Pair of Natural Pearl and Diamond Ear Pendants

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Origin of Name

The name refers to a pair of natural pearl and diamond ear pendants, that appeared at the Christie's "Jewels : The Geneva Sale" held on May 12, 2010 at the Geneva Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues, and recorded a sale price of CHF 56,250 (US$50,771), which was greater than the presale estimate of CHF 40,000 - CHF 50,000 (US$ 36,098 - 45,122), in keeping with the enhanced trend for final hammer prices recorded at these auctions, for lots containing natural pearls, an indication of the revival of the strong auction market for such antique pearl containing jewelry, after their poor performances in the previous years during the global economic recession.

Characteristics of the Pair of Natural Pearl and Diamond Ear Pendants

Design Features of the Ear Pendants

The pair of dangling ear pendants, characteristic of the belle époque period (1901-1920) and the art deco period (1920-1940) that immediately followed it, are made up of a natural drop-shaped pearl, suspended by a bell-cap arrangement from a long diamond-set line made of platinum and gold. The height of each ear pendant is 6 cm, one-thirds (2 cm) of which constitute the length of the drop-shaped pearl and the remaining two-thirds (4 cm) the length of the diamond line.

Pair of natural pearl & diamond ear pendants

Pair of natural pearl & diamond ear pendants

© Christie's

Features of the Diamond Line

The diamond line approximately 4 cm in length is set with graduated baguette-cut diamonds mounted in platinum and gold. The top of this line is set with an almost square-shaped baguette-cut diamond, with provision being made on the reverse for suspension from the ear. Below this, the diamond line is made up of 10 baguette-cut diamonds of different shapes, such as rectangular, square and trapezoid. It is the width of the baguette-cut diamond that shows a gradation from top to bottom, gradually increasing towards the bottom. The length and shape of succeeding baguette-cut diamonds are variable. The shapes of the 10 baguette-cut diamonds from top to bottom are as follows :- The first eight baguette-cut diamonds are rectangular, the 9th baguette-cut diamond is square-shaped, and the 10th baguette-cut diamond is a trapezoid. The trapezoid is followed by a large triangular step-cut diamond, the last diamond in the line, giving the diamond line an appearance of an inverted arrow, the triangular diamond representing the arrowhead. The entire diamond line consists of 12 diamonds.

 

Features of the Drop-shaped Pearl

The bell-cap arrangement that suspends the pearls

The drop-shaped pearls are suspended by a bell-cap arrangement fixed to the narrow end of the pearls at the top. The bell-cap that appears to be made of yellow gold is divided into 8 segments, each segment mounted with millegrain set circular-cut diamonds. The bell-cap is surmounted by a bezel-set circular-cut diamond, whose framework is attached to the tip of the arrowhead.

 

The shape of the pearls

 The drop-shaped pearls of the pendants are not perfect drop-shapes. The pearl on the left is slightly more elongated than the pearl on the right. The pearl on the left bulges more on the left side than on the right side. The pearl on the right has a more regular shape, but it is somewhat oval drop-shaped. In keeping with the slight differences in shape the two pearls also show slight differences in size and dimensions.

 

The dimensions of the pearls

The length and width of the pearls are not given, but an approximate estimate of these dimensions can be made from the height of the ear pendant given as 6 cm. The length of the pearl is approximately one-thirds of the height of the ear pendant. Thus, the length of each drop-shaped pearl is approximately 2 cm or 20 mm. The width of the pearl is approximately two-thirds of its length. which is approximately equal to 13 mm. Thus, the approximate dimensions of the drop-shaped pearls are 20 mm x 13 mm.

 

The weight of the pearls

The weight of the pearls are also not given, but can be approximately estimated by comparing with drop-shaped pearls of similar dimensions. Such comparisons are possible because the specific gravity or relative density of pearls largely remain constant within the range of 2.66 and 2.78, minor variations within this range caused by the variation in source and perhaps the oyster species. From the table of famous drop-shaped pearls arranged in descending order of weights given in our webpage Belle Époque Period Diamond and Baroque Pearl Pendant Necklace, it is seen that the pearls that have the closest dimensions to the estimated dimensions of 20 mm x 13 mm, are the pearls in row 21, a Pair of Antique Natural Pearl and Diamond Ear Pendants, that have dimensions of 21.1 mm x 14.3 mm and 21.2 mm x 13.45 mm, which have weights of 107.44 grains and 91.28 grains respectively. Thus, an estimate of 90 - 110 grains for the two pearls in this pair of ear pendants may not be quite far from their actual weights.

