Lareef A. Samad B.Sc.(Hons)
The name refers to a pearl and diamond brooch of a unique style and motif, consisting of three pearl pendants supported by a diamond-set cross bar, that was designed around the year 1910, during the Belle Époque period, also known as the Edwardian period that extended from 1901 to around 1915. The brooch that appeared at the Christie's "Jewels : The Geneva Sale" held on May 12, 2010, at the Geneva - Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues, had a moderate pre-sale estimate of CHF 40,000 - 50,000 (US$ 36,098 - 45,122) placed on it. But, the Belle Époque pearl and diamond brooch, registered a much enhanced hammer price of CHF171,000 (US$ 154,345), which was four times the lower pre-sale estimate and 3.5 times the upper pre-sale estimate; a clear indication of the recovery of the strong auction market for antique jewelry pieces containing natural pearls, after the recent global recession.
The brooch designed as a diamond-set cross bar, supporting three drop-shaped pearls, two from the extreme ends of the bar and one from its center, may be referred to as a triple-pendant brooch. The two pendants at the extreme ends are equal in length and longer than the pendant in the middle. However, the drop-shaped pearls incorporated in the outer pendants are smaller than the drop-shaped pearl belonging to the central pendant. Except for the height of the brooch which is 6.0 cm (60 mm), none of the other dimensions, such as the length and width of the drop-shaped pearls, the weight of the pearls and diamonds, or the total weight of the brooch are provided.
Belle Époque Pearl and Diamond Triple-Pendant Brooch
The brooch, most probably made out of platinum metal, has a horizontal cross bar from which the three pendants are suspended. The bar which is a rectangular-shaped strip of metal has a length of about 5 cm, obtained by comparison with the height of the brooch, which is 6 cm. Provision has been made for the suspension of the two side pendants, at the extreme ends of the bar, at which points two old circular-cut, collet-set (bezel-set) diamonds are placed. At the mid point of the crossbar is the square-shaped suspension of the central pendant, mounted with an old circular-cut diamond, the largest diamond on the brooch. A second circular-cut diamond, the second largest diamond on the brooch, is mounted on a second square attached to the bottom of the first square from which the large central drop-shaped pearl is suspended. Both the largest and second largest old circular-cut diamonds appear to be claw-set on their mountings.
Zoomed image of the crossbar of the brooch
The square-shaped suspension of the central pendant, divides the crossbar into two equal halves, and each half is mounted with five old circular-cut diamonds, the third largest diamonds on the brooch. Out of the five circular-cut diamonds on either side of the crossbar, the first circular-cut diamonds are mounted on a square-shaped setting, and the remaining four are mounted on a long rectangular setting, with the diamonds claw-set and placed end to end.
The central pendant is the shortest of the three pendants, but the pearl incorporated in it is the largest of the three drop-shaped pearls. As pointed out earlier, the suspension of this pendant is a double square, one on top of the other, and mounted with the two largest circular-cut diamonds on the brooch. The pearl is suspended by a bell-cap arrangement at its narrow end.
The central pendant of the brooch
The central drop-shaped pearl is actually a pear-shaped drop and not a perfect symmetrically drop-shaped pearl. The color of the pearl appears to be silvery-grey, with a more intense grey color on the bottom half of the pearl. Grey is the body color of the pearl and silver the overtone color. The luster and orient of the pearl are in keeping with their saltwater origins. The surface of the pearl is not perfectly smooth, with several blemishes visible towards the narrow end of the pearl.
The dimensions of the pearl and its weight are not known. However, a rough estimate of the length of the pearl can be obtained given that the height of the brooch is 6.0 cm. Using the complete image of the brooch above, by comparison the length of the drop-shaped pearl appears to be slightly less than half the height of the brooch. Half the height of the brooch is 3.0 cm. Thus, the length of the central drop-shaped pearl may be approximately around 2.8 cm or 28 mm. The width of the pearl is approximately three-quarter of its length. Three quarter of 2.8 cm is 2.1 cm. Thus, the width of the pearl is approximately around 2.1 cm or 21 mm. The dimensions of the pearl are thus approximately 28 mm x 21 mm, which conforms to the pear or oval drop-shape of the pearl.
