Nature and art

Handmade "vegetable" pendant in gold, around 1955

A ruby, a tourmaline and a pearl are the precious fruits of an exotic plant. We see its golden leaves entwine and present themselves in beauty, as if the plant were aware of its beholders. The arrangement of gemstones and polished gold is found in the center of a matte shimmering surface. A frame of flashing rays encloses it, drawing the eye back again and again to this otherworldly nature, a work of art from the skilled hand of a goldsmith. The pendant is an elegant example of a fashion that has become known as "vegetable" jewelry. It emerged during the Art Deco period in Germany and probably developed from designs of the Art Nouveau style of southern Germany and Austria, such as those by Josef Hoffmann for the Wiener Werkstätten, which often featured gold and silver leaves and vine work. This type of jewellery got its name from this vegetal decoration, from whose foliage pearls and precious stones emerge like ripe fruit. Here, this design idea is combined with another technique, which also celebrated its heyday in Art Deco: the technique of granulation. It is an ancient technique and requires the greatest skill on the part of the goldsmith in order not to melt the small spheres of gold. As a reward for the great effort, however, the piece of jewelry receives a particularly fascinating surface shape. Enclosed we show an advertisement for granulated jewellery of the 1950s, which proves the great appreciation of this special technique in the first years of the young Federal Republic. Mostly such "vegetable" jewellery is found in the form of rings or brooches; more rarely they are worn as pendants like the present handmade piece, which we date to the early post-war period.

Granulation is an ancient discipline of goldsmithing that originated with the ancient Etruscans. The smallest gold balls are soldered onto a precious metal in such a way that they are only connected to each other at their respective tiny points of contact. Light and shadow on the surfaces thus granulated create a sculptural effect, and this is precisely what makes granulation work so appealing. The difficulty with this technique is to precisely match the melting point of the gold, because if the granulation balls get just a tiny bit too hot, the work immediately melts away. In the mid-19th century, the goldsmith Castellani brought this ancient technique back to life, which is why we know it sufficiently from Victorian-era jewelry. What is less well known, however, is that granulation experienced a renewed renaissance in 20th century Germany. How did this come about? In 1918, art historian Marc Rosenberg published The History of Goldsmithing on a Technical Basis - inspiring the goldsmiths among his readership to experiment. Johann Michael Wilm from Munich and also Elisabeth Treskow succeeded in producing fine pieces of jewellery with granulation even before the war. After the war, at the latest, the technique had matured to such an extent that it was even possible to order granulated pieces from jewellery catalogues.

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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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