An incomparable desk set comprised of five implements: three in Russian malachite mounted with solid gold, together with two earlier pieces, compiled in a boxed set. The two earlier pieces, a pair of gold-handled scissors and writer’s knife, date to the late French Empire era (1810 - 1814). The three pieces in malachite are mounted with intricate pink and green 18 karat gold, all hallmarked by the atelier of Auguste Belleau and date to the 1840s or 1850s, approximately. They include a letter or paper knife, a dip pen, and a desk seal with blank cartouche. The set comes in a satinwood box with cut steel handle, lined with chamois leather, dating to the French Charles X period (about 1815 to 1825). It’s possible that the earlier pieces belonged to a gentleman in his youth, and that the later pieces were specially ordered and assembled with the earlier ones as a gift from a loved one later in his life. As the later pieces are unused, it’s possible the owner passed away before having the chance to use them. Each piece is in remarkable condition.
The letter opener, or paperknife, has a carved malachite handle mounted with a gold blade. The neck is formed in a fluted and ruffled pattern, decorated with a green gold foliage design accented with rose gold grainetti. The solid gold blade has a guilloché and dotted pattern, and is hallmarked with an eagle’s head for 18k gold items made in France after 1838.
The scissors are desk size, decorated in a floral pattern, have a rooster date mark for gold items created between 1809 and 1819. The mother of pearl knife is decorated with a gold shield and foliate caps in either gold or vermeil, decorated with a foliate motif. It has two blades for quill cutting, as well as two other implements of unknown purpose. The desk seal has a malachite handle mounted with solid gold cartouche matching the letter opener. The pen handle is made up of six malachite pieces fit together, with pink and green gold decoration matching the seal and knife. The 18 karat nib is marked "Mallat a Paris 5" and appears to be unused. The gold pieces are identically hallmarked. The set is truly incomparable; the only similar items available today of the same materials and quality are those made by Fabergé.
Auguste Belleau was a premiere Parisian craftsman specializing in nécessaires, or fitted boxes of implements for travel, sewing, writing and other uses. His hallmark is stamped on some of the finest gold tools ever made, some currently housed in museum collections. The malachite is likely Russian, from the Ural Mountains which was the source for stone used in magnificent pieces made for Russian decorative arts and architectural elements in palaces. Prized as a gemstone, Carl Fabergé used it to create sumptuous pieces for the Russian tzars and European nobility.
Jean Benoit Mallat began his career as a Parisian watchmaker. He patented the “plume inusable”, or the “indestructible pen”, in 1842 and gold nibs in 1852. The production of gold nibs lasted only a short while, as the material was too expensive for all but the most elite clientele. Presumably this 18 karat pen nib, marked ‘Mallat a Paris 5’, is one of those nibs.
Condition: Excellent, the set appears to have never been used. The stone has visible natural fissures. The mother of pearl on the knife has a hairline crack on one side.
The box, total dimensions: 10 ½” L x 4 ¾ “ D x 2” H, not including the handle
Paperknife: 8 ¾” long. Gross weight: 98.4 grams
Folding knife: 3 ¾ “ long. Gross weight: 32.6g
Scissors: just over 6” long. Gross weight: 36.6g
Desk seal: just under 3” long. Gross weight: 50.2g
Pen: 7 1/8” long *not including nib* Gross weight: 22.5g
**Additional high-resolution photos of any item are available upon request.**