By comparison with the dimensions of the famous drop-shaped pearls given in the table below, we may be able to arrive at an approximate figure for the weight of the pearl, assuming that the relative density of saltwater pearls irrespective of their source or oyster species in which they originated, remains constant. An examination of the table shows, that the pearl whose dimensions come close to the given dimensions 28 mm x 21 mm, is that of pearl no.7, the natural grey/brown pearl from a Belle Époque pendant necklace, whose dimensions are 26.5 mm x 18.7 mm, even though the length and width are slightly shorter by 1.5 mm and 2.3 mm respectively. Given that the grey/brown, pearl whose dimensions are 26.5 mm x 18.7 mm, has a weight of 227.24 grains (56.81 carats), we can expect the weight of this pearl with dimensions of 28 mm x 21 mm, also to be approximately around this figure. Thus, an estimate of 50 to 60 carats (200 to 240 grains), may not be far from the actual weight of this drop-shaped pearl, which necessarily means that the pearl falls within the 10 largest drop-shaped pearls in the world.
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||143 carats, 572 grains||Pear-shaped drop||63.5 mm x 50.8 mm||White|
|4||Shah Sofi Pearl||125 carata. 500 graina||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,
|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
|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
|24||Finest black pearl in Europe in 1900||12.25 carats, 49 grains||Pear-shaped drop pearl||Not known||Black pearl with green overtone|
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 two side pendants which are of equal length and longer than the central pendant, are suspended from the extreme ends of the horizontal crossbar, at which point two collet-set diamonds are mounted. The side pendants are longer than the central pendant because of the long collet line and bell-caps that suspend the drop-shaped pearls, which is absent in the central pendant. The suspension of the central drop-shaped pearl is much shorter than that of the side pendants.
The long suspension of the side pendants consists of three distinct sections :- 1) A strip of metal with two rectangular segments, mounted with three old circular-cut diamonds, claw-set and placed end to end. The rectangular segments are surmounted with a trapezium-shaped strip of metal on either side, also mounted with three circular-cut diamonds placed end to end. 2) A strip of metal mounted with five collet-set (bezel-set) old circular-cut diamonds. 3) A long bell-cap with five segments, and each segment mounted with five graduated old circular-cut diamonds, pave-set and placed end to end vertically, with the largest diamond at the bottom and the smallest diamond at the top of the bell-cap. The drop-shaped pearl is suspended by this bell-cap arrangement. Thus, there are 44 diamonds on this long suspension of the pendant, including the two collet-set diamonds, at the extreme ends of the crossbar.
Zoomed image of one of the side pendants
The two drop-shaped pearls on the side pendants are almost equal in size, but slightly different in shape. The left drop-shaped pearl is more ovoid-drop than the right drop-shaped pearl. The color of the pearls are silvery-grey, in which grey is the body color and silver the overtone color of the pearl. The luster and orient of the pearls are in keeping with their saltwater origins. The surface quality of the pearls are excellent and appear to be blemish-free.
The length and width of the drop-shaped pearls in the side pendants are not given. However, using the rough estimate of the length of the central large pearl, we may be able to estimate the length and width of these two pearls. The length of these two drop-shaped pearls is about three-quarter the length of the central drop-shaped pearl. The rough estimate of the length of the central drop-shaped pearl is about 2.8 cm or 28 mm. Three-quarters of 2.8 is 2.1 cm or 21 mm. Thus, the rough estimate of the length of the two drop-shaped pearls on the side pendants is 2.1 cm or 21 mm. The width of the drop-shaped pearls is about three-quarter of the width of the central drop-shaped pearl. The width of the central drop-shaped pearl is 2.1 cm or 21 mm. Three-quarters of 2.1 is 1.56. Thus, the width of the two drop-shaped pearls on the side pendants are approximately 1.6 cm or 16 mm. The dimensions of the two pearls thus become approximately 21 mm x 16 mm.
The dimensions closest to 21 mm x 16 mm from the above table are the dimensions of one of the drop-shaped pearls from the pair of antique natural pearl and diamond ear pendants, which is pearl no. 21 in the above table. The dimensions of this pearl is 21.1 mm x 14.3 mm, and the corresponding weight is 26.86 carats or 107.44 grains. Thus, the weight of the drop-shaped pearls with dimensions of 21 mm x 16 mm must also be approximately around this figure, assuming that the relative density (specific gravity) of all saltwater pearls irrespective of their origins are equal. Thus, a rough estimate of 25 to 30 carats for each of the drop-shaped pearls on the side pendants, may not be far from the real weight of the pearls.
The natural pearl and diamond triple-pendant brooch is believed to have originated around the year 1910, during the Belle Époque period that extended from 1901 to 1915. The period which means "beautiful times" refers to the era of elegance, fun and frivolity, that was ushered in after King Edward VII ascended the throne of the United Kingdom in 1901, following the death of his mother Queen Victoria, who had been in a state of mourning for a long period, since the death of her husband, Prince Albert in 1861. The period coincided with the Art Nouveau period in France that originated around 1890 and lasted until the onset of World War I.
