Webster's Dictionary defines a "masterpiece" as "a work done with extraordinary skill or artistic achievement." I have been fortunate enough lately to acquire several jewels which meet this criteria, and I am proud to present the "Masterpiece collection" for the consideration of my Ruby Lane clientele!
Every once in a while, I see a piece that completely takes my breath away! This is one of those pieces, and it is worthy of the finest museum collection! Dating conservatively to c.1670, this Stuart era devotional pendant has all of the "bells and whistles," and has survived the past three centuries in outstanding, superbly-wearable condition!
Measuring 2 1/2" tall x 1 1/2" wide x just over 1/4" thick, this jewel of the Holy Family is by far the most incredible piece I have discovered this year, and it has survived into the 21st-century in such pristine condition that I could not be any more thrilled with it! Wrought from pure 22k gold, this devotional jewel is either French or Italian in origin, and combines many of the characteristics of 17th-century jewelry with the restrained elegance of the early Baroque period!
The top of the pendant takes the form of a crown, crafted completely by hand (as is the entire jewel) and set with five square, flat-cut pyrope garnets graduated in size and measuring 5.5 mm for the largest down to 3.5 mm for the two smallest. The crown is topped by a cross, and boasts elegant hand-engraved decoration. Suspended by this crown is the compartment which holds the two enameled plaques; the box-style construction could hold a relic, but I dare not open it! The enamel on copper plaque to the front depicts a charming and colorful portrait of the Holy Family, with the youthful Joseph and Virgin Mary holding the toddler Jesus' hands as they walk along a grassy path. Both Mary, Joseph and Jesus all display pale gold halos, and the dove of the Holy Spirit hovers in the sky above. The plaque is mounted in a box-type compartment which is original to the jewel, and the palette is bright and colorful!
The frame of the plaque is no less regal; 17 flat-cut square- and kite-shaped garnets are deeply mounted into rubbed-over settings of hand-carved 22k gold! The kite-shaped garnets are phenomenally rare; I have only seen diamonds cut in this manner, and most of those were in reference books!) The garnets are all foiled and closed at the back. The carving and pierced work all around the frame is a tour-de-force of the lapidary's art, and ALL 22 of the garnets, top and bottom, have survived without even the smallest scratch! (It is my belief that this jewel was donated to the Church, and rarely worn.)
The reverse of the pendant displays the other enamel on copper plaque. It is fired in robin's egg blue enamel, with two palms, a crown, the Marian monogram, and a second monogram which I do not recognize (appears to be a letter "S" pierced by an arrow) enameled in black. The gold is rubbed over in broad knife-edged pleats, as would be expected in a reliquary jewel of the 1600s. The back of the frame displays the convex backs where the garnets are set, and there are tool marks in evidence top to bottom!
The only alteration to this jewel in the past 340+ years is a brace which has been added to connect the bail to the drop. A "T" shaped bar was added sometime in the past 120 years or so; it is crafted in 18k yellow gold, and bears a French eagle's head, marked when this bit of restoration took place. Whomever did this bit of restoration was clearly an expert, as there is no solder or flux present, and now it is ready for another 300 years of gentle wear!
Weighing in at 16.93 grams, the condition of this jewel is simply outstanding; there are no chips, cracks or losses to either of the enamel plaques, the garnets are perfect, and the gold. . . oh, the gold!! Needless to say, this jewel lights up anything you wear it with, and worn on a medium-weight high-karat gold chain, you will feel like a Queen!
If you collect the BEST OF THE BEST in early or devotional jewelry, this investment-worthy pendant belongs around your neck and in your collection! It would also make the gift of a lifetime for any lady fond of early Church jewelry, and will be shipped in a gift box suitable for giving or storing this one-of-a-kind-treasure. Do not miss it; up to 90-day layaway is available, and USPS Priority mail shipping is FREE!
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