 

The color and overtones if any of the pearls

The color of the two pearls are silvery-white in color, in which white is the body color of the pearls and silver the overtone color caused by refraction of light as it passes through successive layers of nacre. The white body color is caused by the absence of any colored pigments in the conchiolin component of nacre, that allows the white color of aragonite to show through.

 

The luster and orient of the pearls

The extraordinary luster and brilliance of the pearls caused by the reflection of light from the surface and just below the surface of the pearl, is characteristic of the natural saltwater origins of the pearl. Saltwater pearls have a luster and brilliance that usually exceeds that of freshwater pearls. The orient of the pearl also known as iridescence is also at its maximum, as both luster and orient are dependant on the thickness of the nacre, which is a maximum for natural pearls, being made entirely of nacre.

 

The surface quality of the pearls 

The surface quality of the pearls are also extraordinary, with a smooth and blemish-free surface, that enhances the luster and brilliance of the pearl.

 

History of  the Pair of Natural Pearl and Diamond Ear Pendants

Possible Period of Origin of the Ear Pendants - The Early Art Deco Period

Design features and materials incorporated in the pair of natural pearl and diamond ear pendants might give an indication of the possible period of their origin. Among such features are the following :-

1) The most prominent feature in the ear pendants are the lengths of the ear pendants themselves. Such long dangling ear pendants first became popular in the Edwardian period between 1901 and 1920, also known as the Belle Époque period. The popularity of such dangling ear pendants however, continued well into the Art Deco period that followed and lasted from 1920-1940. Thus, the possible period of origin of the ear pendants is either the Belle Époque or Art Deco periods.

2) The white on white color scheme adopted for the pair of ear pendants, using white diamonds and pearls on a white metal, such as platinum, was a popular feature of Edwardian jewelry, but also continued later into the early Art Deco period. Thus, according to this feature the possible period of origin of the ear pendants is either the Belle Époque period or the early Art Deco period.

3) The use of platinum as a metal in jewelry crafting was first introduced in the Edwardian period, but persisted even during the Art Deco period, even though a cheap substitute for platinum, known as white gold, was first introduced in jewelry crafting in the early 1920s. Thus, the use of platinum as a metal in the ear pendants again point to their possible Belle Époque or Art Deco origins. 

4) The use of rectangular step-cut diamonds also known as rectilinear-cut diamonds or baguette-cut diamonds, in the design of the ear pendants, is the most crucial line of evidence that distinguishes between the Belle Époque and Art Deco periods for the origin of the ear pendants. Such geometric cuts became very popular only during the Art Deco period, and thus, the use of baguette-cut diamonds on the ear pendants confirm the period of origin of the ear pendants as Art Deco.

5) Among the many circular-cut diamonds mounted on the bell-cap arrangements that suspends the drop-shaped pearls, if some of them are modern brilliant-cut diamonds, they will provide an additional line of evidence for the Art Deco origin of the ear pendants, as the modern brilliant-cut was first introduced by Gabi Tolkowsky only in 1919, just before the onset of the Art Deco period.

Hence, considering the above lines of evidence we can safely conclude that the period of origin of the pair of natural pearl and diamond ear pendants, was the Art Deco period. However, the  fact that some Belle Époque features are also found in the ear-pendants, possibly as carry over features, point to the period of origin as the early Art Deco period. The Art Deco period extended from 1920 to 1940. Thus, the early Art Deco period is the period that lasted  approximately from 1920 to around 1930.

 

The Possible Source of the Pearls

Natural pearl fisheries that existed around the period 1920-30

Given that the pair of natural pearl and diamond ear pendants possibly originated in the early Art Deco period between 1920 and 1930, we can find out the possible source of the pearls, taking into consideration the natural pearl fisheries that were still active during that period. Three main natural pearl fisheries were active during this period, the oysters being harvested mainly for the pearls they might contain as in the Persian Gulf fisheries or the mother-of-pearl shells, that was the main raw material for the shell button industry, such as the pearl fisheries at Baja California in Mexico or Broome in northwestern Australia. In the latter instance pearls produced were only a by-product of the mother-of-pearl industry.

