Midnight blue and midday gold

A large lapis lazuli and diamond brooch in gold from Austria-Hungary, circa 1870

In the earlier centuries, fashions and aesthetic preferences often changed very slowly. In the 19th century, however, their change accelerated enormously. The history of jewellery knows as many fashions as generations in the hundred years between 1800 and 1900. At the beginning and end of the century, for example, white jewellery, richly set with diamonds, was in demand. In the 1860s and 1870s, strong colours were in demand, preferably large, polished surfaces of yellow gold and intense coloured stones. The large and richly decorated brooch here can be dated quite accurately by its hallmarks: It was made between 1867 and 1872 in Austria-Hungary. In keeping with the fashion of those years, the design is developed from the juxtaposition of deep blue glowing lapis lazuli and richly shimmering yellow gold. Numerous diamond roses add further seductive light reflections. The basic shape of the brooch is the circle, similar to a medieval brooch. A large polished bouton of lapis is set in its center. A wide, diamond-set frame of yellow gold wraps around the stone in the color of the night sky; golden speckles in the stone suggest the Milky Way. Four gold shells mediate between the lapis and the frame. Attached to the frame is a bail, also of yellow gold, around which appears to be wrapped a ribbon of diamond. It holds two large pampels of lapis, thus lending a light, playful touch to the austere design. The warm gold, the element of the sun, is brought into unity in the brooch with the night sky of lapis lazuli. The masterfully executed and superbly preserved design thus encompasses the entire course of the day. We think this is a clue: because whether it is day or evening, this brooch is a great piece of jewellery at any hour!

Lapis Lazuli has been prized for its unique color since ancient times. The stone, mined in the mountains of Afghanistan since ancient times, is not only used for jewelry, but at least as often ground as a precious painting pigment. Artists such as Giotto and Michelangelo used lapis lazuli for their incomparable masterpieces, the blue of which inspires with its fresh luminosity centuries later. Michael Baxandall, in his famous book "The Reality of Images. Painting and Experience in Renaissance Italy," described how in Renaissance Florence artists and patrons had detailed contracts stipulate how much lapis pigment should be used for, say, the mantle of the Madonna in a fresco. Because the pigment was so extraordinarily expensive, its purchase represented a large part of the expenditure on the work, sometimes costing more than the artist received for his work. The colour came to Europe chiefly through Venice, where it was known as "azurro ultramarine" - "the blue from beyond the sea". Even today, the name ultramarine blue is derived from this designation.

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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.

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.


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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.

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