Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Mastery of Design: A Pendant by Sir Alfred Gilbert, 1890-1910

Iron, Glass and Turquoise
Sir Alfred Gilbert
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This casual pendant of iron wire is set with turquoise and a glass bead. It’s the work of Sir Alfred Gilbert (1854-1934) who is considered one of Britain’s most prominent turn of the Twentieth Century sculptors. Gilbert is best known for his aluminum figure of Eros which stands in Piccadilly Circus.

Gilbert’s passion for experimenting with metal led him to jewelry design. He created a series of informal pieces of jewelry like this one, largely from iron wire which he would set with inexpensive materials such as glass in addition to semiprecious stones and shell. These jewels were often given to family members as gifts and were cherished for their spontaneous, hand-wrought, and light-hearted look.

Gilbert, however, did occasionally create formal jewels from precious metals and stones, including the Mayoral Chain of the town of Preston and the presidential badges and chain for the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours—an organization of which he was an active member for his other pursuit of watercolor painting.

This piece dates between 1890 and 1900. 

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