Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Estate Jewelry: (Partial) Maritime Edition

Due to its fragility, this beautiful ring is also a rarity. Circa 1790, it features a tiny, hand-carved ivory ship set under crystal. A frame of garnets surrounds the crystal, and the waves beneath the ship are hand-painted. Popular during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, pieces like this were carved by specialists predominately located in Germany, Switzerland, and France.

Some European-trained craftsmen also set up shop in England, and this ring may have originated there; it’s similar to a ring in the collection of the British Museum that resembles the work of successful ivory sculptors G. Stephany and J. Dresch. (It’s difficult to tell for sure, as many ivory carvings weren’t signed.) Stephany and Dresch were from Germany and worked in London in the 1790s, where their pieces attracted the favorable attention of King George III. This ivory panel, which was sold at Christie’s in 2008, does actually have their signatures, and is a great example of the quality of their work.

In general, ivory is super fragile, so few pieces of this delicacy have survived to the present day. 

These elegant Art Deco screw-back earrings feature bases of rose-cut diamonds and faceted onyx, suspended by three seed pearl strands. The settings are platinum-coated gold. Very Lady Mary.

Stating that it bears the “Striking likeness of the King & Queen of England and the late King & Queen of France,” this 18th-century pendant depicts, in hand-painted ivory, the political situation in England and France during the French Revolution. On the left, the base supporting the emblems of the French monarchy — the fleur de lis, crown, and sceptre — has split apart, becoming a dual serpent/basilisk-like thing with four heads. The basilisk has sliced the sceptre and crown in half with a sword, and is devouring the fleur de lis. On the right, the thistle, rose, and crown of Great Britain stand strong and unmolested, with a solid support base. I hadn’t thought a piece of jewelry could be smug, but there you go.

Circa 1901, this Art Nouveau brooch pairs aquamarine (approximately 29 carats total weight) and green tourmaline (approx. 9 cts t.w.) with 408 diamonds in an 18k gold setting. It is signed by French jeweler Georges Fouquet, whose work I’m pretty sure I’ve featured here more than any other designer. I think you can see why.

Circa the 1860s to 1880s, this ring pairs an engraved 10k gold bow with a band of woven hair. You guys know by now that mourning jewelry usually incorporated human hair — often that of the beloved — but as time passed, hairwork pieces gained a popularity all their own, eventually becoming so desirable during the 19th century that they could be purchased from the Sears catalog. Hairworking also became a genteel pastime, and many women would purchase hair or use their own (or their family members') to weave their own creations, using patterns from popular magazines or guidebooks.

These intricately woven patterns may have originated in Våmhus, Sweden, around the middle of the 19th century; it hasn’t been firmly established that the technique was actually developed there, but it is known that a group of women who excelled at the technique travelled to England and Europe at this time to promote and sell it. The women of this area are still creating hair jewelry today.

As time moved on, intricate hairwork jewelry became less of a sentimental keepsake and more of a fashionable bauble. This particular ring could be either, as bows are a symbol of love and eternity.

This ridiculously cute little coral whale was made by the luxury jewelry house Fred Paris. Launched in 1936 by Fred Samuel, the company’s modern aesthetic was embraced throughout the decades by celebrities such as Marlene Dietrich and Grace Kelly. (Trivia: the ruby necklace worn by Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman is by Fred Paris; it was made specifically for the film.) The company was bought by LVMH in 1995, and is still going strong today.

This whale is pretty low-key, glitz-wise, but is adorable nonetheless. Set in 18k gold, he has tiny gold studs for eyes, and a diamond-set tail.

This “Souvenir de Paris” bracelet dates to the 1920s, and features central representations of the Eiffel Tower, a crown and the crest of Paris among openwork scrolled and foliate motifs. At each side is an applied medallion depicting (at left) the Arc de Triomphe and (at right) Sacre Coeur. The bracelet is silver over metal, and is hinged.

You guys always indulge my tangents of enthusiasm, and for that I can’t thank you enough. This doesn’t mean I won’t impose on you again, though. So: AGATE. I love agate! Technically, it’s a form of silica (usually chalcedony) found within volcanic or metamorphic rock, but the variations of colors streaking through its depths are always interesting, and they can sometimes be staggeringly beautiful. I talked about Scottish agate a while back, describing how Queen Victoria prompted a surge in the stone's popularity when she and Prince Albert set up house in Scotland.

