Light and speed

Diamond Brooch of a Jockey on Horseback, Great Britain circa 1900

The people of the years around 1900 experienced revolutionary upheavals like no generation before. In many areas of science, discoveries followed one after the other: Marie Curie described radioactivity for the first time and received the Nobel Prize for this in 1903. In physics, Heinrich Hertz had just discovered the electromagnetic wave, which was to lead to the development of radio and wireless communication. In 1905 Albert Einstein formulated the famous formula according to which energy is mass times the speed of light squared. New means of transport, electric light - the new discoveries and changes were legion in those years. The social life of the aristocracy and the wealthy citizens of Europe, however, continued to cling to the ideals of the past for several decades. In Britain in particular, balls and hunts were given as they always had been, as if modernity did not take place out there. Horse races, named after the Earl of Derby since 1780, amused the ladies and gentlemen and no one suspected what changes would occur in the near future with the devastating war, even for the upper classes. Our brooch, a Conversation Piece of the years around 1900, also celebrates equestrianism once again. A jockey in yellow-blue dress sits on a horse covered all over with diamonds. At a stretched gallop, it hurries to the right. We can hardly see the details of the scene, so dazzled are we by the speed and brilliance of this masterfully crafted piece. The rider is covered in fine enamel, which still details the seam of his trousers. The brooch is made of rose gold on the back, silver in the front, with fine details of yellow gold. But is this brooch really just a celebration of a traditional upper class sport? Is it just about showing off wealth and luxury and enjoying the splendour of preciousness (which the sight of the first-class diamonds certainly conveys!) - It also seems as if the urge of the new age, the discoveries about the nature of light and speed also had a part to play in this design from the capital of the United Kingdom: the celebration of light, that symbol of modernity in a piece that takes speed as its theme, seems no coincidence. And all of a sudden, tradition and modernity enter into a completely new, a beautiful, indeed: an enchanting union.

In ancient times, diamonds were valued primarily for their incomparable hardness. As symbols of invincible strength, their beauty was secondary at best. In fact, early diamonds do not appear at all attractive to the modern eye. Medieval cutting techniques also did not allow for spectacular light reflections, and the widespread table cuts only brought out the brightness and color of the stones. All this changed in the course of the 17th century. The nobility of the Baroque period developed a taste for glittering gemstones. Rose-cut diamonds, whose many facets reflected candlelight beautifully, were particularly popular. In the middle of the century, a first, early brilliant cut developed, called the Mazarin cut after the influential Cardinal Jules Mazarin, characterized by a crown of 17 facets. By the end of the century, these diamonds were then replaced by a new shape, named the Peruzzi cut after its inventor. Vincenzo Peruzzi was a gem cutter from Venice, who increased the crown of the diamonds by additional facets to a total of 33, thus increasing the fire of the stones enormously. However, these early brilliant diamonds were not standardized in terms of the number and shape of the facets. Each stone was cut in such a way that as much substance as possible could be preserved. New diamond deposits in Brazil in the second half of the 18th century then led to a cut shape that became known as the Old Mine Cut. These diamonds are already very similar to today's full-cut diamonds, but several generations of continuous improvement of the cutting technique were still necessary until the Old Mine Cut became first the old cut, and finally in the 1940s the modern full cut.

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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.

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