The Ribbons of Madame Sevigné

Precious Belle Époque brooch with diamonds & natural pearls, circa 1895

Bows and garlands were popular motifs not only in 18th-century jewellery, but also in the 1890s: a sensible combination, given that both the Rococo and the Belle Époque were fond of diamonds, pearls, small and large precious objects - in other words, everything that was beautiful. Both epochs were also characterized by a constant refinement of the arts and taste, until they ended abruptly with great upheavals that swept away the known world order: One with the French Revolution, the other with the First World War. The present brooch, with its bow motif, its garland of diamonds and its pendulous natural pearls, is an exemplary example of brilliant-cut jewellery from the 1890s. For dating, see the attached illustration from "Moderne(r) Schmuckgegenstände", in: Der Bazar, 39th volume 1893, no. 24, p. 246. At the same time, however, it is a reference to a type that was popularly worn in the late Baroque and Rococo periods, the so-called Sevigné brooch. The Marquise de Sevigné (1626-1696) was a lady of the French court, well versed in matters of fashion, with a pronounced fondness for bows. Her passion soon became a model for all women in Paris and soon not only the tailors were making these bows from velvet and silk brocade, but also the jewellers from precious gemstones: The Sevigné brooch was born, a brooch characterized by a transverse oval bow motif with a central pendulous suspension. In the present piece of jewellery, this form has been slightly modified. The brooch is finished off at the bottom by the triangular motif with garland and pendulous pearls so characteristic of the 1890s. In terms of material and design, the brooch does justice to its period of origin, the Belle Époque, the "beautiful era", in every respect. A total of approximately 1.20 ct of hand-cut diamonds set the design, along with numerous rose-cut diamonds and four natural pearls with iridescent luster. The front of the brooch is made of silver, as was typical of the time, in order to give the diamonds the best possible luminous setting. The back of the brooch, on the other hand, is made of gold, so that the jewel cannot rub off when worn. The brooch is in very good condition and is a gem that beautifully captures the aesthetic of the Belle Époque. We were able to acquire it in London. Its hallmarks suggest, that the brooch was made in the USA.

The shape of the diamond has evolved over many centuries. For a long time it was technically impossible to change the raw crystal more than rudimentary, because the diamond is so extraordinarily hard. In the 17th and 18th century it was then possible to extract more and more facets from the crystal and in the course of the 19th century the cuts came closer and closer to the shape we know today as a brilliant. It was not until 1919, however, that Marcel Tolkowsky calculated the ideal shape of the brilliant on an optical-physical basis; the exact shape, which is the standard in Germany today, the so-called fine cut of the practice, was not even determined until 1938. The shape of the modern brilliant-cut diamond really became established after the war. The brilliant is therefore actually a fairly recent invention - and this also means that with a diamond cut in the 19th century or at the beginning of the 20th century, a so-called "old cut", the proportions of the stone do not follow the standard of today's brilliant. Old cuts were always cut individually in those days: One wanted to find the optimal way between the best brilliance on the one hand and the least loss of material during cutting on the other. We find that it is precisely this individuality that makes old diamonds so particularly interesting. They are less easy to compare, and their value cannot simply be determined by means of a table: Because you have to look at each stone individually to really be able to say whether it has the fire and brilliance that you expect from a diamond.

We want you to be 100% satisfied! For that reason, we examine, describe and photograph all of our jewellery with the utmost care.

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.


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.