There are many variations of agate, and they can be very distinctive. This Lover’s Knot (a.k.a. “Endless Knot”) brooch features Montrose agate set in gold-plated silver. This form of agate is native to the Scotland’s coastal Montrose area (just north of Dundee), and features cool shades of gray and blue — a departure from the reds and browns seen in some other agates. This brooch dates to circa 1890, and balances the warm tones of the gold with the cooler shades of the agate.

Montrose agate is probably my second favorite agate, though. Take a look at moss agate. In this form (which is found in various places, including Scotland, the US and India), greenish moss- or tree-like mineral filaments (usually manganese or iron oxide) run throughout the chalcedony. As a result, this type of agate is often referred to as “landscape agate” — and it can be really, really gorgeous.

This Russian moss agate brooch is pretty much the best there is. Circa 1908-1917, it’s Fabergé; created by their famed head workmaster Henrik Wigström. The agate plaque, which resembles a dense forest, is set within a Neoclassical-style reeded rose gold frame with diamond accents.

When I first saw this pendant, my immediate thought was “Hee!” But then I googled the designer, Miguel Berrocal, and swiftly found myself down a rabbit hole of sculpture and puzzle design and engineering and wow, I really should have known about this man. Berrocal (1933-2006) was a Spanish artist who specialized in puzzle sculpture, both monumental and tiny. He had a background in architecture, and was deeply interested in the structure of sculpture — not so much focusing on the exterior as the interior, or the parts that make up the whole.

This pendant, “Micro David-Off,” is made of bronze and is circa 1970. It’s a smaller version of a larger sculpture, and while it looks relatively simple from the outside, it actually has 17 pieces (the larger version contains more) that connect from the bottom up to form the body. It’s not mentioned on this site, but other Micro David-Off pendants conceal a tiny red interior gemstone that represents his heart. Also, his, erm, package can supposedly become a ring when the pendant is taken apart, but I haven’t been able to find any images of how that actually works.

So basically I’m still thinking “Hee!,” but now it’s a much better informed and appreciative “Hee!”

If you’re interested, this article from the April 1999 issue of Sculpture Magazine provides a more in-depth view of Berrocal’s work.

Christie’s New York’s Magnificent Jewels auction on October 16 is, as usual, a treasure chest of big names and even bigger diamonds, and there’s also a really lovely Cartier double-strand natural pearl necklace with a Type IIa diamond clasp, estimated at $2,800,000 – $3,500,000. Yow.

I love this dolphin bangle, though. By the relatively young (founded in 1993) Swiss luxury jeweler De Grisogono, it’s a hinged bangle set with cabochon sapphires and circular-cut diamonds in 18k white gold — and as if it weren’t cute enough, the flippers MOVE.

There are also some lovely pieces available in Doyle New York’s Important Estate Jewelry auction on October 17, including a collection of Indian jewelry. This Indian necklace features six graduating strands of pearls, with central openwork plaques set with foiled-back colored stones and finished with an emerald drop. Running up the sides of the strands are little pear-shaped plaques, each one containing a diamond, ruby or emerald, and from which hang three emerald beads. The back of the necklace is just as pretty, as the reverse sides of all the plaques are brightly enameled.


Previously: Space Bracelets.

Monica McLaughlin, despite having a degree in art history, will ALWAYS giggle at depictions of male genitalia in artwork.

73 Comments / Post A Comment


The aquamarine brooch! I just want to touch it, how much do you think they'd charge me for that?

The moss agate itself is so lovely that the setting almost doesn't do it justice.

Also that dolphin has the biggest "can you believe how ridiculous I am" grin.

Pocket Witch

@SarahP Ridiculously cute!


@SarahP My jaw actually IRL dropped when I saw that brooch.


So... a cock ring?


@OwlOfDerision The Romans were fond of them.

tea sonata

@hopelessshade So the Romans were filthy little buggers.


It took me a minute to realize that that political brooch was a vase/face optical illusion! So clever!


