Golden Age

Antique Brooch With Imperial Topazes in Cannetille, Circa 1825

One of the defining design elements of Georgian Era jewellery was the cannetille filigree, which was created around 1790 but became extremely popular in the decade between 1820 and 1830. Extremely fine and detailed, the production of this filigree was time and labour intensive. At the time, however, craftsmanship was cheaper than the precious metal gold, so that large, magnificent designs were produced in many hours of work but with relatively little material. At the same time as the Cannetille, the proverbial golden age of a special gemstone had also dawned: The Imperial Topaz was a favourite gemstone to be set amidst cannetille creations. From modern jewellery, we are almost only familiar with the heavily treated blue topaz, but in the early 19th century, people loved the gemstone in its natural shades of golden brown and pink. These stones came to Europe from the Brazilian mines near Ouro Preto via Portugal and had only been known for a few decades when our brooch was created. Nine of these Imperial topazes are set here, in closed settings over foils which give the gemstones a particularly intense luster. Their colour spectrum ranges from delicate to stronger sherry tones, and the center stone features a peach hue. Yet they have been well matched, as the topazes in similar colours have each been juxtaposed with each other in the same cut. In total, the precious gemstones weigh about 22.10 ct. The brooch features a small locket on its back, under which a lock of hair, for example, can be stored. The piece was likely converted to a brooch still in the 19th century - the jewel was probably once worn as the showpiece pendant of a necklace (cf. the last illustration, a fashion illustration from 1827), and even today small catches allow it to be threaded onto a narrow chain or ribbon. This piece of jewellery was once intended as festive evening jewellery, accounted for by the precious materials and elaborate workmanship.

When news reached Lisbon in 1768 of the discovery of the rich topaz deposits of Ouro Preto in Brazil, the Portuguese court under Joseph I threw a great party. Rumours had been circulating since 1751 about a Brazilian ruby, a new type of gemstone from Brazil that would give the notoriously cash-strapped royal house new financial reserves and prestige. The marvelous stone celebrated here, the Imperial Topaz, still charms and seduces gem lovers. This is because this particular topaz, with its sherry brown to sometimes pink colour, is still only found in the Ouro Preto area in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. To this day, it is the most expensive and rarest topaz of all. For many generations it was reserved only for the nobility of Europe, so small were the quantities mined. At the end of the 19th century, the deposits were even considered to be completely exhausted - until 1908, when more stones were found at a greater depth in the same place.

We want you to be 100% satisfied! For that reason, we examine, describe and photograph all of our jewellery with the utmost care.

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.

Should you for some reason not be satisfied, please don’t hesitate to contact us so that we can begin to find a solution together. In any case, you can return any article within 30 days and we will refund the full purchase price.


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.