it was created and why this was so popular.

c.1680-1700 Memento Mori Mourning Ring

This piece was constructed c.1680-1700 and we have many ways to check the validity of this. Firstly, we have the shank itself and note the embellishments. Often, pieces like this have lost their enamel inlay and are quite worn down, but this one is a perfect representation of how it was from when it was constructed. Note the Baroque influence in the design and how this would influence pieces of contemporary and later times. Particularly, the society in which this ring was created was dealing with the new found stability in the government due to the Restoration and from this, industry was finding new ways to create a niche in producing items for a society that was becoming upwardly mobile in ways that had not been seen since the Roman era. Appropriating popular art styles, such as that of the all-pervasive Baroque, and using its influence in products was (and still is) only a logical step in simply selling an item.

c.1680-1700 Memento Mori Mourning Ring

And to follow on from this, we have the skull and crossbones underneath the faceted crystal, an obvious choice for popular symbolism that was now quite heavily associated with death and grief. Gone was the clear establishment of a class that could afford to flaunt its wealth, standard of living and changed were the classes below that could not afford to live in such an almost narcissistic paradigm. Wearing a jewel to show that you will be judged and to live life for all its benefits is quite a grand statement during times with high mortality rates and a more feudal-based system of government, but during the 1670s-80s, there’s a strong shift to higher industry, specialised work and education. Politically, England was recovering from a civil war and the reinstatement of the kingship in Charles II in 1660, the Great Plague of London in 1665 and the Great Fire of London in 1666. There was a high mortality rate and Charles II was only beginning the process of the Restoration. Hence, pieces like this could allow themselves to become more commonplace, the symbols of death could be appropriated for an industry that was reacting to the execution of a king and a subsequent civil war, it could pick up on the nuanced tokens of affection that became popular from this and it could produce a product that was relatively easier to produce and almost the same to sell.

Read the rest of this entry »

There are so many ways with which to understand a jewel and place it in its context. Let’s look again at this brooch and see what we can find…

I’ve often made mention that one of the most prolific periods for jewellery experimentation in design came about during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This isn’t to discredit earlier or more modern periods, but there are simply moments in history when socially, culturally, financially and politically, a particular movement flourishes. It is during this time that a confluence of factors caused the outcome of experimentation and styles in jewellery, or at least, a mainstream cultural identity, be it Prussian, British, American or Italian, emerged with styles that started are clearly recognisable. Much of this has to do with higher production levels, greater social access to wealth/cultural mobility and advanced transit and communications, which not only broke down established borders, but upheld cultural uniqueness within different geographic parameters. Such as Continental travel had opened up for a society that now could focus on recreation and through this simple means, culture started to transcend borders that were traditionally drawn politically and culturally.

Blue Pearl Brooch

Forgive the long winded preamble, but now we can look at this wonderful brooch and how its style fits directly into these paradigms. The first thing to note is the excellent use of the variety of pearls, which for this style, as you will see in further examples, simply shows two things has occurred;

  1. There was a greater access to pearls through higher trade routes to the East (China and Japan) for potential use as a material and
  2. Styles has started to embrace material over classical depictions, a shift away from the obvious Neoclassical ideal.

The brooch is set on blue, foil-backed glass, in the same style as contemporary miniature portraits, so the method still remains adapted and not wholly unique to this particular style of brooch. For this manner of construction, often the most common type was to set the pearls on ‘a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass and set under a domed glass cover.’

As for the style itself, using pearls on blue glass or enamel to depict Neoclassical scenes and symbolism was quite popular throughout the Continent and England. Particularly, this style can be found in pieces ranging from c.1790-1820 from the northern region of France and what is today Germany. Allegorical scenes, often transcending the ecclesiastical undercurrent of many painted Neoclassical scenes, are quite prevalent, focusing directly on the personal love sentiment instead. This is due to regional style, contemporary culture and religious influence in the art directly.

This style of pearls on blue glass or enamel is used heavily in sentimental jewels and can be seen in these further examples from the British Museum:


“Oval gold brooch with seed-pearls, in the form of a winged cupid with a lamb, on a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster; laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass and set under a domed glass cover in a gold mount within a pearl border. Inscribed in French.”


