ATTRIBUTED TO WILHELM SCHMIDT: AN OPAL CAMEO, CIRCA 1900

This lot has been removed from the website, please contact customer services for more information

Lot 131
ATTRIBUTED TO WILHELM SCHMIDT: AN OPAL CAMEO, CIRCA 1900

Sold for £ 8,287 (US$ 11,399) inc. premium
ATTRIBUTED TO WILHELM SCHMIDT: AN OPAL CAMEO, CIRCA 1900
The oval boulder opal cameo depicting the head of the goddess Minerva, with a dragon on her helmet, in profile, facing right, mounted as a pendant with rose-cut diamond frame, length of cameo 2.0cm

Footnotes

  • The talented German gem engraver, Wilhelm Schmidt, (1845-1938), claimed to have cut the first opal cameo in Europe in 1874 by inventing a process to utilise the matrix of rough opal for the ground. The jeweller John Brogden exhibited Schmidt's first opal cameo at the Paris Exhibition in 1878.

    Schmidt was born in Idar Oberstein, the European centre of the mineral, gemstone and lapidary trades. At the age of 15, he was sent to Paris as an apprentice and was taken under the wing of cameo-cutter, Arsène, who trained him in the neo-classical tradition. Despite his prodigious talent and winning prizes for drawing and draughtsmanship, by the time he graduated in the 1860s, the French fashion for stone cameos, either mounted as jewellery or as collectables for amateur students of antiquity, was waning.

    Eventually, after several tough years, Schmidt settled in London, where he set up an engraving business in Hatton Garden, trading alongside his gem-dealing brother Louis, who imported numerous unusual and rare specimens with which he could work. Schmidt carved cameos for many of the best jewellery firms, including John Brogden, Guiliano and Child & Child, and attracted several prestigious patrons including the Museum of Practical Geology, to whom he sold cameos engraved from quartz, sardonyx, jasper, labradorite, moonstone and of course – the most unusual stone of all – opal, which was to become his trademark.

    Carving opal is a hazardous undertaking to say the least, as opal can crack and spoil if the temperature conditions fluctuate. To quote the late scholar Gertrud Seidmann, a connoisseur of Schmidt's work, and to whom we are indebted for our knowledge of him:

    "opal cameos, if rare, were not unknown (in the 19th century) but Schmidt had invented a novel technique: instead of carving the whole cameo from precious opal, he used blanks with a thin layer of precious opal overlaying the matrix, in the same way in which the contrasted layers of agates were traditionally used to set off the background."

    Schmidt never signed his work and the cameos he produced for jewellery shops and dealers were never credited to him. Examples, attributed by Seidmann, are in the collections of the Natural History Museum, London, the British Museum and the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

    For further information see:
    Seidmann, Gertrud. 1988. Wilhelm Schmidt: The Last Neo-Classical Gem-Engraver. London: Source Title: Apollo CXXVIII No. 317 (July-1988).
    Illustrated Catalogue of Gems, Cameos & Amber Collected by A. Booth, Gloucester, published before 1923.
Contacts
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations

ALL BIDDERS MUST AGREE THAT THEY HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD BONHAMS' CONDITIONS OF SALE AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THEM, AND AGREE TO PAY THE BUYER'S PREMIUM AND ANY OTHER CHARGES MENTIONED IN THE NOTICE TO BIDDERS. THIS AFFECTS THE BIDDERS LEGAL RIGHTS.

If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories, buyer's premium excluding Cars, Motorbikes, Wine, Whisky and Coin & Medal sales, will be as follows:

Buyer's Premium Rates
27.5% on the first £10,000 of the hammer price;
25% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of £10,000 up to and including £450,000;
20% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of £450,000 up to and including £4,500,000;
and 14.5% of the hammer price of any amounts in excess of £4,500,000.

VAT at the current rate of 20% will be added to the Buyer's Premium and charges excluding Artists Resale Right.

Payment Notices

For payment information please refer to the sale catalog.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licenses please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.

App