A Diamond and Baroque Pearl Pendant Necklace from the Belle Époque Period

 

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Dr. Shihaan M. Larif

Origin of Name

The name refers to a diamond and an irregular or baroque drop-shaped pearl pendant necklace that appeared at the Bonhams Sale 17885, held on May 12, 2010 at Knightsbridge, London, and sold for £5,400 inclusive of the buyers premium. Except for the length of the pendant, the dimensions of the baroque pearl or its weight are not given. Yet, considering the size of the pearl as seen in the images of the necklace, and the rarity of such pearls we decided to include it in our list of famous pearls, and create this webpage especially dedicated to this rare pearl.

 

Characteristics of the Diamond and Baroque Pearl Pendant Neklace from the Belle Époque Period

The necklace is made of a trace-link chain set at intervals with seed pearls

The necklace, which was designed around 1915, is made of a fine trace-link chain, made of a white metal such as silver or platinum, but not white gold, which was first introduced only in the 1920s. The length of the chain is 76.4 cm equivalent to 30 inches, falling within the range of an "Opera" for pearl necklaces. Thus, the chain necklace is quite long, and the chain is interrupted at symmetrical positions by small white seed-pearls.

Diamond & Baroque Pearl Pendant Necklace from Belle Époque Period

Diamond & Baroque Pearl Pendant Necklace from Belle Époque Period

© Bonham's

 

The diamond-set ribbon-bow by which the baroque pearl is suspended to the necklace

At the lower end of the necklace the two ends of the chain are linked by loops to a diamond set ribbon-bow, also made up of platinum or silver. The ribbon-bow designed with thin sheets of metal, is millegrain set with rose-cut diamonds. A large rose-cut diamond is mounted at the point where the knot of the bow is supposed to be present. Another large rose-cut diamond is placed at the center of the navicular-shaped strip arising from the bow. The lower end of this diamond-set navicular strip is attached to the bell-cap arrangement, by which the pearl is suspended. The segments of the bell-cap are also set with mille-grain set diamonds

 

Features of the baroque pearl

A derivation of the approximate length and width of the pearl using the given length of the pendant

The length of the pendant is given as 3.6 cm, which undoubtedly includes both the length of the ribbon-bow as well as the length of the pearl. Assuming that the length of the pendant is measured from the extreme end at the bottom of the pearl to the knot of the bow, it appears by comparison that the length of the bow is one-thirds of the length of the pendant. Thus, the length of the pearl is two-thirds of the length of the pendant, which is approximately equal to 2.4 cm or 24 mm. Again by comparison one can see that the width of the pearl is approximately one-half of the length of the pearl. Thus, the width of the pearl is approximately 1.2 cm or 12 mm. However, unlike other drop-shaped pearls, due to the unique elongated drop-shape of the pearl, the greatest width of the pearl persists for around two-third of the length of the pearl.

 

A derivation of the approximate weight of the pearl, by comparison with drop-shaped pearls of known dimensions

Given the fact that the relative density or specific gravity of saltwater nacreous pearls approximately remains constant, within the range of 2.66 to 2.78, with minor variations according to the source, irrespective of the oyster species in which they originated, one may be able to obtain an approximate weight of an unknown pearl, by comparison with pearls of similar dimensions or dimensions very close to the unknown pearl. Accordingly, from the table of some famous drop-shaped pearls arranged in descending order of weights given below, the pearl that has the closest dimensions to the dimensions of the baroque drop-shaped pearl of 24 mm x 12 mm is one of the pearls in row 21, "a pair of antique natural pearl and diamond ear-pendants" with dimensions of 21.2 mm x 13.45 mm, which has a weight of 91.28 grains (22.82 carats). However, the length of this pearl is 2.8 mm shorter and width 1.45 mm longer than the baroque drop-shaped pearl. Pearl No.16, the Drexel Pearl has dimensions of 29 mm x 13.70 mm and a weight of 135.2 grains (33.80 carats). However, the length of the Drexel Pearl is 5 mm longer and the width 1.7 mm longer than the baroque drop-shaped pearl. Thus, the weight of the baroque drop-shaped pearl most probably lies somewhere between 90 grains and 135 grains. Since, the baroque drop-shaped pearl is an elongated drop-shaped pearl, with the width persisting for around two-thirds of its length, the weight of the pearl most probably lies closer to the upper limit of this range, 135 grains, or may even slightly exceed it. 

