Victorian novelty

Colourful salamander brooch with diamonds & demantoids, around 1900

So-called "novelty jewellery" in animal form was all the rage in the late Victorian era. Butterflies, bees and dragonflies made their way onto ladies' collars and décolletés, and spiders, bats and salamanders were also allowed on silks and lace, on the décolleté or on the wrist. Richly set with precious stones and rarely monochrome, usually in a colourful profusion of diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires, these pieces of jewellery remained in constant demand until the early years of the 20th century. The present brooch in the shape of a salamander is not only fashionable in its form, but also in its setting: the bright green gemstones that adorn the body of the little animal are rare demantoids, a green variety of garnet. The precious stones were first found in the Urals in the middle of the 19th century and were initially known as "Ural emerald". Especially towards the end of the century it was eagerly taken up by goldsmiths and the public: Not only Fabergé created small works of art with the bright green stone, but other European jewellery makers followed suit. The very name of the demantoids reveals that they have a diamond-like luster due to their unusually high light dispersion. And so the stones are also set here next to old European cut diamonds, to which they are not inferior in luminosity. Instead of competing with each other, the stones complement each other, highlighting each other's effect. They are set in silver, which is typical of the period, and the colour is restrained. However, a gold plating and pin prevent the silver from rubbing off on clothing. The brooch was created around 1900 and is a particularly precious version of a novelty piece of jewellery in vivid colours. The colourful little animal came to us from London. Similar salamander brooches, also set with demantoids, are illustrated in David Bennet and Daniela Mascetti: Understanding Jewellery, Woodbridge 2010, p.236.

In the late 19th century, a new, never-before-seen type of jewellery emerged: so-called "Novelty Jewellery" caused a sensation with new, surprising and previously unthinkable shapes and material combinations. The purpose of these pieces was to provide points of contact for conversation in society. At birthday parties, a brooch with the year of birth of the person being celebrated could be a sympathetic gesture; on joint hunting trips, a fox brooch could complement the wardrobe in accordance with the setting. Even skulls glowing from the eyes by batteries were offered to set a macabre, yet cheerful accent at a dinner party. Yet the jewellery was not exclusively costume jewellery. Many pieces were, of course, designed for one-time use and made of inexpensive materials. The ever more advanced industrialization also in the jewellery sector allowed at one time the mass production of gold-plated and also only gold-colored brooches and pendants. But renowned goldsmiths also created small novelty pieces from precious metals, set with precious stones, because the fashion for the curious, surprising and cheerful was alive and well in all strata of society: in fact, the royal family in Great Britain even took on a pioneering role here - and with their use of jewels set the standard by which their subjects then wanted to be measured. For more on this fascinating topic, see Charlotte Gere / Judy Rudoe: Jewellery in the Age of Queen Victoria, London 2010, pp. 190-247.

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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.