Posts tagged european old jewelry
Natural Materials

The wide variety and beauty of the natural materials used in vintage and antique jewellery is staggering. It seems jewellery designers never cease in their inventiveness. Here is a list which I believe is comprehensive or almost comprehensive (there is bound to be something I have left out).

I have excluded metal as that seems to deserve it's own separate list. 

Art Deco Amber Earring. Elder & Bloom

Art Deco Amber Earring. Elder & Bloom

 

Amber

Animal parts (ie Rabbit Foot)

Bog Oak

Bone

Butterflies and insects

Cinnabar

Coral

Flower and Plants

Gems & Gemstones

Hair

Horn

Ivory

Jade

Jet

Marcasite

Pearl

Sea Shell

Stone (Mosaics)

Tortoise Shell

Tooth

Tusk

Wood

Victorian Coral Earrings. Elder and Bloom. 

Victorian Coral Earrings. Elder and Bloom. 

 

Copyright © 2017 by Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder & Bloom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this website’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pippa Bear and Elder & Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

Piqué
Earrings, tortoiseshell inlaid with gold and silver (piqué posé), English, ca. 1850.      Photo copyright of Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Earrings, tortoiseshell inlaid with gold and silver (piqué posé), English, ca. 1850.  

Photo copyright of Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Piqué work was a method of inlaying gold, silver and sometimes mother of pearl into tortoiseshell and other materials to create truly stunning effects.   Piqué originated in Italy in the mid 1600s and then spread to France where it was further developed as a technique.  The English also enthusiastically adopted the method and English piqué jewelry is the most prevalent.  Jewelry was first made with this technique in the early 1800s and piqué jewelry peaked in popularity in the 1850s to 1880s.  It was considered appropriate for mourning because of the dark colors. It quite abruptly ceased to be made almost entirely by 1885. Earlier designs were much more naturalistic and softer; later designs became more geometric as production methods became more mechanized.

Generally, pure gold and silver were used as the metals.  It is quite difficult to metal test such small amounts of metal but it can generally be assumed that if you have a piece of genuine tortoiseshell and the design is well executed that the gold or silver is high carat.  Sometimes brass was also used. In order to embed the metals, the tortoiseshell was heated up first which caused it to expand and soften whilst the metals were worked in.

There were two types of piqué work: piqué point, in which gold or silver pins are driven into the tortoiseshell or other material to create the design and piqué posé, in which the design is engraved and then threads or small pieces of gold and silver are used to fill it in. You will sometimes hear piqué referred to as piqué d’or but this is only correct when referring to gold piqué work. Two major piqué artisans were:  Laurentini and Charles Boulle.

Christies sale 1447, 14 December 2004, New York, Rockefeller Plaza.     Lot Description ‘A Group of Antique Pique Jewelry. Mid 19th century’

Christies sale 1447, 14 December 2004, New York, Rockefeller Plaza. 

Lot Description ‘A Group of Antique Pique Jewelry. Mid 19th century’

Piqué work was of course worked into different materials other than tortoiseshell, particularly celluloid which can appear quite similar to the untrained eye.  One method for testing for tortoiseshell is to burn a very small place with a hot pin; if you smell burning hair it is most likely to be tortoiseshell.  Another test to see if it is celluloid is to run it under very hot water; if it gives off a plastic smell it is celluloid.  However, the absolute best way is to handle enough pieces so that you know the difference by eye.  Another base material I have seen is wood.  The other materials sometimes used were elephant ivory and horn although less commonly for jewelry.

Today, piqué jewelry is considered extremely collectible.  It can never be made again as of course tortoises and elephants are protected species.  Available Piqué jewelry is therefore only going to become rarer. Piqué jewelry is truly marvelous to behold, very wearable and absolutely beautiful.

Sources / further reading:

http://antiques.about.com/od/victorianandedwardian/a/Pique011810.htm

http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/lot/a-group-of-antique-pique-jewelry-4396864-details.aspx?intObjectID=4396864

http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/jewelry/a-victorian-tortoise-shell-and-citrine-bangle-5285462-details.aspx?from=searchresults&intObjectID=5285462&sid=5dae670b-6768-4e60-8a48-5b68db3d575f  

 

Copyright © 2017 by Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder & Bloom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this website’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pippa Bear and Elder & Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Mosaics

Most mosaic jewelry has traditionally always come from Italy, particularly Rome and Florence, but it also comes from Switzerland and Naples. Even as early as the 18th century, visitors to Italy purchased micro-mosaic jewelry as souvenirs. It became a status symbol in other parts of Europe and America to prove a trip to Italy and mosaic jewelry would sometimes even be sent home ahead as a kind of postcard. With its roots in ancient architectural techniques, micro-mosaic jewelry was verypopular in Europe and the Americas throughout the 18th and 19th century and is still produced today, being considered a cultural treasure worthy of protection by the Italian people.

Generally, the finer and smaller the mosaics are, the older the piece.  Particularly after Industrialization, the mosaic pieces became much larger and less refined. The best way of telling the age of the piece however is to look at the mounting.