“Marquise-shaped pendant with seed-pearls, in the form of sheep and lambs under a tree, on a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass and set under a domed glass cover in a gold mount with blue and white enamel and a tooled gold border. Compartment on reverse with plaited hair under glass.”


“Gold finger-ring with seed-pearls, in the form of a spray of flowers, on a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster; laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass under a domed glass cover in a gold mounted oval-shaped bezel with a pearl border.”


“Marquise-shaped pendant with seed-pearls, in the form of two birds carrying a knotted ribbon, flowers and wheat-ears, on a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster, laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass and set under a domed glass cover in a silver mount with a gold backing, with a border of pastes set in silver and a tooled gold inner rim.”

Blue Pearl Brooch

Upon the back of this brooch, we have a magnificent inscription that is quite personal for a dedication:

‘This Brooch was occasionally
worn for more than 40 years by James Saunders Esq who died on the
24th September, 1831 in the 79th year of his Age’

To state that a jewel was worn be a gentleman is firstly unusual (rather than directly dedicated to) and then there is the statement of the brooch being ‘occasionally worn’. From here, we move into supposition about the wearer. Why did he wear it? Was this a dedication for someone else or a personal sentiment? Who received the brooch after his passing to inscribe this upon it? Some wonderful questions that may never be answered, but fascinating ones all the same.

I have a few examples of this style in my collection, so when I finally get them out and properly photographed, I’ll continue the look at the pearl/blue phenomenon!

Courtesy: Penny Rushby-Smith

Jean Petitot Louis XIV Enamel Pendant

I’ll let the brilliant Barbara Robbins speak a little about this beautiful piece:

“Here is an enamelled portrait miniature of Louis XIV, the Sun King. I bought it from Michele, and of course, she said it was in the style of Jean Petitot, but my friend, Simon Millard, was with me at the time, and he immediately spied it and he thinks it is a Petitot. Jean Petitot was one of the main enamelers of royalty (1607-1691).  Anyway, if this is a Petitot, of course a later frame has been made specifically for it, and of course, we do know that was sometimes the case.  The frame is what I love. I love the “bow” motif with the ruby, and the white enamel reads “Amez oui vous Aime,” or “I love those who have loved me.”  I imagine the back contained  a crystal and maybe some hair, but sadly that is gone. I believe, on my next visit, I will ask Michele to have her jeweler to cut some glass for the back.”

Jean Petitot Louis XIV Enamel Pendant

For a collector of the memorial and sentimental, it’s quite common to find white, black and blue enamels, but when you find a contrasting colour, you have to take notice.

With this very early 19th century pendant, the gorgeous red guilloche enamel surrounds the hair memento and is generously surrounded with paste. In this case, the sentiment is purely love, red meaning passion. If you were to look at the hair inside, notice the elegant ribbon bow entwining the simple palette worked hair, almost as if it had been cropped off the head of the lover and simply placed inside (while obviously there’s a bit more work involved than that).

Due to the use of this for its sentiment and the tight weave of the hairwork in the back, this piece matches closely with other French pieces of the time, so it wouldn’t be difficult to make this assumption.

I’ve often made mention that one of the most prolific periods for jewellery experimentation in design came about during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This isn’t to discredit earlier or more modern periods, but there are simply moments in history when socially, culturally, financially and politically, a particular movement flourishes. It is during this time that a confluence of factors caused the outcome of experimentation and styles in jewellery, or at least, a mainstream cultural identity, be it Prussian, British, American or Italian, emerged with styles that started are clearly recognisable. Much of this has to do with higher production levels, greater social access to wealth/cultural mobility and advanced transit and communications, which not only broke down established borders, but upheld cultural uniqueness within different geographic parameters. Such as Continental travel had opened up for a society that now could focus on recreation and through this simple means, culture started to transcend borders that were traditionally drawn politically and culturally.

Blue Pearl Brooch

Forgive the long winded preamble, but now we can look at this wonderful brooch and how its style fits directly into these paradigms. The first thing to note is the excellent use of the variety of pearls, which for this style, as you will see in further examples, simply shows two things has occurred;

  1. There was a greater access to pearls through higher trade routes to the East (China and Japan) for potential use as a material and
  2. Styles has started to embrace material over classical depictions, a shift away from the obvious Neoclassical ideal.

