Saturday, October 5, 2013

Mastery of Design: The Schlichtegroll Necklace, 1855

Necklace from a parure
Vienna, c. 1855
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Austrian jeweler Schlichtegroll showed an impressive parure at Paris Universal Exhibition of 1855. The suite was purchased by the V&A after the exhibition as an example of a handsome and important-looking parure which was made inexpensively. The set includes a bracelet, brooch and earrings which were inspired by Seventeenth Century jewels. Schlichtegroll specifically designed the suite to be massed produced cheaply from parts which were interchangeable and standardized. 

It does look quite expensive, doesn’t it? It’s not junk, after all. Take a look at the necklace. It’s made of silver gilt, painted in imitation of enamel. The piece is set with almandine garnets, emeralds and green pastes, pearls and imitation pearls. So, there are some real gems, and some fakes, not unlike some of the less expensive jewels available today. It was meant for the merchant class who wanted to give the impression of being more prosperous than they really were—not quite aristocrats and not laborers. I think it serves its purpose quite handsomely and elegantly. 

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