Rococo natural pearls

Antique brooch / pendant with natural pearls & rubies, around 1760

In the 18th century, the ladies of high society sometimes found it difficult to follow the rapidly changing fashions. At the beginning of 1774, for example, small, drop-shaped earrings were all the rage, while only three months later no ear jewellery at all was worn for a short time. Then, in the last decades of the 18th century, long earrings were once again in demand, not to be lost among the towering hairstyles and powdered wigs of the time. Much simpler were brooches, which were worn in various sizes on the splendid dresses for every occasion. In the middle of the 18th century, natural forms were very popular and were transformed into noble materials by talented goldsmiths. The brooch presented here dates from precisely this eventful period. It shows the basic form of a standing triangle with floral tendrils and thus an extremely popular motif of the 18th century. The filigree bars from which the design develops are richly set. Above all, eight natural blister pearls (cf. "Learn more"), produced by chance from a shell without human hand, capture the eye. The pearls all display a dreamlike luster in very individual shades of color, from off-white to silver-gray to a delicate rosé. The marine treasures have a wonderfully soft shimmer and transport us back to the time of their discovery. Fiery red rubies accompany the pearls and give the jewel a rich appearance. A silk cord or chain can be pulled through eyelets on the back and the work can thus be worn as a pendant. For the dating of this piece of jewellery to the middle of the 18th century, cf. the information in Hanns-Ulrich Haedeke: Schmuck aus drei Jahrtausenden. Sammlung Hanns-Ulrich Haedeke, Cologne 2000, p. 262 and p. 299 with reference to design and workmanship.

Before the Japanese entrepreneur Mikimoto invented pearl cultivation and thus revolutionized the pearl market in the 1920s, genuine pearls were so rare and so precious that they reached prices close to those of diamond roses of the same size. It is therefore not surprising that particularly beautiful pearl jewellery can be found in the great princely treasuries, such as the jewellery of the Queen of Saxony or the Queen of Bavaria. The suppliers of the pearls were not only sea shells and oysters but mainly shells from the rivers and streams of Central Europe. The pearl necklace in the treasury of the Munich Residenz is also made of Bavarian river pearls. For jewellery other than pearl necklaces, for which full-round pearls are needed, not only round pearls were used that had grown in the muscle tissue of the mussels but also those that were firmly attached to the mussel shell. Such pearls are formed when predators of the mussel try to penetrate the mussel shell to get to the mussel meat. The defensible mussel closes the pierced shell with nacre, which also creates pearls, which, however, are firmly attached to the mussel shell. These resulting pearls are called blister pearls and we regularly find them in antique jewellery. Always set closed on the back, the precious shimmering blister pearls are detached from the shell and then set in gold or silver. A procedure that was already known to the ancient Egyptians.

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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.