The brooch is set on blue, foil-backed glass, in the same style as contemporary miniature portraits, so the method still remains adapted and not wholly unique to this particular style of brooch. For this manner of construction, often the most common type was to set the pearls on ‘a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass and set under a domed glass cover.’

As for the style itself, using pearls on blue glass or enamel to depict Neoclassical scenes and symbolism was quite popular throughout the Continent and England. Particularly, this style can be found in pieces ranging from c.1790-1820 from the northern region of France and what is today Germany. Allegorical scenes, often transcending the ecclesiastical undercurrent of many painted Neoclassical scenes, are quite prevalent, focusing directly on the personal love sentiment instead. This is due to regional style, contemporary culture and religious influence in the art directly.

This style of pearls on blue glass or enamel is used heavily in sentimental jewels and can be seen in these further examples from the British Museum:


“Oval gold brooch with seed-pearls, in the form of a winged cupid with a lamb, on a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster; laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass and set under a domed glass cover in a gold mount within a pearl border. Inscribed in French.”


“Marquise-shaped pendant with seed-pearls, in the form of sheep and lambs under a tree, on a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass and set under a domed glass cover in a gold mount with blue and white enamel and a tooled gold border. Compartment on reverse with plaited hair under glass.”


“Gold finger-ring with seed-pearls, in the form of a spray of flowers, on a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster; laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass under a domed glass cover in a gold mounted oval-shaped bezel with a pearl border.”


“Marquise-shaped pendant with seed-pearls, in the form of two birds carrying a knotted ribbon, flowers and wheat-ears, on a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster, laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass and set under a domed glass cover in a silver mount with a gold backing, with a border of pastes set in silver and a tooled gold inner rim.”

Blue Pearl Brooch

Upon the back of this brooch, we have a magnificent inscription that is quite personal for a dedication:

‘This Brooch was occasionally
worn for more than 40 years by James Saunders Esq who died on the
24th September, 1831 in the 79th year of his Age’

To state that a jewel was worn be a gentleman is firstly unusual (rather than directly dedicated to) and then there is the statement of the brooch being ‘occasionally worn’. From here, we move into supposition about the wearer. Why did he wear it? Was this a dedication for someone else or a personal sentiment? Who received the brooch after his passing to inscribe this upon it? Some wonderful questions that may never be answered, but fascinating ones all the same.

I have a few examples of this style in my collection, so when I finally get them out and properly photographed, I’ll continue the look at the pearl/blue phenomenon!

Courtesy: Penny Rushby-Smith

Because I can, here’s a sneak peek at my newest addition to the family and something you’ll be seeing a large article about in the near future!

“A rare early 18th century Memento Mori band gold known as a skeletal, as the whole length of the skeleton is employed on the outside of the hoop, with other emblems. The earliest known example is dated 1659. This ring is enamelled in black with a full skeleton, twin hearts for love and an hourglass, symbolic of the passage of time and the brevity of life. It is size J [US 4 and 5/8] and the band is 1/8 of an inch wide. A rare ring which has survived in amazingly good condition with enamel intact.”

I’ve written quite a bit about memento mori, it seems to be one of those subjects that is as fascinating as it is polarising. Why is that so? Well, there are so many different connotations involved with the symbolism and that seems to be the crossroads (pardon the veiled pun) of what defines these magical pieces.

If you look to my post from Saturday about the 18th Century Skull on Pendant, then you will see the other end of the scale, which is clearly not a representation of death, but rather the statement of living. However, today we look at the other end of the spectrum with this very rare and very high quality ring from the collection of Marielle Soni is most certainly constructed with the intent of death and mourning. To discern this, firstly let’s look at the time and place of when it was created and why this was so popular.

c.1680-1700 Memento Mori Mourning Ring

This piece was constructed c.1680-1700 and we have many ways to check the validity of this. Firstly, we have the shank itself and note the embellishments. Often, pieces like this have lost their enamel inlay and are quite worn down, but this one is a perfect representation of how it was from when it was constructed. Note the Baroque influence in the design and how this would influence pieces of contemporary and later times. Particularly, the society in which this ring was created was dealing with the new found stability in the government due to the Restoration and from this, industry was finding new ways to create a niche in producing items for a society that was becoming upwardly mobile in ways that had not been seen since the Roman era. Appropriating popular art styles, such as that of the all-pervasive Baroque, and using its influence in products was (and still is) only a logical step in simply selling an item.

