From iron time

Around 1810: Snake necklace made of iron, gold and silver

At the time of the Napoleonic Wars at the beginning of the 19th century, the Prussian Princess Marianne initiated an action which was to contribute to the defence of the homeland threatened by France under the slogan "Gold I gave for iron": In a grand procession on the boulevard Unter den Linden in Berlin, the ladies of the society offered their gold jewelry as a gift to the king. The gold collected in this way was to be used to finance the fight against Napoleon; in return, the donors received pieces of jewellery made of cast iron in exchange for their golden valuables, which they wore with pride from then on. The great era of iron jewellery thus began during the years of Napoleonic occupation of Prussia in 1806. This new demand for iron jewellery led to the founding of the Berlin Iron Foundry, headed by the goldsmith Conrad Geiss, who had many classicist designs executed. The Berlin iron jewellery, the "Fer de Berlin" with its clear contours and its restrained, dark colour corresponded to the spirit of classicism. With it, the lavish diamond pomp of the 18th century was countered by an alternative that gave expression to bourgeois virtues such as modesty, restraint and education. But it was not only in Berlin that pieces of jewellery were made of iron during these years; jewellery was also made of this material in Silesia, in neutral Switzerland and later even in France: Iron had become fashionable and iron jewellery socially acceptable. This necklace of the Napoleonic era is a typical piece of jewellery in the shape of a snake, as it was common in Classicism and Biedermeier throughout Europe. The iron is knitted into a flexible tube, which forms the body of a snake. Its head and tail are cast in gilded silver. Towards the head of the animal the iron is gilded in stripes and the eyes of the animal are represented by faceted emeralds. The necklace is based on the ancient motif of the Ouroboros. This self-devouring serpent symbolizes the eternity of time and the ever-renewing life. An unusually beautiful piece of jewellery from the years of the wars of liberation around 1810 with a deep symbolism that transcends time. Cf. Elisabeth Schmuttermeier: Schmuck aus Eisen, in: Berliner Eisen. Die königliche Eisengießerei Berlin. Zur Geschichte eines preussischen Unternehmens, ed. by Charlotte Schreiter / Albrecht Pyritz, Berlin 2007, pp. 227-240, here p. 238, fig.11.

Since ancient times, the snake has fascinated people. On the one hand dangerous because of its poison and cunning, shunned as the seductress of Eve in paradise, on the other hand admired because of numerous abilities attributed to it. In ancient Egypt and Greece it was regarded as a symbol of eternal life, as the cleverest animal on earth and, as it were, as the symbolic animal of the god of medicine, Asclepius. Jewellery with snake motifs then gained great popularity, especially in the early 19th century; you will find some snake rings and pieces of jewellery with snake motifs handed down from the Biedermeier period in our range.

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.


OUR PROMISE

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.

Play