Man's best friend

Antique pin with "Essex Crystal" of a French Bulldog, around 1890

Among the most popular dog breeds in recent years are French Bulldogs. But did you know that these little rascals were also so popular and fashionable 100 years ago that they were considered an expression of status and good taste? When lace makers from England set out to find work in Normandy in the early 19th century, they took along bulldogs that were too small and therefore cheap, so they could chase away rats. Because the working conditions in the textile industry were often miserable. Thus, the popularity of this sturdy and cute dog grew rapidly in northern France, and English bulldog breeders more than happy to perpetuate this "new" breed by selling their too-small dogs to the French. Then in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the French Bulldog quickly became the dog of high society. A French Bulldog, insured for the then incredible sum of $750, even traveled aboard the Titanic! A very special example of a bulldog we see here as a showpiece of an antique pin, which according to the stamping was made in Vienna. A so-called "Essex Crystal" captures the viewer's gaze at the central position of the pin, which is crafted like a safety pin, and shows the portrait of a small French bulldog with collar and bell. The depiction of the dog has been cut into a rock crystal on the reverse and then painted out. We see the head of the small dog with its typical bat ears in the circular, transparent cabochon. The animal with brown and white fur looks at us with a wonderful doggy look, attentive and skeptically lovable. It can be assumed that a lady or gentleman of Viennese society at the turn of the century had his darling portrayed here - so that he could always carry him close to him. The hallmark on the pin at least confirms that the brooch was made in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The master craftsman masterfully succeeded in capturing the physiognomy and the attentive character of the animal. The depiction is backed with a mother-of-pearl plate to enhance the three-dimensional effect of the three-dimensional cuts. Precise details of the fur can be seen and the deep cut even reveals a real play of shadows of the three-dimensional figure in the crystal. The Essex crystal is set in gold. We date the brooch to the years around 1890. A piece of jewellery to love!

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 tromp l'loeil 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.

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You can rely on our years of experience in the trade and our expertise as a professional art historians for reviews of the antique jewellery. As a member of various trader organisations and the British Society of Jewellery Historians, we remain committed to the highest possible degree of accuracy. In our descriptions, we always also indicate any signs of age and defects and never hide them in our photos – this saves you from any unpleasant surprises when your package arrives.

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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.