Arts & Crafts Black Onyx Seed Pearl Enamel 14K Brooch
Period & Mfg Date: Circa 1900
Condition: Very Good, some missing enamel
Main Gem Identity: Black Onyx (Dyed Black Chalcedony)
Black Onyx Shape & Cut: Oval Cabochon
Black Onyx Measurements: ~ 27 x 21 mm
Seed Pearl Size: 11 natural seed pearls ~ 2 mm each
Pearl Quality: White Rose' body color with bright luster
Metal: electronically tested to be 14K gold
Construction: Repousse and fabrication with opalescent enamel
Decoration/Polish: High Polish with Bloomed Gold Finish
Total Weight: 16.3
Length: ~ 44 x 38 mm
Additional Comments: The brooch is unusual for an Arts and Crafts jewel in that it's made of gold-- Arts and Crafts jewelers were more concerned with the craftsmanship and design of their work than the value. Most jewels of this movement were made of silver or copper rather than gold, so that's why we consider it to be quite rare.
The Arts and Crafts movement rejected the mechanization of the Industrial Revolution and espoused the virtues of the individual craftsman. Rather than any particular style, Arts and Crafts designers cared more about excellence of design and fine hand craftsmanship. The floral elements of grape leaves and grapes, the warm bloomed gold and matte finished enamel of this brooch are very typical of the jewelry of the Late Victorian and Art Nouveau era.
Opalescent enamels, so very popular in the late 1800's, were made by mixing a small amount of opaque enamel powders with transparent enamel powders which were then fired (melted) onto the surface of the gold. Opalescent enamels were usually etched slightly with acids to create a matte surface, creating a lovely velvety look.
You can tell by the slightly irregular shapes and openings that the brooch was made by hand using hand tools. The design, meant to be symmetrical, is very slightly skewed as you might expect from something done by the human eye.
This brooch may have been a graduation or bridal gift because the grapes were symbolic of prosperity, fruitful unions, and abundance. We certainly know this piece was well loved because some of the enamel has chipped, an indication of wear.
You can read more about this piece on our blog on the Mardon Jewelers web page. We aren't allowed to post the actual link to our website because of Ruby Lane restrictions, but you can look us up online.
Arts & Crafts Black Onyx Seed Pearl 14K Brooch