Mosaic jewelry can be divided into two basic kinds: 

1) ‘Micro-mosaic’.  Here the jewelryis inlaid with a design made of small pieces of colored glass tube shaped tiles or tesserae on a glass or stone background, usually fixed with cement.  (These small pieces can also sometimes be made from metal, marble or stone although not as often).  When the glass tubes are cut into tiny pieces they are referred to as smalti. In the finest pieces, the design is created with thousands of very tiny colored smalti with no gaps in between. When the smalti  is more than one color, it is referred to as ‘millefiori’ or “1000 flowers”. The expression ‘Millefiori’ is sometimes used to describe ‘micro-mosaic’.  The glass for micro-mosaic is usually produced in Venice. Micro-mosaic jewelry has traditionally been produced in Rome. Micro-mosaic is actually a form of pontillism (using dots of color). It is a considered a derivative of the Roman Opus Vermiculatum mosaic style.

Micro-mosaic, black glass, gold frame brooch, Rome, Italy, 1820-1830   The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Micro-mosaic, black glass, gold frame brooch, Rome, Italy, 1820-1830
The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

2) ‘Pietra dura’ or ‘Pietre dure’ jewelry, literally meaning ‘hard stone’, is also sometimes referred to as Florentine. Here hard stones such as chalcedony, agate, marble, jasper, and lapis lazuli, are laid flat to create the design. Rather than being a true mosaic, pietra dura is actually created more like a jigsaw puzzle. Pietra dura is traditionally produced in Florence. Pietra dura normally uses black marble as the foundation. Florentine designs normally use larger tiles than Roman micro-mosaic. Pietra dura is thought to be derived from the Roman opus sectile mosaic style.  Popular during the Renaissance era, pietra dura enjoyed a revival throughout the 19th century.

Necklace, 1808, Pietra dure, lapis lazuli, chalcedony, gold.   The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Necklace, 1808, Pietra dure, lapis lazuli, chalcedony, gold.
The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Mosaic work jewellery of the 18th and 19th century often depicted famous Italian tourist attractions such as the Vatican Square as well as scenes from Roman mythology. Well-to-do travelers during the Grand Tour Era in which a trip to Italy was obligatory, would sometimes commission their own designs, favoring animals and famous paintings. Later in the 19th century and in modern recent time, designs become simpler and bolder and more decorative rather than figurative.  The value of the piece is greatly determined not only by the fineness of the mosaic work, but also by the base metal. There are many later pieces on the market which do not have a great value, although they are still attractive.

Generally, the Italian jewelry artisans most considered to have been responsible for the development and introduction of Italian mosaic jewelry were Giacomo Raffaelli, who created a micro-mosaic brooch in the 1770s, and Castellini who pioneered a new style for mosaics using gold wires to separate the pieces in 1850.

Doves of Pliny micro-mosaic, attributed to   Giacomo Raffaelli  , circa 1770

Doves of Pliny micro-mosaic, attributed to Giacomo Raffaelli, circa 1770

 

Sources / further reading:

http://www.micro-mosaic.com/

http://romanmicromosaic.com/

http://www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/Mosaics_in_Jewelry

http://www.dipintiantichi.net/index.html

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

http://www.museumsinflorence.com/musei/opificio_delle_pietre_dure.html

http://www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/Castellani  

 

Copyright © 2017 by Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder & Bloom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this website’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pippa Bear and Elder & Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Cameo

Cameo can be defined as a method of carving which creates a raised or positive design (as opposed to intaglio which is the opposite).   Cameos can be done in stone, gemstone, amber, coral, ivory, bone, lava, glass or shell.  Very early cameos (before 1800) were nearly always done in stone, particularly banded agate (also referred to as ‘hardstone’) which creates the contrast in colors between the raised part of the design and the background.  Other stones used in cameo are cornelian, malachite, jet, sardonyx and onyx. Black Helmet, Bulls Mouth, Horned Helmet and Queen’s Conches are the kinds of shells traditionally used for cameo. Italy has long been associated with cameo.

Castellani Cameo of Medusa, c.1870.  Sapphire.

Castellani Cameo of Medusa, c.1870.  Sapphire.

Trustees of the British Museum.

When discussing antique and period jewelry, the term cameo normally implies that there is a contrast in color between the relief portion of the design and the background; however the term cameo is also used to describe this style of carving even when the raised portion and the background are the same color.

Cameo carving is an ancient technique which has experienced many revivals throughout the ages.  A new interest in cameo came about in the early 1800s, inspired by all the archeological discoveries.  Around 1805, the Pope of the time opened up a new cameo school in Rome and Napoleon I had initiated a ‘Prix de Rome’ to encourage cameo.  By the year 1850, cameo had reached a new height of popularity and people flocked to have their portraits, or those of a loved one, carved as a cameo.  The best cameo artisans came from Italy and when the Victorians went on their Grand Tour, they often brought back these treasures much to the delight of their friends and families back home.  Italian cameo artists, often struggling sculptors, soon moved across Europe to open up small businesses to supply the demand. Cameo work was painstaking and slow.  A stone cameo could take many months; shell cameos were faster to produce and therefore were less expensive.

