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Rhapsody in Blue - Antique Victorian Aquamarine Necklace


The mid 19th century brought back rich and elegant fashions which, of course required the requisite rich and elegant jewelry as accessory. The baring of the plunging décolleté brought with it a return to the more elaborate style of necklace. In addition with gold being more readily available, the emergent middle-class became increasingly hungry for its consumption. Consequently more semi-precious gems such as carbuncles, turquoise and aquamarine found their way into the “good” jewelry of the day.

Classical antiquity was again the source of inspiration for a style of necklace which employed a chain of gold links joined at the center by a gem grouping with chain festooned around it. Please see pages 108 to 122 in “The Necklace: From Antiquity to the Present” by Mascetti and Triossi for a discussion of the many types of necklaces that used chains and such in a similar style.

This type of necklace is referred to as a “festoon necklace”. Popular at the turn of the 19th century to about 1915, a central linear necklace is the main support for a smaller chain or chains looped in swags off the main portion of the jewel. An estimated forty-one (41) carats of faceted oval cut aquamarines has been set à jour (open backed) in 20k yellow gold bezels and hand-crafted fox tail chain in a festoon style with a 9k gold clasp that may be an early replacement. The largest stone measures 18 mm by 13 mm and is about 7.5 carats. The color of the aquamarines is a transparent saturated light heavenly blue. This is typical of the period, as dark aquamarines were not frequently used in jewelry until the Retro period around 1940.

An early fitted box, tailor-made, accompanies the necklace. Blue-green leather exterior with a silk and blue velvet interior, this may not be the original container as there is a fitted section for earrings (see item 11325). Although not designed as a set, these two pieces were combined by an individual to wear together. Consequently, a box was made specifically for these two jewels.

+ Measurements, Condition & More

Condition: Excellent; light wear overall as expected with age and use; possible replaced early clasp, otherwise superb.

Condition of Box: Fair to good overall; light wear to leather commensurate with age and use; some scratches and edge rubbing; interior has some staining and blue velvet has indentions from the jewelry.

Measurements: 16 inches (46 cm) in total length and the central drop falls 1-5/8 inches (4.2 cm). This antique necklace has a weight of 33.1 grams.

Date: Circa 1850

Note: All gemstone weights are approximate since the stones were not removed from their mounts to preserve the integrity of the setting.

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