c.1680-1700 Memento Mori Mourning Ring

And to follow on from this, we have the skull and crossbones underneath the faceted crystal, an obvious choice for popular symbolism that was now quite heavily associated with death and grief. Gone was the clear establishment of a class that could afford to flaunt its wealth, standard of living and changed were the classes below that could not afford to live in such an almost narcissistic paradigm. Wearing a jewel to show that you will be judged and to live life for all its benefits is quite a grand statement during times with high mortality rates and a more feudal-based system of government, but during the 1670s-80s, there’s a strong shift to higher industry, specialised work and education. Politically, England was recovering from a civil war and the reinstatement of the kingship in Charles II in 1660, the Great Plague of London in 1665 and the Great Fire of London in 1666. There was a high mortality rate and Charles II was only beginning the process of the Restoration. Hence, pieces like this could allow themselves to become more commonplace, the symbols of death could be appropriated for an industry that was reacting to the execution of a king and a subsequent civil war, it could pick up on the nuanced tokens of affection that became popular from this and it could produce a product that was relatively easier to produce and almost the same to sell.

Read the rest of this entry »

Memento Mori Pendant Fob Silver Painted Skull EnamelOne of the greatest misconceptions and one of the reasons why the term ‘faux’ is applied to a piece of jewellery happens when there’s not a great understanding of a piece or the reason for its creation.

If the piece was made to deceive the person buying it by being constructed as a forgery or replica, then there is ample reason for it to be justified as a fake. However, many times, it’s a lack of the simple education surrounding the knowledge of a piece that can change the perspective of a dealer or collector and reappropriate the piece to be more realistic to its intent.

Read the rest of this entry »

Charles I Miniature Pendant with Pearl

I don’t think there’s enough that I can say about these Charles I pieces. To me, they represent the inception of an industry that certainly was on the verge of being one of the most culturally important movements in modern history, due to its cross-cultural pervasiveness and obvious necessity. Yes, I’m talking about the industry of mourning.

However, there is also the way that death was adapted by the oncoming industrial revolution and the inception of social movement. In some ways, the affectation of mourning speaks about the superficial nature of the human condition, with our fickle concerns of outward presentation and adherence to human-imposed social conventions.

Charles I Mourning Pendant Royalist Enamel Blue

What has this to do with the Charles I pendant on display here? The beheading of Charles I created a royalist movement that provoked society to adapt tableaus in dedication to the fallen king, with a disregard to the monetary context of the dedications – surviving portraits of Charles may vary in quality from the finely painted to the naive. However, there is quite an effort to present the man with respectful quality, regardless. This royalist movement was one that could transcend the socio-economic demographic and allow for the lower classes to express their grief/loyalty (even when the pieces were covered or hidden in lockets), as opposed to more insular cultural outlooks, which focused more on the immediate family/work paradigm without the greater social awareness. Communication was becoming faster, social borders were crumbling and the presentation of the self to this greater social audience was becoming more and more important.

Hence, when a piece like this was worn, albeit enamel side up (the pearl is a later addition), it still conveys a message about the wearer to the society around them. It shows obvious status and wealth.

Looking at the piece itself, Charles is looking off (not engaging the viewer) with sadness, hence its meaning as being a royalist piece is established (hardly the demeanour of a king still alive), the portrait itself, shows the face is painted to a pre-established ideal of the king and not painted in personal company with the man himself though the miniaturist has taken careful detail to shading of the hair and attention to the costume – often portraits of Charles would be closer in to the face of the subject. On the reverse, we have the blue enamel and this side doesn’t demand that the wearer turn it over to reveal the portrait. In this case, the portrait is personal and worn over the heart, while this enamel reverse can be presented with all the sophistication of class status that it deserves. If the wearer commissioned the blue enamel with the intent of royalty in the face of such a personal sentiment is truly the prerogative of the person who commissioned it, however, it is more likely. The piece is set in silver and retains much of the popular late Baroque design in the flower and enamel that would be expected.