 

Table of some famous drop-shaped pearls arranged in descending order of weights

S/N Name of Pearl Weight in Carats and Grains

Shape of Pearl

Dimensions of Pearl - Greatest Length and diameter Color of Pearl
1 Hope Pearl 450 carats, 1,800 grains Baroque drop-shaped 51.0 mm x 18.0 mm  White
2 Imperial Hong Kong Pearl 127.5 carats, 510 grains Irregular drop 39.0 mm x 26.0 mm  White
3 Gogibus Pearl

126carats, 504 grains

Pear-shaped drop 63.5 mm x 50.8 mm  White
4 Shah Sofi Pearl 125 carats. 500 grains Pear-shaped drop Not known  White
5 La Regente 75.67 carats, 302.68 grains Pear-shaped drop Not known  White
6 Pearl of Kuwait 64.35 carats, 257.40 grains Asymmetrical drop-shape 41.3 mm x 19.1 mm  White
7 Natural Grey/Brown Pearl from a Belle Époque Pendant Necklace 56.81 carats, 227.24 grains Symmetrical drop-shape 26.5 mm x 18.7 mm  Grey/Brown
8 La Peregrina 55.95 carats, 223.8 grains Pear-shaped drop Not known  White
9 Sara Pearl 55.0 carats, 220 grains Drop-shaped Not known  Grey
10 Shaista Khan's Pearl 55.0 carats, 220 grains Pear-shaped drop pearl Not known  White
11 Peacock Throne Pearl 50 carats, 200 grains Pear-shaped drop Not known  Yellow
12 Mancini Pearls 50 carats, 200 grains. 50 carats, 200 grains Drop-shaped pearls Not known  White
13 Duchess of Windsor Pearl and diamond Pendant 47.65 carats, 190.60 grains Oval-shaped drop 19.0 mm x 18.4 mm  White
14 Moghul Pearls 45.5 carats, 182 grains. 45.5 carats, 182 grains Pear-shaped drop Not known  White
15 Drop-shaped pearl from pendant of Cartier's necklace 38.50 carats,

153.89 grains

Oval-shaped drop Not known White/Grey
16 Drexel Pearl 33.80 carats, 135.2 grains Symmetrical drop-shape 29.0 mm x 13.70 mm  Black Tahitian
17 La Pelegrina one 33.29 carats, 133.16 grains Pear-shaped drop Not known  White
18 Charles II Pearl 32.5 carats, 130 grains Pear-shaped drop Not known  White
19 Tararequi Pearls 31 carats, 124 grains Pear-shaped drop Not known  White
20 Drop-shaped pearls from pendants belonging to an European noble family Each pearl weighing approximately 30 carats, 120 grains Asymmetrical drop-shape Not known  White
21 Pair of antique natural pearl and diamond ear-pendants 26.86 carats, 107.44 grains

22.82 carats, 91.28 grains

Asymmetrical drop-shape 21.1 mm x 14.3 mm

21.2 mm x 13.45 mm

 White with pink overtone
22 Drop-shaped pearls from Cartier's Natural Pearl and Diamond Ear Pendants 25.3 carats, 101.2 grains

23.5 carats, 94.0 grains

Oval-shaped drop

Asymmetrical drop-shape

Not known  White/Grey
23 Paspaley Drop-shaped Pearls 18.75 carats, 75 grains. 18.75 carats, 75 grains Drop-shaped pearls 19.20 mm x 12.30 mm

19.6 mm x 11.2 mm

 White
24 Finest black pearl in Europe in 1900 12.25 carats, 49 grains Pear-shaped drop pearl Not known  Black pearl with green overtone

© internetstones.com

Please do not copy our tables without our permission. We may be compelled to inform the search engines if our content and tables are plagiarised.


The shape of the baroque pearl

As pointed out earlier the shape of the pearl is elongated drop-shaped, but due to the uneven surface of the pearl an irregular or baroque shape is imparted to the pearl. Hence an appropriate reference to the pearl is as a "baroque drop-shape" or as a "irregular drop-shape," such as the "Hope Pearl" or the "Imperial Hong Kong Pearl," the first and second largest drop-shaped pearls in the world.

 

The color of the pearl

The color of the baroque drop-shaped pearl is white, a color caused by the absence of colored pigments that are usually combined with the conchiolin component of nacre, thus allowing the white color of aragonite to show through.

 

The luster and orient of the pearl

Luster and orient of the pearl caused by reflection and refraction of light respectively are dependent on the thickness of nacre, and are at an optimum level for natural saltwater pearls being made entirely of nacre. The luster and orient of the baroque drop-shaped pearl is in keeping with its natural saltwater origins.