@bocadelperro I didn't realize it until I read your comment! I was wondering why the bases were so weird and knobbly.


@bocadelperro YES!!! I forgot to mention that, dammit. Thank you for pointing it out! The whole piece is amazing. I'm still trying to figure out if that snake thing is a SPECIFIC snake thing, or just a creation of the artist with the general basilisk idea in mind.


@monicamcl It looks sort of like it could be a hydra to me, which was used by both sides in the French Revolution to symbolize the opposition?

Anyway, that is one of the meaner caricatures of Marie Antoinette I've ever seen...


@bocadelperro Ooh, I didn't know that about the hydra! I bet you're right. I got fixated on the basilisk because of the rooster-like heads.




@monicamcl eh, I just checked Lynn Hunt's Politics, Culture and Class in the French Revolution, which has a bunch of illustrations of different symbols, and it looks like the hydras are always a bunch of snakes stuck on animal bodies (which makes sense). I guess I'm wrong. I'm not an expert (I'm a historian but not of the french revolution), but I'm willing to bet there's a specific symbolic meaning to those 2-headed snakes.


@bocadelperro Shoot. I agree, the whole thing is so calculated that there must be a meaning behind it. Although I wonder if the artist was forced to take some liberties with the depiction of whatever-it-is simply due to the constraints of the space and composition... It's amazing how much is going on in such a small space.

Muhammad Danial@facebook

I wonder if the artist was forced to take some liberties with the depiction of whatever-it-is simply due to the constraints of the space and composition... It's amazing how much is going on in such a small space.plumber union nj


I will take one of everything but the whale necklace - I will need at least 2 of those so I can play with them.


@Bebe Yessss clearly the whale necklace needs a buddy/lover whale companion! oh my god. oh my god. I wants it.


Estate Jewelry, yay!
I would like the ship ring, the art deco earrings, the aquamarine brooch, and the dolphin bangle. Also, I am quite put out that my Gentleman Friend did not bring me back that Souvenir from his trip to Paris (he did bring me jewelry though, and a piece for my Mom).
I love the puzzle pendant too.
And I kinda want to learn how to make hair jewelry (even though I don't usually find it aesthetically pleasing).


Hair jewelry is the GROSSEST THING the Victorians ever perpetrated on human civilization. I will totally take that moss agate brooch, though.


@JanieS Yes. Eww.


Holy WHAT that Indian necklace. I have never wanted to cat-call a piece of jewelry before, but HEY. HEY GIRL. HEY. GET ON MY NECK.


@alannaofdoom This column makes me do that a lot.


@alannaofdoom my thoughts were something like "what are the pros/cons of owning that necklace vs. buying clothes for the next 7ish years of my life?"
it's probably worth it, but i've yet to earn much of the money i'll spend on clothes for the next six years, so we'll never know...


@alannaofdoom And it's so reasonably priced...at least compared to the Fouquet brooch.


That Indian necklace! Ahhhh!


@PistolPackinMama My words exactly.


I don't like pearls at all, but both the art deco earrings and the Indian necklace are gorgeous! Also, the whale pendant, if shrunk and cloned, would make an adorable set of earrings.

Judith Slutler

Loving that moss agate brooch. I bought a flea market brooch that is a small slice of grey geode, and I think it has a similar appeal, so many wobbly lines and layers!





Disco Sheets

@frigwiggin Seriously, we need to get this Hairpin Estate Jewelry Sharing Program up and running. I will pitch in to wear that ship ring once in my life. Slash forever.



The Lady of Shalott

I like hair jewelry and all (I gave a paper on hair jewelry at a conference about a year ago, actually!), but I'm SO leery about buying antiques off Etsy. They really don't do any sort of enforcement of copyright laws or any sort of rebukes to resellers, and generally behave like shit to a lot of buyers and sellers. So as much as I will lust over things there I don't think I'd want to buy any antiques off there.


@The Lady of Shalott No way! What conference? And do you know anything more about the Swedish link? I find that part of the history really interesting.

