Antique Natural Pearl and Diamond Pendant Brooch

 

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Lareef A. Samad B.Sc.(Hons)

Origin of Name

The name refers to an attractive natural pearl and diamond pendant brooch believed to have been designed around the year 1890, that appeared at the Christie's Contemporary Jewelry and Watches Sale, 7664, held on April 29, 2008, at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, under Lot No.154 and was sold for $97,000, above the pre-sale estimate of $60,000 to $80,000.

An attractive antique natural pearl and diamond pendent brooch
An attractive antique natural pearl and diamond pendant brooch

© Christie's

 

Characteristics of the Pearl and Diamond Pendant Brooch

Description of the design of the brooch

The design of the brooch is a scroll work, made of yellow gold, incorporating floral and foliage motifs, and set with old European cut diamonds. There are only two large natural pearls mounted on this brooch. A 20-carat pinkish-white, button pearl mounted en tremblant as the centerpiece of the brooch, and another 18.92 carat, pinkish-white, oval, drilled, pearl drop suspended from the scroll work. The button pearl mounted en tremblant forms the centerpiece of the symmetrical motif that constitutes the brooch. The button pearl is surrounded by a layer of diamonds; two foliage leaves mounted with diamonds placed symmetrically on either side of the pearl; a scroll work mounted with diamonds, placed symmetrically on either side, ending in a floral motif, also mounted with diamonds. The lower part of the brooch looks somewhat asymmetrical, but two symmetrically placed, smaller trifoliate leaf patterns mounted with diamonds can be identified, from which the drilled pearl drop is suspended. The almost oval-shaped pearl drop is suspended by a bell cap fixed to its upper end. A round old-cut diamond is mounted on the wire suspending the pearl.

 

Characteristics of the two large pearls on the brooch

1) The pinkish-white button pearl

The size of the pearl in terms of its dimensions

The pearl that forms the centerpiece of the brooch is a button-pearl with dimensions of 16.10 mm and 10.90 mm. By calculating the variation in diameter of the pearl we can decided whether this pearl is actually a button pearl or near-spherical pearl.

variation in diameter = (1 - shortest diameter/longest diameter) x 100%

                            = (1 - 10.90/16.10) x 100

                            = (1 - 0.68) x 100

                            = 0.32 x 100

                            = 32%

If variation in diameter is between 0% to 2% - the pearl is spherical

If variation in diameter is between 2% to 20% - the pearl is near-spherical

If variation in diameter is greater than 20%     - the pearl is button shaped

Thus, the pearl having a variation in diameter of 32%, is undoubtedly a button pearl.

 

The size of the pearl in terms of its weight

The weight of the pearl is 20 carats, which is equivalent to 80 grains. In comparison to other much larger natural pearls, this pearl can be considered as a medium-sized pearl.

 

The color and overtones of the pearl

The color of the pearl is described as pinkish-white, where white is the body color of the pearl and pink, the overtone color. The white body color of the pearl, is caused by the absence of any colored pigments that usually combine with the protein part of nacre, conchiolin. In the absence of any colored pigments in the conchiolin, the white color of aragonite shows through, and the pearl appears white. The pink color is an overtone color that appears to float over the surface of the pearl. It is not caused by a pigment, but  is an optical effect produced by refraction of light as it passes through successive layers of aragonite.

 

The luster and orient of the pearl

The luster and orient of the pearl are caused respectively by reflection and refraction of light. Luster is caused by reflection of light from the surface and just below the surface of the pearl. Orient or Iridescence is caused by refraction which disperses white light into its individual colors as it passes through successive layers of aragonite. Color, overtone, luster and orient are all dependant on the thickness of nacre, which in natural pearls are maximum, being made entirely of nacre. Thus, all these four properties are optimum for natural pearls.

 

2) The pinkish-white oval-shaped drop pearl

The size of the pearl in terms of its dimensions

The drilled pearl drop that forms the pendant part of the brooch, is more or less an oval-shaped pearl with dimensions of 16.20 mm and 13.77 mm, representing the greatest length and width of the pearl.

