Historical Berlin Iron Earrings
During the Prussian Wars with Napoleon, as in many wars, the citizens of Prussia were encouraged, as a reflection of their patriotism, to donate their gems, jewelry, gold, and silver tableware to increase the amount in the State's coffers. In appreciation for the contribution, jewelry fashioned of Berlin Iron was given in exchange for the finer metals. Cast from iron, polished and lacquered black, it was worn with pride by Prussian women. A few pieces are inscribed, "Gold gab ich fur Eisen" (I gave gold for iron). After the war other countries in addition to Germany, such as France and Austria, began to manufacture iron jewelry and continued to do so well into the early 19th century. Today pieces are quite rare and the number of collectors has increased with prices rising every year. Often the jewelry is quite fine, lacey and delicate in design; the airy intricate look and the coal black matte surface have created an almost indescribable appeal for many.
This pair of antique earring is most likely earlier than later work with its classically sculpted cameo-like relief of the head of a male and wirework “whorls”. According to expert Anne Clifford (Cut Steel and Berlin Iron Jewellery) earlier examples of Berlin Iron were made in the neo-classical fashion; later pieces had a more naturalistic theme and Gothic style to them. With flourishes and whirls two small medallions connect to a significantly larger plague bearing the likeness of, in all probability, the Greek god Zeus. Very precise outlines are joined by simple wire links to give the Berlin Iron its complex yet delicate lace-like look.
Measuring an impressive 2-5/8 inches long by 1-3/16 inches wide. On the reverse of one may be an old repair behind the middle flower with a bit of old enamel/lacquer and an area a little more filled in than on the other side. Otherwise quite fine. Ear wires are possibly original or at least quite old as the ends show wear and have a good patina when viewed with a loupe. The effort of time has affected the wire work edges and has weathered the connection to the top loops and to the bottom plaque. Continental in origin; circa 1795 - 1825. Very large yet agreeably light on the ears