Regal Emerald & Gold Iberian Stomacher
We just obtained this magnificent jewel but it sold while we were unveiling it on our recent trip to New York. We felt it was important enough to still showcase on our website since it is so historically significant.
Splendor from the Age of Enlightenment has never been so attainable. The 17th and the earlier part of the 18th century was a time of the magnificent Baroque and Rococo periods in the arts. The sheer extravagance of Louis IV of France had a profound influence on the arts in all of Europe, Britain and beyond. His creation of his palace at Versailles ultimately demonstrates his proclivity toward the arts and aesthetics. Lightness, playfulness, grandeur, drama and an appeal to the senses encompass a great deal of the decorative and architectural arts until later in the century.
Spain and Portugal’s artistic trends flowered at a slightly slower pace that those of their European counterparts. They found themselves adhering to codes of Baroque styles in the 18th century perhaps after those countries had moved on more to a Rococo fashion. Nonetheless, both countries created magnificent examples of jewelry design and production. In addition, Portugal with its port in Lisbon, was a gateway from Goa in India for precious gems and gold pouring in from South America. The same applies for Spain and its routes to the New World. Riches since Columbus’s discovery of the new world continuously made their way to the old world via its gates. Gold, diamonds, emeralds, topazes and other gems literally flowed in to be disseminated through Europe and Britain. Brazil was a center for gold and diamonds, as well as the elusive emerald. In 1545, the deep Columbian emeralds were mined and the finest emeralds still known today come from this region. These influxes of new gems changed jewelry design forever. Gone was the reliance on metal work and enamel and from the 17th century onward, jewelry became more and more about gems and their color and brilliance. Jewelry now was about stones with metal work as the backdrop for colored gems and diamonds. Certainly in Spain and Portugal, not only the diamond, but the emerald ruled supreme.
We have the convents of Spain and Portugal to thank for many of our examples of 17th and 18th century grandeur in jewelry. Young women of noble and royal families, who for various reasons were not married by a certain age, were sometimes left under the care of convents. With them came their families’ donations of lavish jewels. These convents were disbanded in 1834 and jewels worked there way back into the public - saved from some of the vagaries of remounting and re-working, particularly during later wars and strife. Tradition too kept these jewels with families for generations and some still come to light in near mint condition.
One of the more influential and pervasive forms of the century was the bow. Along with the feather, the flower and leaf motifs or the garden, teardrops, and the girandole - the bow can be seen as either the main thrust or an adjunct to the design in numerous jewels of the era. Sévigné bows, as they were referred to, were so named for a prolific 17th and early 18th century writer, Madame de Sévigné. A great friend of Louis XIV, she wrote prodigious letters and the wearing of this bow form is credited with her name. And from this - its Iberian descendant, the laca low form stems as well.
Stomachers were one of the “must haves” of the century. Gowns with elongated and flattened bodices were the perfect backdrop for trailing jewels down the breast and front. Some were worn up high at the neck from ribbon, and trailed down the chest. This great stomacher is of the highest order of workmanship and materials. High carat gold is nearly woven into lace into a medley of shapes and forms that hold the ultimate in emeralds. Weighing in at over 53 grams or 1.8 ounces, there is an enormous amount of gold used in this jewel! Feeling its heft in the hand it simply surprising that something so delicate in overall feel, can weigh so much. Some of this is certainly due to the sheer amount of gold used in the surrounding and bezels of the emeralds.
Puffs of gold, with their geometric designs, cup each flat cut emerald. Over seven (7) carats of emeralds enhance this wondrous of jewels. (All weights are approximate since it is not possible to weight or measure them accurately in situ). In the top center, the largest emerald is about one (1) carat in visual size or 8 mm by 5.5 mm. Dancing around it and dangling freely are twelve (emeralds) and another fourteen (14) are mounted stationary on the bow form. Coloration is dark and fine, with that rich, deep hued tones that we define simply as emerald green. Note however, that these are foiled and some of their color could be, and usually are enhanced by foil. Most are included as expected, with natural flaws evident in all stones, but of a modest amount.
Spirals and tendrils of gold illuminate three square cut emeralds for the central and smallest drop. Smaller in proportion, it mirrors the curves and lines of the top elements. Fourteen large emeralds dot the surface of the bottom cruciform pendant. Mesmerizing in their hues of peacock and sea greens, it is simply impossible to resist their charm. All emeralds are placed within austere bezels with the main central upper emerald and larger emeralds of the drop placed atop crenellated or sectioned puffs of gold. Typical of this region, one finds numerous jewels set with these domed pillows of gold and their characteristic sections and patterns. Light plays off these curvaceous gold surfaces and along with the lacy spirals of gold, light and reflection play an important role here is the jewel’s overall appeal.
Notice that with a size just a hint under 5 inches long (12.5 cm) by 2 ½ inches (6.1 cm) at the widest makes this dramatic – every eye in the room will be directed here. Yet its delicacy of gold work, allows this to be wearable by even someone more petite in stature. Light and space help define the jewel with a delicacy that seems unimaginable for its time. Similar (but less fine examples) can be seen in books such as, “Five Centuries of Jewellery” of the National Museum of Ancient Art, Lisbon on page 46 (of diamonds and gold) or on page 165 of the book “La Joyeria Espanola de Felipe II a Alfonso XIII” (in emeralds) Another fine example of similar craftsmanship, but overall more horizontal design can be found on page 51 in Diana Scarisbrick’s book, “Jewels and Jewellery” with two examples. Circa 1750 and of Iberian origin.