Anyway, I only buy deodorant (yep, Soapwalla) on Etsy, so I don't have a ton of first-hand experience with them. But I liked the ring, and the dealer had solid feedback and a general collection of lower-end Victorian pieces that didn't throw up any warning flags, so I decided to include it.

One general tip for everybody - if you're interested in an antique piece on Etsy (or anywhere, really) but are wary of buying, try googling the dealer or the piece itself, because it may be available on another site with stricter policies. A lot of good, established dealers - Adin comes to mind with regard to Etsy - will cross-post their merchandise on multiple sites (Ruby Lane, Etsy, Ebay, 1stDibs, GoAntiques etc) in an effort to reach as many buyers as possible. So it's worth doing a little investigating.

The Lady of Shalott

@monicamcl An international grad student's conference in history! Sadly I cannot tell you more about the Swedish part of it--my paper focused on the commercialization of hair jewelry, social mores and fears that hair jewelry and its commercialization played on, and the concept of visual iconography in the jewelry and its relationship to other popular forms of sentimental mourning-related culture of the period.


@The Lady of Shalott Wow, that sounds fantastic - congratulations!


@The Lady of Shalott Could you interpret that paper into an article on the Hairpin about hair jewelry commercialization? Because I really, really would love to read it! And it seems like a lot of us enjoy poking fun at the peeps of yore and their strange habits.


@The Lady of Shalott I'd read that paper

Amanda Boesen@facebook

so i had to look for the puzzle pieces, and i found an old catalog that graciously gives us a close up of the, er, cock ring. here: http://www.1stdibs.com/furniture_item_zoom.php?id=673066&view=7. i don't see any red stone, but it's mostly a black and white catalog...


@Amanda Boesen@facebook Cool, thanks! That's the larger size - the "Mini David," with 23 parts and a green agate stone. It shows how complicated his sculptures are...They were sold with an instruction booklet, in case the owner couldn't figure out how to put them back together again.
The Micro David has the red stone, but I don't think it's attached to the ring, which is described by some sources as "mesh." Hmmm. I'll keep hunting.




THE DOLPHIN BANGLE. I want it, and normally I hate bracelets. Also, agates are some of my favorite stones.


OMG I should have not clicked that Cartier link to THOSE PEARLS. WAAAAAAAAANT.


I'm pretty sure I need a tiara http://www.hancocks-london.com/acatalog/info_2_TIA117721AM.html


Oh man. I'm usually cool with being poor, and then I see these estate jewelry posts.


This is the best ever. I want all of it pretty much.


I'm not sure if I've ever wanted a thing as much as I want that whale necklace.

rien à dire

Whoops, I just lost an hour of my life on RomanovRussia.com thanks to that moss agate brooch. Monica, please tell me someday that we're going to hear more about Faberge!

Oij Oij

I think your use of "due to" is incorrect, but what a thoughtful piece!


I will take that Indian necklace, please.

tea sonata

Hee! I also had that immediate reaction.

In the meantime, Oh that Lover's knot... makes me wistful for no real reason. Sigh.


Gasped at the following:
- the Lady Mary earrings
- The perfectly adorable little whalie (who I agree totally needs a friend!)
- That Indian necklace dear god!

But the earrings. I would bleed for them.


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The patterns of wearing jewellery between the sexes, and by children and older people can vary greatly between cultures, but adult women have been the most consistent wearers of jewellery; in modern Western culture the amount worn by adult males is relatively low compared with other cultures and other periods in Western culture.online jewelry stores


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I stumbled upon this article and say thank you! I love to find some "treasures" of the past and even more-so when real background information is available. I just purchased a “Souvenir DE Paris” about an hour ago. Mine has the exact basic cuff you show above. I have the Notre Dame De Paris applique, but on the left side has one for "Sacre Coeur De Montmartre Paris" and no the Eiffel Tower covering the Parisian crest (which is under the tower on the one you have pictured above. I blew the photos up and looked at them side by side and they are identical. Looking at the 2 ... I suggest when one had visited Paris, you would purchase the basic cuff and add appliques to it representing the sites you went to see, similar as a charm bracelet of today. I appreciate your dating the piece as from the 20's as the seller of mine called it Victorian. Do you have any idea as to whether is holds any value over and above one's interest?


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