 

The Persian Gulf was a possible source of the pearls

The Persian Gulf fishery based on the oyster species Pinctada radiata, was one of the most ancient fisheries in the world, that was the main source of the so-called oriental pearls throughout history, that entered the courts of the kings and emperors of ancient empires. Thus, Pinctada radiata had been the most prolific pearl producer in history, producing pearls of medium size ranging from 3 to 8 mm, apart from large number of seed pearls produced by them less than 2 mm in size. Occasionally pearls larger than 8 mm in size had also been produced by Pinctada radiata, and it is quite possible that  drop-shaped pearls of approximate dimensions 20 mm x 13 mm was also produced inside these oysters that can reach a maximum size of 7 to 8 cm (70-80 mm), even though the possibility of that happening was extremely rare. However, given the enormous  quantity and volume of production annually, a few pearls of extraordinary sizes being produced was a distinct possibility. The Persian Gulf natural pearl fishery was still in active production during the period 1920 to 1930, and it was quite possible that the drop-shaped pearls might have originated in this region. The silvery-white color of the pearls was also a common color of pearls produced by Pinctada radiata.

 

Baja California could not have been a source of the pearls as the pearls produced in this region were mainly black/grey pearls

Baja California in Mexico was a center of the mother-of-pearl industry based on the oyster species Pinctada mazatlantica, and harvested from the Gulf of California. Mother-of-Pearl from Baja California fed the shell button industry based in Europe. Occasional pearls discovered from the oysters was a by-product of this industry, but the pearls produced by this species were mainly black/grey colored pearls. Baja California was the source of black pearls in the world for over 400 years from the mid 16th-century to the mid 20th-century. Thus, the silvery-white drop-shaped pearls could not have originated in Baja California, the main source of black/grey pearls.

 

Broome in northwestern Australia was another possible source of the pearls

Broome in northwestern Australia was the world's largest producer of mother-of-pearls feeding the shell button industries of Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This industry was based on the oyster species Pinctada maxima, the South Sea pearl oyster also known as the silver-lipped pearl oyster. A by product of this industry was the occasional natural South Sea pearls found in these oysters. South Sea pearls had a range in size of 9 mm to around 20 mm. Occasional pearls greater than 20 mm in size were also produced. The silvery-white drop-shaped pearls incorporated in these ear pendants, with approximate dimensions of 20 mm x 13 mm, could easily have originated in these oysters, which had a larger gonad and reaching a maximum size of 30 cm (12 inches). The silvery-white color is also one of the commonest colors of the South Sea pearls produced by these silver-lipped oysters. Thus, Broome in northwestern Australia was another possible source of these drop-shaped natural pearls.

 

The Pair of Natural Pearl and Diamond Ear Pendants register an enhanced price at the Christie's "Jewels : the Geneva Sale" held on May, 12, 2010.

The pair of natural pearl and diamond ear pendants assigned lot no.134 and described as "A Pair Of Pearl And Diamond Ear Pendants" appeared at the Christie's "Jewels : The Geneva Sale" held on May 12, 2010, at the Geneva - Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues. A pre-sale estimate of CHF 40,000-50,000 (US$ 36,098-45,122) was placed on the pair of ear pendants, which was accompanied by a laboratory report, bearing no.52,690 and dated October 20, 2008, issued by the Swiss Gemological Research Institute (SSEF), certifying that the pearls incorporated in the ear pendants are natural saltwater pearls. In keeping with the enhanced trend shown for jewelry pieces containing natural pearls at the auctions, the lot registered a hammer price of CHF 56,250 (US$ 50,771), which was greater than the upper presale estimate by US$ 5,649, and the lower presale estimate by US$ 14,673.

 

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     Back to Famous Pearls

 

Related :-

 1) Pair of Antique Natural Pearl and Diamond Ear Pendants

2) Pair of Fine Natural Pearl and Diamond Ear Pendants

3) Diamond and Natural Pearl Pendants - European Noble Family Collection

4) Marie Mancini Pearl

5) Pair of Art Deco Natural Pearl and Diamond Pendant Earrings

6) Cartier's Natural Pearl and Diamond Ear Pendants

 

External Links

1) Christie's "Jewels : The Geneva Sale" 1374, May 12, 2010. Lot No.134 - A Pair of Pearl and Diamond Ear Pendants www.mailchristies.com/lotfinder

 

References :-

1) Christie's "Jewels : The Geneva Sale" 1374, May 12, 2010. Lot No.134 - A Pair of  Pearl and Diamond Ear Pendants. www.mailchristies.com/lotfinder

 2) Cartier's Natural Pearl and Diamond Ear Pendants - www.internetstones.com

3) Pair of Art Deco Natural Pearl and Diamond Pendant Earrings - www.internetstones.com


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