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Antique Berlin Iron Wirework Necklace


Berlin iron is jewelry made of cast iron and transformed into very delicate items. The earliest pieces were medallions and cameos neoclassical in style, with naturalistic and Gothic Revival motifs becoming popular in the 1820s. Berlin iron continued to remain in fashion for the majority of the nineteenth century.

Creating a most beautiful and delicate necklace, iron floral forms have been wrapped with coiled wirework. Pierced and open foliate patterned medallions of iron resembling black lace are attached via loops and “O” rings as iron cannot be soldered. Each element has been lacquered to a shiny black. The naturalistic theme of flowers is less austere than the earlier Napoleonic period which incorporated molded or cast cameos and an abundance of fretwork.

+ Measurements, Condition & More

Measurements: 37-1/2 inches (95.3 cm) in total length; when worn the drape is 18-3/4 inches (47.6 cm) on each side; width is 1/2 of an inch (1.3 cm). Weight of 25.5 grams (16.4 dwt).

Condition: Very good to excellent; some light loss of lacquer throughout the wire work visible upon very close inspection or with magnification.

Date & Origin: Circa 1830 – 1840 and is European in origin.

Overall Scale: Medium and long.

Historical Notes: During the Franco-Prussian War, as in many wars, the populous was encouraged to donate their gold and silver jewelry and tableware for the war effort. Berlin Iron became a substitute for finer metals. It was iron lacquered black and was worn by Prussian women in place of the jewelry they surrendered. A few pieces are inscribed, "Gold gab ich fur Eisen" (I gave gold for iron). Today pieces are quite rare and collectors abound with prices rising every year.

Note: From the private collection of the estate of a famous German opera singer.

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