An antique freshwater pearl, diamond and fourteen karat gold pendant necklace, Marcus & Co.,
Lot 4
An antique freshwater pearl, diamond and fourteen karat gold pendant necklace,
Marcus & Co., circa 1905
US$ 25,000 - 35,000
£ 19,000 - 26,000

Fine Jewellery

15 Oct 2012, 13:00 EDT

New York

Lot Details
An antique freshwater pearl, diamond and fourteen karat gold pendant necklace, Marcus & Co., An antique freshwater pearl, diamond and fourteen karat gold pendant necklace, Marcus & Co., An antique freshwater pearl, diamond and fourteen karat gold pendant necklace, Marcus & Co.,
An antique freshwater pearl, diamond and fourteen karat gold pendant necklace, Marcus & Co., circa 1905
the pendant with beaded scroll motifs set with four freshwater pearls, measuring approximately 13.60 x 11.60 to 7.60 x 6.55mm., and accentuated by ten old mine-cut diamonds, reverse with chased and engraved designs, suspended from a chain of foliate links with two old mine-cut diamonds and beaded accents; pendant convertible to a brooch; unsigned, attributed to Marcus & Co.; gross weight approximately: 40.0 grams; length of chain: 14in.; length of pendant: 2in.


  • Accompanied by GIA report #2145824568, dated August 8, 2012, stating: 3 of 4 of the pearls were found to be natural, freshwater, no indications of treatment. (One pearl was not able to be tested.)

    These fine natural freshwater pearls, most likely of domestic origin, are relics of a cottage industry of relatively short duration in American history. Native pearls of high quality first came to the public's attention in 1857, when an unfortunate New Jersey cobbler preparing a mussel dinner discovered a pearl that, before deep frying, had clearly been of extraordinary size and quality. The pearl's discovery touched off a furor for pearl fishing in neighboring New Jersey streams. Soon after, a fine round pink pearl weighing nearly 93 grains, destined ultimately for the collection of the Empress Eugenie, was discovered in a nearby mussel bed.

    Though these pearl resources were quickly depleted, new discoveries in the Little Miami River and its tributaries in Ohio soon followed. A group of several thousand pearls, collected by a local Ohio banker, formed the basis of the two-part American pearl exhibit at the Paris Expositions of 1889 and 1900. In the exhibits, which won gold medals, pearls were set in jewelry and other ornaments, arranged by their wide variety of white, golden and silver tones and their endless array of pastel hues.

    Discoveries of fine pearls in Tennessee, Arkansas, and the upper Mississippi Valley followed, and a speculative culture of pearl fishing became widely established in these regions. George Frederick Kunz described the pearl fishing trade as a combination of pleasure seekers, fortune hunters, farmers in their off season, women and children, and other tradesman formerly employed in the regular economy, all wading on the river banks, using either no implements, or very basic tools, such as small boats, water telescopes and shoulder rakes. The market for the pearls was facilitated by traveling dealers, but more beneficial trade connections with New York and even London jewelers also formed. Unfortunately, Kunz was correct that pearl fishing in this populist style would be difficult to regulate, with the predictable consequence that these pearls are no longer found.

    The discovery of fine American natural pearls also roughly coincided with the revival in the arts of the Renaissance style, which had used baroque pearls in jewelry to great effect. The early jewelry of Herman Marcus offered both baroque freshwater pearls in Renaissance style figural jewels, as well as the finest natural saltwater pearls. Throughout their history as a dynasty of prominent New York jewelers, the Marcus family continued to be known for its knowledge of the pearl and its innovative use of all varieties of pearls in their unusual and artistic jewelry. Third generation jeweler William Marcus Jr. was considered an expert among experts, maintaining pearl buying offices in Paris, London and Mumbai, and publishing "The Story of the Pearl" (1936) as part of a five book series on the major gems, illustrated by the artist Rockwell Kent. His uncle George Elder Marcus, believed to have been Marcus & Co.'s chief designer until his death in 1917, drew his style inspiration from the best of historical designs and metalworking techniques from all over the world. The highly successful generational collaboration is expressed in the subtly sophisticated metalwork, with its signature hemispherical gold beading, the unusual pearls, and the original design exhibited by this pendant necklace.

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