Renaissance Revival Brooch, ca. 1890
How did you come across this incredible piece of jewelry?
The usual way-- I inherited it. The chain starts with my great-grandmother in 1922. She had been widowed for five years and decided it was time to take a tour of Europe. She kidnapped my grandfather to be her driver, and the two of them spent a fairly prolonged period of time traveling through Europe.
And how old was your grandfather at that time?
I think he was 19.
Not a bad trip with his mother.
I think he had a good time.
(laughs) I believe it. What we have here is a gold, silver, diamond, emerald, and pearl pendant brooch. It's from the Renaissance Revival period and movement, with some Art Nouveau influence. Colored stones became very popular during that time, as were pearls, so I bet it dates to about 1890. The craftmanship of this brooch and the use of the metalwork, as well as the hand-chased design, is what tips me off into thinking it's from the Austro-Hungarian region of Europe. The design with the three pearl drops, the center emerald, and those diamonds is characteristic of that region. Something else I find interesting about this brooch is the bird phoenix motif that you see on either side of the emerald. This is a very interesting motif, not completely congruent with that period, but probably part of that Art Nouveau influence that we see. We have these two fabulous rose-cut diamonds. In the 1890s, they were cutting diamonds in a more modern way, but this craftsman made the conscious decision to hark back to that Renaissance with the rose-cut diamonds.
It's flanking this incredibly enormous cabochon emerald. We know it's natural, we can see all the fabulous inclusions in it, which is very typical of emeralds from that period. And then we have these three pearl drops. They would have been natural pearls in that period, as opposed to cultured pearls that we see more frequently today. My guess is that it was designed after a stomacher piece, which was a popular piece of jewelry in the 1500s. Women would have worn these brooches in a similar place in the center of their chest or at the waist of a big, beautiful dress. To have something from this period that hasn't been broken up into earrings, or hasn't been broken up to make different rings or pieces of jewelry, is a very unusual thing to see, and it's quite special. And at auction today, I would expect it to bring in the $20,000 to $30,000 range.
Wow! That's great.
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