The Natural World
Victorian demi-parure consisting of earrings & brooch with garnet & pearls, circa 1850
Never before had the natural sciences been so present in Great Britain as in the middle of the 19th century. Not only was Charles Darwin on everyone's lips, but artists were also seriously concerned with nature - no longer in a purely metaphorical, partly transfigured way like the Romantics around 1800, but far more directly. The early works from the circle of the Pre-Raphaelites, for example, were shockingly realistic: John Brett's depiction of the Rosenlaui glaciers of 1856 achieved an almost scientific precision, and John Everett Millais's depiction of Ophelia drowning in a plant-lined river of 1852 is said to have been used by a botany professor to teach his students. This was also reflected in jewellery, for jewellery through the centuries has not been merely ornamental. Just as in the fine arts, social currents and changes can be read from it. British jewellery from around 1850 is therefore often botanically inspired. Unlike earlier jewellery, which stylised floral motifs and tendrils, these pieces are often designed very close to nature. Some are in the form of gnarled branches, others feature ornaments in the form of fine leaves, which are designed three-dimensionally and veined in a naturalistic manner. The present set of brooch and earrings is a wonderful example of this. The basic design in each case is an intertwined knot of gold ribbons on which ivy leaves and vines are superimposed. In the centre of each basic element is another arrangement of leaves, finely veined with punching and engraving. Like a precious fruit, they each bear an almandine garnet cut into a cabochon and framed by seed pearls. As in Pre-Raphaelite paintings, the depictions of nature here, for all their precision, still carry a hidden symbolic level. For example, ivy was considered a symbol of marital fidelity in the Victorian language of flowers, which is why it is often found engraved on wedding rings. Garnet was also associated with permanence and fidelity (cf. e.g. Kunz: The Curious Lore of Precious Stones, 1913 or Welsh: The Language, Sentiment, and Poetry of Precious Stones, 1912). The demi-parure is very well preserved. We have had the interior of an antique box lined in green velvet and fitted, so the Victorian set is now well protected.
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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.