And how does this all reflect upon us today? Well, essentially, it gives us all a great appreciation for the industry that surrounds us, but personally, I simply like to enjoy looking at this magnificent piece.

Courtesy: Barbara Robbins

A colourful piece and a statement on mortality, this enamelled box doesn’t have the fine quality of the mourning piece, but it quite unique in its symbolism and representation.

The two figures rowing across the river show the journey of life crossing over, from the home to unknown, or the garden, which represents the hereafter.

Battersea Box Sentimental openThe floral border is also a colourful touch, as it the yellow base and this would lean towards being constructed by a family in Bilston of the time. Purchased as a trinket, the sentimentality of this piece could have been delivered as a memorial item or given as a sentimental one, but evaluating the mentality of the purchaser is conjecture.

Courtesy: Barbara Robbins

A famous area for producing enamel the second half of the 18th century, Bilston in was renowned for its artists and craftsmen. The closing of the Battersea enamel factory in 1756 provided the basis for the rise of the Bilston enamel trade, which had existed before this time.

Mourning Bilston Enamel BoxManufacturers and materials had migrated to Bilston after 1756 and the standard of the boxes improved greatly. Boxes such as these were sold as trinkets, many made by small, family run businesses. The subject matter of these boxes were intended to be popular, so to produce and sell in numbers. This piece featuring the weeping widow at the grave with the willow above shows the level of quality produced.

The fine cross-hatching work against the white background provides a stark contrast for a memorial piece and reflects the sepia work being done at the time this piece was constructed. More than likely a patch box due to it having a mirror underneath, this shows the extent of the memorial industry and its effect on mainstream culture at the time.

Bad Enamel and Some Damage / Mourning BroochIf you know me well enough, you know that I like to look at things from every angle, so when faced with the problem of is it worth buying a piece with chipped, flaked or generally nasty enamel, is it worth it?

Well, I go through enamel jewellery buying binges, I just love good enamel work, especially the bold Victorian ones with those wonderful ‘In Memory Of’ sentiments. For me, buying a piece with damage comes down to asking these questions:

1. Do I love it?
That’s the easy one, if your heart stops and you just can’t live another moment without thinking how magnificent that piece is, get it. If you are getting it for some sort of monetary return, best to overlook it, unless it has some sort of historical significance, it will never been the glorious piece it was when it was first created. Perhaps the piece would complete your collection, perhaps the planets have just aligned and it’s a cheap piece that feels right, either way, you’ve got to love it without batting an eyelid at the cost.

2. Can/should the enamel be repaired?
Is the piece historically worthwhile to buy regardless of the enamel damage? Is yes, then take it and love it. These pieces shouldn’t have their enamel repaired, so there is the fear of further ruining a piece through re-enamelling. But let’s say it’s not significant but you want it to wear, can that flaked or chipped enamel be fixed? The best thing to do here is discover a good jeweller. The problem with re-enamelling is that you need to heat the piece, which will result in losing the existing enamel. The other process is the ‘cold process’, which requires heating the piece (but not so much) and applying layer after layer of enamel to build it back up. This is becoming a lost art in itself and you need to hunt down someone who can do it right. I recommend:

Atelier D’or
350 Bay St, Brighton North,
Victoria, Australia 3186
Phone: (03) 95963000

If you’re in Australia. I’ve had two pieces repaired from them and never been let down.

3. Price
For me, if a piece has enough damage to it, I expect the seller to acknowledge that. With eBay and other instant methods of buying some very nice things, seeing a half-broken 1870s brooch for a premium in a shop just doesn’t hold much interest. As mentioned before, don’t look to a piece that needs fixing to generate profit, unless you have it for no money and you have a cheap method to repair it.

But Hayden, I hear you ask, I’m buying a piece and I don’t know if it has been re-enamelled! What do I do? Well, I’ll save that for another article and a day!

18K solid case and clasp fittings elaborately engraved and enameled, housing portrait of (yet) unknown sitter of watercolor on ivory with a small surface crack to the ivory. This piece came from a Maryland estate, and believed to be painted by John Wood Dodge, American (1807-1893).