 

The surface quality of the pearl

In spite of the uneven surface of the baroque pearl, the surface quality of the pearl appears to be blemish-free.

 

 

History of  the Diamond and Baroque Pearl Pendant Necklace

The period of origin of the Diamond and Baroque Pearl Pendant Necklace

The Diamond and Baroque Pearl Pendant Necklace is believed to have originated around the year 1915, during the period of jewelry history known as the "Belle Époque Period" in French, meaning "beautiful times" in English. The period is also known as the "Edwardian Period" and "beautiful times" refer to the period of fun and frivolity ushered in after the long period of mourning during the latter part of Queen Victoria's rule, that ended after King Edward VII ascended the throne of the United Kingdom in 1901.

Distinct jewelry designs and motifs were introduced during this period, and so were new materials such as platinum and invisible jewelry setting styles such as the mille-grain setting, knife-edge settings etc. For a detailed account of features of jewelry of the Belle Époque period please refer to our webpage on Belle Epoque Pearl & Diamond Collier De Chien

 

Belle Époque features in the Diamond and Baroque Pearl Pendant Necklace

As the Diamond and Baroque Pearl Pendant Necklace is believed to have originated during the Belle Époque period, design features and materials incorporated in this necklace should undoubtedly reflect features that were in vogue during that period. Some of the Belle Époque features that one can recognize in this necklace are as follows :-

1) The use of the "white on white" color scheme on the necklace. Such schemes that included white diamonds and pearls set on platinum metal,  that enhanced the radiance of the gemstones was a common feature of the jewelry of the Edwardian period.

2) The white metal used in the trace-link chain is not known, but if the metal used is platinum, it provides a strong line of evidence for the Belle Époque provenance of the necklace, as platinum was the main metal used in jewelry during the Edwardian period.

3) The cut employed on the diamonds set in the ribbon-bow and bell-cap of the pearl, is mainly rose-cut. Diamond cuts used in the Belle Époque period were rose-cut, old mine-cut and old European-cut. The modern brilliant-cut was first introduced by Gabi Tolkowsky only in 1919, just before the onset of the Art Deco period.

4) The settings used for the rose-cut diamonds on the ribbon-bow and the bell-cap was mille-grain setting. This was a type of invisible setting, like the knife-edge setting, that made use of the minimum of metal to hold gemstones, and revealed more of the gemstones.

 

The Source of the Baroque Drop-shaped Pearl in the Necklace

The natural pearl fisheries that were active in the early 20th-century, before the onset of World War II

Given the period of origin of the Diamond and Baroque Pearl Pendant Necklace as circa 1915, provided that the baroque pearl did not come from a much older piece of jewelry that was dismantled, there are only a few sources from which the pearls could have originated, as natural pearl fisheries were active only in a few countries prior to the onset of World War II. Some of these countries where the natural pearl fisheries were still active were the countries around the Persian Gulf, the most ancient source of pearls in the world, Baja California in the Gulf of Mexico, the source of natural black pearls in the world for over 400 years, and northwestern Australia centered  around the city of Broome, the world's largest producer of mother-of-pearls feeding the shell button industry of Europe. A natural pearl fishery may also have existed in Southern China, some of the islands in the Philippines and around the Mergui Archipelago in Burma.

 

The Persian Gulf natural pearl fishery is a possible source of the baroque drop-shaped pearl

The pearl fishery in the Persian Gulf was based on the oyster species Pinctada radiata, the most prolific pearl producer since very ancient times, which produced medium sized pearls ranging in size from 3 - 8 mm, apart from large numbers of seed pearls less than 2 mm in size. Pinctada radiata had also sometimes produced exceptionally large pearls, but this is extremely rare. Pinctada radiata grows to a maximum size of 7 - 8 cm. Thus, it is quite possible that a baroque drop-shaped pearl of dimensions 2.4 cm (24 mm) x 1.2 cm (12 mm) could have originated inside this oyster species, even though the chances of such a pearl being produced was extremely rare. However, given the enormous quantity of production of natural pearls annually in the Persian Gulf at that time, at least one or two pearls of enormous size might have been among this annual production. Thus, the Persian Gulf was a possible source of this baroque drop-shaped pearl.

 

The natural pearl fishery in Baja California mainly produced black/grey pearls and cannot be a source of the baroque drop-shaped pearl

Baja California in Mexico was mainly a source of black natural pearls produced by the oyster species, Pinctada mazatlantica. The pearls produced were actually a by product of the mother-of-pearl industry, that supplied the shell button factories of Europe. Thus, the baroque drop-shaped pearl being a white pearl, could not have originated in Baja California.

