Dangerous Liaisons

Antique Essex Crystal Pendant in Gold & Pearls, circa 1910

On the high seas and in love, different rules sometimes apply than in the rest of life. Here there is capture, boarding and pursuit, storming and clearing: That this comparison was especially obvious in a seafaring nation like that of the British, we are not surprised. The pendant at hand here originates from Great Britain. And the piece, created in the years around 1910, brings these two so related and yet different worlds together with a wink. The gold pendant frames what is known as an Essex Crystal with a wreath of genuine pearls. This is a rock crystal cut into a cabochon, the reverse side of which is hollowed out and carved in such a way that, when viewed from the front, a three-dimensional image becomes visible inside the crystal. To increase the illusion, the back is then painted in parts. In the case of the pendant here, we see a flag fluttering in the wind. It is divided into four parts, a red and a white field alternate. But what does this flag mean? The international flag alphabet, that is, the language with which the crews of ships on the high seas can communicate with each other, is clear here. The flag means: "You are running into danger"! So the wearer of this pendant is warning her counterpart. But of what? From herself and her passions? It almost seems as if the flag is less a warning than a smiling invitation to discover this danger...

The exact origins of the Essex Crystal are unknown; however, corresponding pieces of jewellery can be observed for the first time since the middle of the 19th century in England. Preference was given to the depiction of dogs, cats, horses and hunting motifs. The craftsmanship required to achieve the lifelike realism of the images was enormous. The small portrait miniatures were created using a series of techniques and steps. First, a clear rock crystal or piece of glass is cut into a cabochon, with a domed front and a flat back. Then the motif is cut into the back as a negative shape or intaglio to achieve the desired three-dimensional trompe l'œil effect. The resulting image is now painstakingly hand-painted, reproducing even the smallest details with admirable fidelity to nature. Finally, the depiction is provided with a thin background, e.g. of mother-of-pearl, and the crystal is then set into a piece of jewellery. Like so many elaborate and labor-intensive processes, the craftsmanship of Essex Crystal existed in its pure form for only a few decades. By the early 20th century, cheaper pressed glass versions were replacing the painstakingly cut rock crystal and hand-painted miniatures. However, the merits of the original Essex Crystal remain unsurpassed to this day and are prized by collectors for their beauty. Above all, the detailed cutting and superb, multi-colored painting distinguish the best work. Often the value of an Essex Crystal can be measured not only by their naturalistic finish but also by the amazing depth of representation revealed in the side view.

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We want you to be 100% satisfied! That’s why we examine, describe and photograph all our jewellery with the utmost care.

If for any reason you are still not satisfied, contact us and we will find a mutual solution immediately. Regardless, you can return any item within 30 days and we will refund you the full purchase price.