Precious contrasts

Festive pendant brooch with diamonds in gold & silver, around 1900

The Belle Époque, the period between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the First World War, elevated diamond jewellery in the non-colour white to the supreme discipline of jewellery. However, before white gold was invented and platinum was available and processable in sufficient quantities, silver was used to set diamonds to maximum effect. The darkening of the precious metal was considered at the same time: a trick that was already recommended in Benvenuti Cellini's (1500 in Florence; † 1571 ibid) treatise on the art of goldsmithing. He advised setting diamonds in blackened silver to make them appear brighter. Thus, the diamonds in this piece of jewellery shine particularly brightly. A total of 56 diamonds in historic cuts have been assembled here to form a typical design of the Belle Époque. The character of their individual cuts differs from the cooler expression that diamonds receive from today's cutting techniques. We find here some 2.79 carats of fine diamonds, which stand out particularly beautifully against the dark background. A back of reddish gold, meanwhile, prevents the silver from staining skin or fabrics. Around 1900, it was quite common to create jewelry pieces like this with double mounts as brooch and pendant - after all, both were worn in the same place. At that time, both the brooch and the pendant were worn centrally on the décolleté or on the high collar, so it made perfect sense to give both pieces of jewellery the same shape, and even to give one and the same piece of jewellery two functions. Particularly luxurious variants of the pendant brooch, such as this one, were equipped with a detachable mounting. Thanks to a small screw mechanism, the brooch can be removed when the beautiful piece is worn as a pendant. The pendant eyelet in turn can be unhooked if the jewel is to be worn as a brooch. A wonderful contemporary witness of the Belle Époque - typical for the time, excellently preserved and wearable. Similar designs can be found in many jewellery catalogues of the 1890s and early 1900s, for example in a catalogue of the British firm Saunders & Shepherd from 1903/04 (see last picture).

"Under the striped awning a continuous stream of black cloaks and splendid gowns flowed into the house. Stripped of capes and cloaks, the owners of said wardrobe presented themselves there in costly attire and gleaming jewels. Diamonds sparkled everywhere. On snow-white shirts and full busts, on powdered necks, bare arms and ungloved fingers. They crowned the ebony hair of stately matrons and sparkled among the curly and braided hair of young women. They shone on straps and necklines of dresses and wound snakelike around round wrists..." (Translated from the serialized novel, The Countess Pharamond, London Society, April 1892, p. 336.) The Belle Époque, the period between the late 19th century and the beginning of the First World War, elevated diamond jewellery in the non-colour white to the pinnacle of jewellery. However, before white gold was invented and platinum was available and processable in sufficient quantities, silver was used to set diamonds and also white pearls to maximum effect.

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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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