Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Gifts of Grandeur: A German Cast-Iron Necklace, c. 1820

Cast-Iron Necklace
Germany, c. 1820
The Victoria & Albert Museum

In both Europe and America in the early to mid Nineteenth Century, Cast-iron jewelry was an inexpensive but fashionable accessory for people from the middle to upper classes.

 The technique was developed in Germany in 1806–7, originally to be worn during periods mourning.  Later, this kind of jewelry became the symbol of Prussian patriotism and resistance to Napoleon I in the Prussian War of Liberation fought from 1813-15.  During this period, women donated gold jewelry to their nation in exchange for iron inscribed ‘"I gave gold for iron."

Iron pieces, like this one, were often characterized by Gothic motifs.  This necklace of iron with polished steel mounts consists of sixteen links of alternating foliage and rosettes surrounded by tracery. The rosettes are set on burnished steel and a quatrefoil of tracery completes the design of each foliage link.  It was made in Germany around 1820.

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