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Around 1810: Collier de Chien made of Berlin iron

At the time of the Napoleonic Wars at the beginning of the 19th century, the Prussian Princess Marianne initiated an action which was intended to contribute to the defence of Prussia, the homeland threatened by France, under the slogan "Gold I gave for iron": In a grand procession on the boulevard Unter den Linden in Berlin, the ladies of the society, led by the princess, offered their gold jewelry as a gift to the king. The gold collected in this way was used to finance the fight against Napoleon and his troops; in exchange for their jewels, the donors received pieces of jewellery made of cast iron, which they henceforth wore with patriotic pride. The present necklace of the Napoleonic era is a typical piece of jewellery from the then newly founded Berlin iron foundry. It consists of similar cast links showing a floral design language and connected by plain eyelets. The eleven iron elements are held by a clasp, which seems particularly remarkable to us: In front of a reflecting iron surface, the head of the god Mercury is shown here in antique nudity. A Phrygian cap with wings adorns your head. During the French Revolution, the Phrygian cap (bonnet rouge in French) was worn by the Jacobins as an expression of their political allegiance. They mistakenly believed that the Phrygian cap had been worn by freed slaves in ancient times. Therefore, as the so-called cap of liberty, it became a symbol of feiheitliche Gesinnung in the political iconography of France and all of Europe. In our Berlin necklace, the actual French symbol of freedom is used to stand up for the freedom of Germany from the Napoleonic occupation. Thus, the Collier de Chien becomes not only because of its material, but also because of its symbolism a propagandistic piece of jewelry of the years around 1810 and thus a historically wonderful piece of evidence from the years of the wars of liberation. Cf. Elisabeth Schmuttermeier: Schmuck aus Eisen, in: Berliner Eisen. Die königliche Eisengießerei Berlin. Zur Geschichte eines preussischen Unternehmens, ed. by Charlotte Schreiter / Albrecht Pyritz, Berlin 2007, pp. 227-240.
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The great era of iron jewellery began in the years of the Napoleonic occupation of Prussia from 1806 onwards. This new demand for iron jewellery led to the founding of the Berlin Iron Foundry, which was headed by the goldsmith Conrad Geiss, who had numerous designs of classicism executed. The Berlin iron jewellery, the "Fer de Berlin" with its clear contours and its restrained, dark colour corresponded to the spirit of classicism. With it, the lavish diamond pomp of the 18th century was countered by an alternative that gave expression to bourgeois virtues such as modesty, restraint and education. But it was not only in Berlin that pieces of jewellery were made of iron during these years; jewellery was also made of this material in Silesia, in neutral Switzerland and later even in France: Blackened iron had become fashionable and respectable.
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