Ornate Berlin Iron Necklace & Earrings
Although unexpected in the materials, none the less tremendous technical skill was needed in the fabrication of Berlin iron jewelry.
This 19th century example of a Berlin iron necklace is composed of alternating links of two configurations: one a floral form with a mirrored steel interior and the other an elongated flower atop a scroll. Designed with Gothic style elements, the ornate cast iron frame is akin to the architectural forms of the 1200s and brings forth images of iron fence posts and garden gates with naturalistic motifs. The necklace is finished with a closure of clasped hands, a design element often associated with Geiss.
The earrings are designed with a tear drop shaped open iron work plaque suspending open iron grillwork of Gothic revival and foliate inspiration. The suite is finished in black lacquer.
A very similar necklace appears on color plate III and on page 73 of Anne Clifford’s seminal work “Cut Steel and Berlin Iron Jewellery” by Anne Clifford although the smaller links are different. These pieces are unsigned, the necklace is attributed to Berlin iron master Johann Conrad Geiss as it is his designs.
Measurements: Necklace is 15-1/2 inches (39 cm) in length when worn; large central link is 1-3/4 inches (3.4 cm) in length by 2-3/8 inches (6 cm) in width; small links are 1-5/8 inches (4 cm) in length by 1 inch (2.5 cm) in width. This antique necklace has a weight of 51.2 grams (32.9 dwt).
Earrings are 2-3/8 inches (5.9 cm) in length by 13/16 of an inch (2 cm) in width. This pair of antique earrings has a weight of 4.9 grams (3.2 dwt).
Condition: Very good; marquise-shaped Berlin iron tops of earrings are a marriage; later modern 14k yellow gold ear wires; two "O" fittings between links are later addition; much of the lacquer is deficient on a few of the "O" fittings; some light patina and rust to mirrored steel but surface only and not at all structural.
Date & Origin: Circa 1820 - 1830 and is European in origin.
Overall Scale: Large for the necklace, medium for the earrings.
Note 1: From the private collection of the estate of a famous German opera singer.
Note 2: Johann Conrad Geiss and his factory was considered one of the masters in the making of Berlin Iron. Pieces of Berlin iron are part of the collections of famous museums including the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
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