As the natural pearl and diamond triple-pendant brooch was designed during the Belle Époque period, it should obviously display some features of jewelry produced during this period. Some of the Belle Époque features that can be recognized in this piece of jewelry are :-
1) The use of a white metal for the piece of jewelry, which was popular during this period. The white metal that was introduced and became very popular during this period for jewelry manufacture was platinum. If the metal used in the piece is platinum, it undoubtedly reflects the trend in vogue during this period.
2) The white on white color scheme seen on the piece, was a feature of jewelry produced during this period. White diamonds and pearls set on platinum enhanced the radiance of these gemstones. The silver-grey pearls used in the brooch did not deviate much from this color scheme, that was popular during this period.
3) The use of old circular-cut diamonds such as the old European-cut diamonds on the piece of jewelry.
4) The design of the pendant brooch incorporating three pearl and diamond pendants, was complementary to the beautiful dangling earrings, such as drop-earrings and ear-pendants that became popular during this period. Another piece of jewelry that complemented the pendant brooch was the negligee pendant necklace, that incorporated two pearl drops of unequal length, suspended from a centerpiece.
The saltwater oyster species that produced the silver-grey drop-shaped pearls can be one of three common species that produced black/grey pearls over the centuries, such as Pinctada margaritifera (the black-lipped pearl oyster), Pinctada mazatlantica (Panamic black-lipped oyster or La Paz pearl oyster) and Pteria sterna (Rainbow-lipped oyster). However, based on the period of origin of the pendent brooch, it appears that Pinctada mazatlantica is the oyster species in which the pearls originated.
The most ancient source of black pearls in the world was the Persian Gulf, which was also the main source of white pearls since ancient times. However, black pearls originating in the Persian Gulf was very scarce, as the dominant oyster species that was found in the pearl banks of the Gulf, was Pinctada radiata (the Gulf pearl/Ceylon oyster), that produced white pearls, and not Pinctada margaritifera that co-existed with it. In the 16th-century, Gulf of California in Mexico became the main source of black natural pearls in the world, after the discovery of these pearls by the Spanish explorer, Hernan Cortez in 1533. These black pearls came to be known as the "Queen of Gems and Gem of Queens" and such pearls entered the courts of European nobility in large quantities. The natural black pearl industry based mainly on the oyster species, Pinctada mazatlantica, closely related to Pinctada margaritifera, and sometimes referred to as the Panamian black-lipped pearl oyster, was centered in Baja California, in Mexico, and lasted for over 400 years until 1939, when a permanent ban on oyster fishing was imposed to save the few remaining oyster populations.
In the 19th-century, apart from Baja California, a second source of natural black pearls emerged as a by-product of the mother-of-pearl industry based on Pinctada margaritifera, that originated in the southern Pacific Islands, which became a French Protectorate in 1842. The black pearls produced as a by-product of the mother-of-pearl industry, that lasted from 1820 to 1880. came to be known as Black Tahitian pearls. The mother-of-pearl industry was abandoned in the late 19-th century due to overexploitation and scarcity of oyster resources, and Tahiti ceased to be a source of black natural pearls. Thus, only Baja California remained the main source of black natural pearls until the late 1930s. Hence, given the period of origin of the pendant brooch as circa 1910, the most probable source of the silver-grey pearls incorporated in it is Baja California, in Mexico, the only source of natural black pearls in the world during this period.
The Belle Époque Natural Pearl and Diamond Triple-Pendant Brooch was lot no.130 at the Christie's "Jewels : The Geneva Sale" held on May 12, 2010. A moderate pre-sale estimate of CHF 40,000 to 50,000 (US$ 36,098 - 45,122) was placed on the brooch, that was accompanied by lab report no.55878 dated March 15, 2010, issued by the Swiss Gemological Research Institute (SSEF), certifying that the three drop-shaped pearls incorporated in the brooch, were natural saltwater pearls, without any artificial color modification. However, the antique piece of natural pearl jewelry from the Belle Époque period, registered a strong showing at the auctions, clinching a much enhanced hammer price of CHF 171,000 (US$ 154,345) which was US$ 109,223 more than the upper pre-sale estimate.
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)
1) Christie's "Jewels : The Geneva Sale" 1374, May 12, 2010. Lot No.130 - A Belle Époque Pearl And Diamond Brooch
2) Cortez Pearls - www.pearl-guide.com
3) Harvest history and current densities of the pearl oyster Pinctada mazatlanica in Las Perlas and Coiba Archipelagos, Panama - by Roberto Cipriani, Hector M. Guzman, Melina Lopez, Journal of Shell Fisheries Research. www.findarticles.com
4) Cortez Pearls - www.cortezpearls.com
Dr Shihaan Larif
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