Monday, February 10, 2014

Mastery of Design: The Meller Brooch, c. 1850

Bodice Ornament
France, 1840-1850
Given by Frederick Meller to
The Victoria & Albert Museum

As mid Nineteenth Century jewelers strove for naturalism in their designs, they created pieces defined by densely-set stones in forms based on the beauty of nature. The next natural step in this fashion was to add movement to jewels which would replicate the motion of a breeze through plants and flowers or the motion of insects.

We’ve talked about tremblers before. These flexible, coiled stalks or springs created a sensation of shimmering nature. As the wearer moved, the jewel would sway and quiver. The overall effect was one of immense glamour and opulence.

While most of these pieces were tremendously expensive diamond creations, jewelers made some with less-costly pastes so that this fashion could be available to a wider range of customers.

This floral spay brooch is a great example of the clever use of pastes. In candlelight or gaslight, these brilliant-cut pastes, set in silver, shimmered almost as much as diamonds, and, with the novelty of motion, these costume pieces were quite convincing. It was made in France around 1840 -1850 and features articulated pendants which would have swayed as the wearer walked. The jewel was to give the impression of flowers bathed in a gentle rain.

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