An art nouveau enamel, diamond and gem-set pendant brooch,
Lot 7
An art nouveau enamel, diamond and gem-set pendant brooch,
US$ 10,000 - 15,000
£6,000 - 9,000
Auction Details
Fine Jewellery New York
15 Oct 2012 13:00 EDT

Auction 20058
An art nouveau enamel, diamond and gem-set pendant brooch,
Lot Details
An art nouveau enamel, diamond and gem-set pendant brooch, circa 1905
designed as a winged water spirit with scrolling hair, the basse taille enamel wings accentuated by lines of old mine-cut diamonds, highlighted by one circular-cut ruby and two demantoid garnets; unsigned, no. L 0343; mounted in platinum-topped fourteen karat gold; length: 1 3/4in.

Footnotes

  • This unusual pendant-brooch exhibits mixed characteristics of both European and American origin. In its daring treatment of the female body, it has much in common with jewelry produced in France and Germany, where the subject of the appropriate use of the female face and nude figure in jewelry had been a source of intense social controversy since the 1890s. This subject, a nixie, is a shape shifting water spirit from Northern European medieval folklore, which had enjoyed a cultural revival in the nineteenth century with the publication of Grimm's Fairytales. Dreamlike female figures, including mermaids and butterfly women depicted nude or in diaphanous gowns, were favorite subjects of Art Nouveau jewelers, who expressed and validated the contemporary trend toward increasing social and physical freedom for women.
    At the same time, European-trained German jewelers had brought these novel ideas to America, and were producing fine jewelry in Newark that reflected Art Nouveau design concepts and enameling techniques. Large numbers of Germans had been arriving in Newark as refugees and immigrants since the failed revolution of 1848, and their influence greatly enriched jewelry produced in America. The Newark firms produced Art Nouveau jewelry that was less sensual, smaller in scale, and thereby more appealing to the conservative American market. The emblematic Whiteside & Blank enamel and diamond butterfly lady, featured in the collection of the Newark Museum, attests to the appeal of these symbolic figures to American women as well.
    Certain construction features are characteristic of European versus American Art Nouveau jewelry. European jewelry tended to be made with separately cast parts, joined by rivets, as in this nixie brooch, while Newark items were often cast as one piece through the use of costly steel dies, so valuable that they were stored in vaults. Europeans tended to work in eighteen karat gold and Americans in fourteen karat gold, and yet there are many notable exceptions to both these rules, including the eighteen karat gold Whiteside & Blank butterfly lady. The presence of highly skilled German jewelers in America, and the number of sophisticated Americans bringing home jewelry purchased on trips abroad makes it difficult to pinpoint the origins of this pendant brooch, but the universal appeal of these powerful female images underscores how the ideal of women's emancipation had taken hold on both continents.
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