 

Broome, in western Australia is another possible source of the baroque drop-shaped pearl

The other source of natural pearls in the world at that time was Broome, in northwestern Australia, based on the oyster species, Pinctada maxima, the silver-lipped pearl oyster. Here too pearls produced were actually a by-product of the mother-of-pearl industry, that supplied the shell button factories of Europe. Natural pearls produced by Pinctada maxima, the silver lipped pearl oyster, were mainly silvery-white in color, apart from silver, silver-pink, cream and yellow. These pearls also known as natural South Sea pearls had a range in size of 9 mm to around 20 mm, but occasionally pearls of size much greater than this had been produced. Pinctada maxima can grow to a maximum size of 30 cm (12 ins.) in diameter and have larger gonads. Thus, pearls of extraordinary sizes have been produced by Pinctada maxima, such as the Arco-Valley Pearl with dimensions of 7.9 cm (79 mm) x 4.1 cm (41 mm) x 3.4 cm (34 mm) and weight of 575 carats (2,300 grains), believed to be the largest nacreous pearl in the world. Hence, the white baroque drop-shaped pearl with approximate dimensions of 2.4 cm (24 mm) x 1.2 cm (12 mm), could have been easily produced inside the oyster species Pinctada maxima. Therefore northwestern Australia was a possible source of the pearl.

 

The waters off southern China may be another source of the baroque drop-shaped pearl

A natural peal fishery existed since very ancient times around the Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar and the Sulu Islands of the southern Philippines. This pearl fishery may have existed well into the 20th-century, but the pearls produced were mainly golden in color, originating in the variety of Pinctada maxima known as the golden-lipped oyster. In southern China too a natural pearl fishery existed since very ancient times around the Leizhou Peninsula, based on a Pinctada species very closely related to Pinctada radiata, producing medium sized pearls and seed pearls. Pinctada maxima another oyster species found in the South China sea, was also exploited for its natural pearls. The Arco-Valley Pearl, the largest nacreous pearl ever discovered is believed to have originated in the oyster species Pinctada maxima in the waters off southern China, which is part of the sea known as the South Sea, that extends from southern China to northern Australia, the natural habitat of Pinctada maxima, both the silver-lipped and golden-lipped varieties. If a natural pearl fishery based on Pinctada maxima existed in the waters off southern China during the early 20th-century, the baroque drop-shaped pearl might well have originated in these waters.

 

The Diamond and Baroque Pearl Pendant Necklace is sold for a moderate price at the Bonhams Jewelry Sale 17885, held on May 12, 2010

The Diamond and Baroque Pearl Pendant Necklace was listed as Lot No.272,and referred to as "A Baroque Pearl Necklace, circa 1915" at the Bonhams Jewelry Sale 17885, held on May 12, 2010, at Knightsbridge, London. The lot was accompanied by a laboratory report bearing no.1003/13, dated March 12, 2010, issued by Gwilym M. Jones, certifying that the baroque drop-shaped pearl is a natural saltwater pearl. The lot was sold for £5,400 a moderate price, given its antique provenance, originating from the Belle Époque period, and the enormous natural baroque drop-shaped pearl incorporated in it. A more detailed historic provenance of this antique piece might have enhanced the final price realized.

 

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

 

Related :-

1) Arco-Valley Pearl

2) Imperial Hong-Kong Pearl

3) Hope Pearl

4) Star of Hope Pearl

 

External Links :-

1) A Baroque Pearl Necklace, Circa 1915 - Lot No.272. Bonhams  Jewellery Sale 17885, Knightsbridge, May 12, 2010

 

References :-

1) A Baroque Pearl Necklace, Circa 1915 - Lot No.272. Bonhams  Jewellery Sale 17885, Knightsbridge, May 12, 2010

2) Belle Époque Natural Grey/Brown Pearl Pendant Necklace -  www.internetstones.com

3) Belle Époque Pearl & Diamond Collier de Chien - www.internetstones.com

4) Belle Époque Pearl & Diamond Triple Pendant Brooch - www.internetstones.com

5) A Pair of Antique Natural Pearl and Diamond Ear Pendants - www.internetstones.com

6) Pearls Without Price : The Rise And Fall Of A Sometimes-Precious Gem - by Bennet Bronson. Speech delivered to the Chicago Literary Club, April 10, 2000. www.chilit.org

7) Paspaley Drop-shaped Pearls - www.internetstones.com

 


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Dr Shihaan Larif
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