What a magnificent and complete bracelet, with its clasp and hairwork intact. Pieces like this are truly individual, nothing can match or compare to it, because its materials and subject permeate every level of its construction.

Note the enamel to the back of the clasp and how the use of enamel was becoming fashionable for larger items of jewellery, after being pushed aside for the lines and art of the neo-classical pieces.

I could look at this piece all day. It’s a true work of art, there’s no other way to describe it.

Well, one more picture and I’m going to enjoy the rest of the day.

Courtesy of Sarah Nehama.

The snake motif was a popular symbol of eternal love, as it showed the snake ingesting its own tail, therefore representing eternity.

Much thought has been given to Queen Victoria for popularising the snakes (as given to her by Prince Alfred), however, this motif pre-dated her usage by over fifty years.

This snake with its foiled garnets and green paste eyes is a supreme representation of the serpent motif and defies the common construction of the time. For its construction (c.1820), This piece should show a more rectangular shape, however, as like eye portrait jewels, it retains its own shape to conform to its style.

This makes the snake rounder and more organic in its shape. The 1904 date is discredited very strongly, and there is no constructional, artistic or popular credence given to it being contemporary for this time. Obviously, the date is added later to the piece.

Cause For Concern?

May 2, 2010

Now, here is a piece that has caused a lot of distress to many people in the past. If you’re a French jewellery historian, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The first thing to recognise is the translation of the piece, which in its original French is: “pour vous tout seul” that roughly comes out as “all to yourself” (please forgive this horrid translation). A dealer in Paris attempted to sell this piece to me with the understanding that it was a mourning piece. When the lid is closed, the appreciation is one of a skull, however, since then I’ve known a little better.

The inscription as well as the motif (plus the faith, hope and charity), lends itself to being more familiar to marriage and not death. It was told to be documented in a French jewellery book and belonging to that of a French Marquis.

But let’s look at the facts. The stones used are diamonds (eyes), rubies (shank and interior) and the countenance is more that of a face rather than that of a skull. The bezel has a rosette formation and the translation is dedicated to someone. You have stones which are more used for precious sentimentality, so that doesn’t equate to mourning or otherwise, you have a face that may or may not be a skull (it’s been worn down) and the dedication is leaning towards subject sentimentality. It also has white, black and green enamel.

So what is it? A good question. On the whole, let’s look at that rosette bezel. 1760 was its prime, but you could get it back to 1740 if you were keen. Is it French? Why, yes it is. Are French pieces different to English? Quite a lot. How different? They were different cultures and one preferred to be ahead of the other in that respect. Could this have been for an English person living in France? Not according to its provenance, but perhaps (though unlikely). Why? Well, the piece was seemingly constructed in France, it bears no other hallmarks and has French writing. Ok, so it may be French, but is it mourning? Ah, what do you think of the face of the piece? It looks like a smiling face or Venetian mask. Anything else? Well, the face has dark around the eyes near the diamonds. Look at the head and chin, those areas are worn down. Why is this? Those areas may have been worn down due to age. So, what are those areas wearing down? Metal or enamel? Enamel. Hm, so how do you know what it looked like before the enamel was worn down? I don’t. So why impose your theory? Because the face is white. Ah, so a skull and a mask can both be white? Of course. Then, we’re at an impasse.

The most telling part of this wonderful piece is the inscription. The construction of a hinged face is wonderful, as well as the stones and inscription show a wonderfully made piece. The quality put into this piece is worthy of Continental work. Often, French and German pieces didn’t conform to the British pieces and had quite different symbolism. This piece also uses other flavours of enamel, which were quite uncommon for British pieces. Basically, for a French piece, this is quite sound. Back to the inscription and the “pour vous tout seul” once again hints towards it being dedicated to someone and not for anyone in particular, or at least for not a general audience (like a family). The leaning towards this piece being directly for sentimentality and perhaps marriage is certainly open, but I’ll leave it to your deduction to follow up the clues.

Enamel…

April 11, 2010

QuestionIf black enamel means death, white enamel means purity and virginity and blue enamel means that the loved one was considered ‘royalty’, have you got other coloured enamels on jewellery and if so, what and what do you consider them to be? If anyone answers to this, feel free to post pics (there are a lot of other colours out there)!

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