Commesso: Commesso is a bas-relief composition of precisely cut gem materials (pietra dura) combined with enameled gold elements to form an assembled cameo.

Habille (or 'en habille'): a cameo in which the carved figure wears real jewelry. “Habille” comes from the French word “habiller”, meaning “to dress”.

Christie’s Sale 7853   Jewels – The London Sale   9 June 2010   London, King Street   A VICTORIAN MOONSTONE AND DIAMOND CAMEO BROOCH, circa 1890.  Cupid with bow and arrow.

Christie’s Sale 7853
Jewels – The London Sale
9 June 2010
London, King Street
A VICTORIAN MOONSTONE AND DIAMOND CAMEO BROOCH, circa 1890.  Cupid with bow and arrow.

Neoclassical themes, particularly busts and figures, were very much in style and many cameos of the Victorian era have this motif.By the time 1860 came around, another popular motif was ‘Rebecca at the Well’ which is from a biblical story. Taking different forms, it always comprised a girl, a bridge and a cottage. Other motifs were naturalistic and included flowers and leaves. Commemorative cameos of special events such as weddings were also popular.

William Tassie, who invented glass paste in the 1760s, began to create molds of cameos and reproduce them in glass.  He had an enormous collection of impressions of antique cameos and many credit him with being a key participant in the Neo-Classical revival. These imitation cameos were known as ‘Tassies’ and were popular and inexpensive.  This production continued as a family business well into the 1800s.

Detail from a ‘Tassie’ cameo

Detail from a ‘Tassie’ cameo

Wedgwood bought many of these molds from William Tassie. Wedgwood produced and still produces jasperware plaques in blue and white which are in the style of cameo and are also often referred to as cameo.  In fact, many people will think of these as being the archetype of cameo. However, these are not true cameo as they are made from molds.  There were quite inexpensive in their day; they are nowadays considered collectible.

Cameo was also loved by the artisans and designers of the Art Nouveau movement and continued in the Art Deco era.

With the advent of Industrialization, many ‘cameos’ could be produced with molds, with dyed agate layers and later with ultrasonic machine carving. (In my opinion, this is why many people today don’t admire cameo or think of them as desirable, they are associating them with the mass-produced, machine made or mold made variety). Cameo continues to be produced and loved today to one degree or another.  However, the artistry, technique and popularity of cameo that was experienced in earlier eras, particularly in the pre-industrial Georgian and the early and mid Victorian era, (as well as by a few eminent Art Nouveau artists),  has not been seen since.

Dating and Valuing Cameos

There are many clues to look for when dating and valuing cameos and these are just a few below. Evaluating cameos is challenging as so many have been remounted and also many cameo artists were really good at copying older styles.  Some experts devote their careers to appraising cameos and it requires great skill.   I will come back and add more to this list as I learn more.

Style: If the cameo features a long Roman nose, the chances are it is from before 1850 and if it has a more pert nose, it is likely to be afterwards.  Up-swept hair suggests late Victorian; short hair would imply 20th century.

Materials: If it is made from lava, it is almost certainly Victorian.  Shells are also not likely to be from before 1800 (shell is translucent when held to the light). If it is jet, it is likely to be mid-Victorian and later.

Mounting: If the mounting is made of pinchbeck, it will probably be from between the mid-1700s to mid-1800s. If it is gold electroplated it will be from after 1840.  If it is 9k, will be from after 1854.  Silver implies it is from the 1880s, but certainly not necessarily so.  A safety clasp implies it is from the 20th century. (But take into consideration that it might well have been remounted).

Value: Scenic cameos are often considered to be more valuable than simple portraits. Stone is considered more valuable than shell.  Obviously, ivory, coral and gemstones are the most valuable. Of course, the mounting is important.  Most important of all though is the fineness of the carving; fine detail, flowing lines and grace show skill.  Less skilled cameos with be harsher with jagged lines and with less details.

Authenticity / method of creation:  Things to watch out for are whether or not it is mold made / where it is actually two pieces glued together / laser cut (in which case it is modern). All of these are best examined with jeweler’s loop.  Ultrasonic machine made cameos will have no undercutting and a satin surface texture. There will be absolutely no variation between them and many others of the same design. Dyed agate will show very strong color contrast between the layers.

Other: if it is signed it is probably from after the mid-1800s. However, it doesn’t mean that if it isn’t signed it is older than the mid-1800s.

Sources / further reading:

http://www.cameojewelry.com/catalog/ANTIQUE_CAMEOS-1-1.html

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

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

https://www.antiquesjournal.com/pages04/archives/cameos.html

http://www.antiquecolouredglass.info/History%20of%20Tassie.htm

http://www.beazley.ox.ac.uk/gems/tassie/default.htm

https://www.antiquesjournal.com/pages04/archives/cameos.html

https://www.langsantiques.com/university/index.php/Georgian_and_Victorian_Cameos

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/s/semi-precious-carvings/  

 

Copyright © 2017 by Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder & Bloom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this website’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pippa Bear and Elder & Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.