Silver & Plique-à-Jour Enamel Bat Necklace, ca. 1900
We have my grandmother's bat necklace. It was given to her in the 1920s by Mrs. Clark, a very wealthy woman of the Clark Sewing family. My grandfather and grandmother had done work for her. He was an interior decorator, and had painted a black satin bedspread for her. And my grandmother was a fabulous seamstress and had done some work for her. So she invited them over one afternoon to say thank you. My grandmother admired the necklace that was hanging around her neck, and Mrs. Clark-- much to her amazement-- took it off and hung it on her, and said, "it is yours, thank you so much." She told my grandmother that they had bought it in Paris.
Did she give her any idea when they bought it in Paris?
Well, this was the early 1920s, and they were a wealthy family, and they were not young. So it could have been anywhere from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Since it's translucent when I hold it up to the light, I thought it was mother-of-pearl and probably freshwater pearl drops.
What we have here is a real French Art Nouveau jewel. Now, the first generation of French Art Nouveau jewelry comes from the masters such as René Lalique. But then to bring the media down to the less wealthy, French manufacturers and German manufacturers and American manufacturers and the English, they started making jewelry for what was becoming very quickly a very popular style. So the French Art Nouveau starts in its high point in the 1895s. And I think this piece dates from around 1900 because it is mass manufactured. I'm sure they didn't make thousands of them, but they probably made hundreds of them because it's a casting. The necklace is made out of cast sterling silver, and those are indeed sea pearls on the bottom. The material on the bat's wing is plique-à-jour enamel, it's backless glass enamel. And if we illuminate it from behind, you can see... that it's fairly translucent like a stained glass window.
This is a jewel that we call a festoon necklace. Festoon necklaces are wonderful, they're better than just a straight necklace, and it's a bat. Which a lot of people don't like. They think it's... it's a menacing creature. But in fact the iconography of a bat comes from the Japanese influence on the Art Nouveau. In the Chinese iconography it's a symbol of good luck. This is a great piece of jewelry. It's bold, it's big, it's extremely wearable. A fair auction estimate for this piece is in the range of $4,000 to $6,000. GUEST (laughing): Really? I'm shocked. (laughing) Thank you, Grandma. Yeah.
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