When dreams take wings

Cheerful butterfly brooch made of natural pearls and gemstones, Germany circa 1890

The years around 1890 brought a new fashion to the field of jewellery: insect brooches were all the rage in the metropolises of Europe, and butterflies, bees and dragonflies in particular made their way onto ladies' collars and décolletés. Richly set with precious stones and seldom monochrome, but usually in a colourful profusion of diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires, these brooches remained in constant demand until the early years of the 20th century and were a sign of assured taste. The present butterfly is a real jewel of those years and immediately brought a smile to our faces when we were able to acquire it from a West German aristocratic estate. The large butterfly, richly set with precious stones, is made only of precious materials. The technique used here is also remarkable: its wings are movably mounted on springs, so that they also move with every movement of its wearer and tremble merrily. The remarkable butterfly has settled on a golden staff. A large, precious natural pearl in the shape of a teardrop forms its body and another oriental pearl adorns the staff on which the butterfly rests. Two red natural spinels and two blue sapphires are set as sparkling focal points between shimmering diamond roses and form the butterfly's wings. A magnificent emerald in a cushion-shaped cabochon cut forms the centre of the animal. The clever distribution of the gemstones gives the butterfly a wonderful naturalness that simultaneously abstracts it. Starting from the baroque body of the pearl, through the emerald and the blue sapphires, a radiant progression of light unfolds to the rare red spinels in the upper parts of the wings. The variety of colours of the piece allows combinations in almost all colours, but also on dark fabrics the jewel shines and will not miss its effect. (Cf. similar pieces for instance in David Bennett/Daniela Mascetti: Understanding Jewellery, London 2010, p. 229ff.).

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: for example, birds suddenly settled on swings and became earrings. Many everyday objects found their way onto the lapels of ladies and gentlemen, such as tennis rackets, golf clubs and stamps, but the technical world also found expression in this fashion. Machines, automobiles in miniature and the new telephone were surprising focal points. 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 jewelry was not exclusively costume jewelry. Many pieces were, of course, designed for one-time use and made of inexpensive materials. The ever more advanced industrialization also in the jewelry 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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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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