Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mastery of Design: The Froment-Meurice Coral Brooch, 1854

Brooch of Coral, Gold and Pearls
Froment-Meurice, c. 1855
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Coral has been used in jewelry since antiquity as it was thought to be an amulet which could protect against the evil eye.  As such, it was often worn by children or used in rosaries.
Around the early Nineteenth Century, coral began to be employed in conventional jewelry and quickly became the  height of fashion. According to the 19th century French jeweler Henri Vever “Every day, the coral merchant of H.R.H. Madame, Duchesse d'Angouleme, offers the most elaborate and elegant parures to customers and passers-by: the jewels which are sold there are created with exquisite taste.”

Because of its long history, coral easily worked in the popular archaeological styles which were fashionable during this period.  This piece was inspired by the elaborate pendants of the Renaissance with their intricately sculpted gold.

Carved with a figure of the Greek god, the brooch has a matching pendant. It was probably one of the last sets of jewelry to be sold by the Paris jeweller François-Désiré Froment-Meurice before his death in 1855.  It is hung with pearls.

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