 

The size of the pearl in terms of its weight

The size of the pearl in terms of its weight is 18.92 carats, equivalent to 18.92 x 4 = 75.68 grains, slightly smaller in size than the button-shaped pearl. Both pearls however are medium-sized natural pearls in comparison with the well-known much larger natural pearls.

The color and overtones of the pearl

The color of the pearl is similar to the button-shaped pearl and is pinkish-white. White is the body color of the pearl and pink the overtone color.

 

The luster and orient of the pearl

The luster and orient of the pearl are similar to the button-shaped pearl, and in keeping with its provenance as a natural saltwater pearl.

 

 

History of the pearl and diamond pendant brooch

The jewelry period corresponding with the time of origin of the piece

The detailed historic provenance of the pendant brooch is not known, but the time of its origin has been suggested as around 1890. This corresponds with the late Victorian or Aesthetic period (1890-1901) in the United Kingdom and the Art Nouveau period (1890-1915) in France. This period ushered in a sense of fun and light-heartedness to jewelry, after the long period of mourning of the mid-Victorian period (1860-1890). The period also coincided with the Darwinian controversy and new botanical discoveries. Thus popular jewelry motifs of the period were based on natural themes such as plants and animals. Diamonds mined from the recently discovered Kimberley mines in South Africa, reached the United Kingdom, and were used in jewelry settings of the period. Gold and silver were still used as the metals in jewelry.

Art Nouveau that originated in France was a style adopted for all decorative arts including jewelry. Art Nouveau designs included the human female form and other natural forms, both plant and animal inspired. Plant motifs included undulating vines, leaves, and flowers and animal motifs included insects such as butterflies, dragonflies and bees, birds such as peacocks and swans, and reptiles such as snakes. Apart from gold and silver, other materials such as copper, crystal and carved glass, enamel, ivory, clarified horn, mother-of-pearl were also used. Besides diamonds and pearls other cabochon gemstones such as opal and moonstones were also used. Colored gemstones were used only if necessary to enhance the beauty of a piece.

 

Art Nouveau features in the pendant brooch

Some of the Art Nouveau features in the pendant brooch include the following :-

1) The plant motif used in the brooch, that included scroll work, incorporating leaves, and flowers.

2) The use of button-shaped and oval white pearls with round surfaces, together with old-cut diamonds. Pearls and diamonds were two common gemstones used during this period.

3) The mounting of one pearl en tremblant as the centerpiece of the brooch. En tremblant jewelry was first introduced in the 18th and 19th centuries.

4) The use of gold and silver as metals in the brooch.

5) The use of old-cut diamonds of 19th century origin on the brooch.

 

Report from the Gem Testing Laboratory of Great Britain

The antique natural pearl and diamond pendant brooch that was put up for auction at Christie's Dubai, was accompanied by report No. 0125882 issued by the Gem Testing Laboratory of Great Britain, authenticating the natural provenance of the two pearls used on the brooch.

 

Sale of the antique natural pearl and diamond pendant brooch

The antique natural pearl and diamond pendant brooch came up at the Christie's Contemporary Jewelry and Watches Sale, No. 7664, held at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel, Dubai on April 29, 2008, under Lot No.154. A pre-sale estimate of $60,000 to $80,000 was placed on the antique pendant brooch. The demand for jewelry incorporating natural pearls was so great at this auction, that the piece eventually sold for $97,000, $17,000 more than the upper pre-sale estimate of $80,000. No doubt a significant part of the value of this antique piece, would have been for its 19th-century provenance.

 

You are welcome to discuss this post/related topics with Dr Shihaan and other experts from around the world in our FORUMS (forums.internetstones.com)

 

Back to Famous Pearls

 

External Links :- 

 1) An Attractive Antique Natural Pearl And Diamond Pendant Brooch - Christie's Contemporary Jewelry and Watches Sale, No. 7664. Lot No. 154. www.christies.com

 

References :-

1) An Attractive Antique Natural Pearl And Diamond Pendant Brooch - Christie's Contemporary Jewelry and Watches Sale, No. 7664. Lot No. 154. www.christies.com

2) History of the usage of plant and animal motifs in jewelry designs - Tarantula Brooch. www.internetstones.com


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