This is a tremendous piece from my own collection of treasures. It is the premier piece I own. The very first time I saw it, it took my breath away. It is exquisitely lovely and museum worthy as an example of French enamel jewelry made only in Southeast France in Bourg-en-Bresse. It was especially popular during the Victorian period. This necklace dates from approximately the 1870s and was dated by an expert with Antiques Roadshow. My research has confirmed that general date.
This is created in 800 or 850 silver. It has a gold vermeil finish on the back side that has mellowed. The gold on the enameled pieces is 18 karat gold. There are numerous hallmarks on the necklace. I found at least four, two of which are identical. My jeweler, who has a more powerful loupe that I, advised the marks are the French crab, one is for the metal content and the other relates to the Bressan maker of this beautiful piece.
The necklace is 16 5/8" long. The clasp is a push-in style and well made. The four marks are located here -- two on the back of the enameled piece at the connection point and the other two on the clasp. The enamel colors are turquoise, cobalt blue, red, white, 18 karat gold embellishments, and tiny white droplets of glass on the borders of the larger pieces. The stones are red, blue, and green and are paste. I am sure some have probably been replaced over the years, although they look appropriate. There is a tiny white enamel bead that is missing from the small round connection below the large center section and the middle dangle. You need a loupe to observe it...or at least I do. I do see the blue stone in that section appears to be a replacement is with a loupe I see it is a bit oversized. I would not even consider doing anything different with that stone as it would not be worth the risk to me. Apart from those two tiny points, condition on this marvelous 150 year old necklace is extremely good.
The sections have three segments of festooning chain between each station. The enameled pieces alternate between oval and round, each with a tear-drop shaped enameled dangle. The center piece is larger and oval with three dangles. That center section is 2 1/4" by 1". There are 27 enameled pieces on the necklace. You just do not find pieces like this with so much enamel work.
This is an ultra rare and exceptional piece of history that is so striking! I wonder who has proudly worn it over the years?
Rare and Exceptional 1870s French Enamel Bresse Bressan Festoon Necklace!
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