Swiss Enamel Brooch of U.S. Capitol, ca. 1824

Value (2009) | $7,500 Retail$9,500 Retail

A friend of our family was an opal cutter, and he would just travel around to different stores, attempting to sell his stones, and inevitably he would come out with something he had traded for. This is one of the interesting items that he traded for.

But you got it.


It was a present?


Well, it's a brooch with a landscape, with a building, and the first thing that we're going to call your attention to is what's written on the inside. Let me just flip it over. And on the blue background, there's a darker blue and there's two words: "Capitol," "Washington." This is enamel, and what we call Swiss enamel. Enamel, a lot of people may not know, is little particles of glass, and they attach it to a surface with kind of glue or paste, and then they fire it in a kiln. The glass fuses and melts, and that's what makes the picture. And the Swiss were brilliant at it. What's interesting about this is this is a very early representation of our Capitol building in Washington, D.C. I have never seen our Capitol building done in a Swiss enamel, and it caught our interest, and I actually consulted with our Americana experts and our other jewelers here to get a consensus of what it is we're looking at. Our Capitol building was burned down by the British in 1814.


And they started reconstructing the rotunda building in 1818.


But it wasn't really finished enough to occupy until 1824, when they had their first party in the rotunda building, honoring General Lafayette, who was a great French hero that helped the American Revolution. And the final construction was not finished until 1829.


From the pictures that I've seen in research of the old portraits of the Capitol building, this is one of the earliest representations of the Capitol as it was being rebuilt. The rotunda is not finished, but it was finished enough for the time when Lafayette was honored. So we can roughly date this about 1824. The enamel itself is framed in gold. This was not a tourist item. Our opinion is that it's very likely this was commissioned as a gift for a diplomat or someone in service to the United States. Do you have any sense of what something like this could be worth?

Maybe a couple of thousand. I have no idea.

A nice Swiss enamel of a waterfall or a little village brings a couple of thousand. This is historically important, and we feel that it would do much better-- $7,500 to $9,500...

Wow. Oh, my goodness. ...

at retail to the collector's market is a very reasonable estimate of what this could bring.

Oh, how fabulous.

Appraisal Details

Edith Weber Antique Jewelry
New York, NY
Appraised value (2009)
$7,500 Retail$9,500 Retail
Phoenix, AZ (August 01, 2009)
19th Century
Enamel, Gold

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