Historical Regal Enamel Miniature in Diamonds
A true ancestral jewel of extreme rarity, this is a 17th century enamel portrait miniature of the Duke of Albemarle set into an 18th century diamond heart pendant. Family jewels were often retained for centuries, passed down with care to other generations or to friends and loved ones. Year after year treasured with pride, they were sometimes placed in cabinets and cupboards, at other times worn and displayed with dignity and confidence. Occasionally these pieces were modified to suit changing fashions or to mask repairs and wear.
This jewel speaks on several levels of a rich history. First and foremost, the center is the likeness of George Monk (Monck), 1st Duke of Albemarle, Earl Of Torrington, Baron Monck Of Potheridge, Beauchamp And Teyes. His likeness may be seen in the National Portrait Gallery in London as well as in the royal collection at Windsor Castle.
On the miniature the Duke’s expression gives him a somewhat roguish air. In the portrait one can certainly see the “make of the man”-- his vitality, his vigor--by the cut of his jib. It is rendered in enamel on copper. The Duke is painted in the fashion of the mid 17th century and is garbed in the Order of the Garter.
With curled brown hair at shoulder length, he sports a dandy pink bow, a white lace cravat with blue waistcoat replete with rose colored silk. Just a hint of an armored gauntlet and sleeve pinned with his royal order of the garter appears. The jewel within the jewel is also enamel with a rose colored cross amidst a field of white bordered with light blue and with the order’s motto, “Honi Soi Qui Mal Y Pense” (Shame of he that thinks evil of it).
The reverse of the miniature has the family coat of arms and again the same motto. Painted in sepia on a deep ultramarine aqua-blue/white background, the crest details three stag or horned animal heads in profile on a striped background with white chevron. The top is a crown and it is dated 1650. It is superb and so important to have this family crest and historical marker for the jewel.
The enamel was set, or most likely reset, in the mid 18th century in a magnificent heart shaped intricate lacework of diamonds and silver. The piece is encrusted with 118 rose and single cut or old European cut diamonds and the effect is breathtaking. Above the heart is an undulating ribbon forming a bow in diamonds.
And if that were not enough, there is a huge early cut diamond at top center. Visually it appears at about 2 ¼ carats of sheer radiance. Slightly champagne in color (or perhaps it is the foiling beneath) the stone is mesmerizing. A tiny black visual internal flaw does nothing to veil the inner beauty. All stones are set in silver and are closed back and foiled. The total approximate weight is over 6 ½ carats of diamonds – each one hand cut and fashioned so that it maintains that typical irregular faceting structure and overall form.
Clearly cloistered for most of its long life, it is rare to be able to touch and hold, let alone wear a jewel just as it was hundreds of years ago. It is both a pendant and a brooch and easily worn either way. The piece comes with one of the later but original fitted tooled red leather boxes, most likely dated from the early 19th century.
The box has the original black velvet and white silk lining. The maker reads "Carrington & Co" and the address of "130 Regent Street T.W." with the words “By appointment" over a crown. This is one of the jewelers appointed to the Royal family at that time.
A Brief History of George Monk (Monck) (B. Dec 6, 1608-1670):
A fascinating presence in the history of England, George Monk was a loyal supporter of Oliver Cromwell most of his career, and was one of his most trusted generals in Scotland and served as his deputy there. His exploits took him successfully through many a battle and he gained high recognition earning him a colonel’s commission in 1639. He attained the appointment of governor of Dublin when the Irish the rebellion began in 1641.
Taken prisoner, he spent some years in The Tower until his release in 1649. After Cromwell’s death, and amidst extreme chaos in the army, he was finally influenced to turn his loyalties to the side of the King Charles II (1630-1685). Restoring the Stewart dynasty, he secured Parliamentary government and democracy. For his outstanding and decisive efforts, King Charles II created the Duke of Albemarle, and with it came a pension of £1000 a year.
In addition, he was made a privy councilor and invested with the Order of the Garter. His career continued both at sea and on land and he functioned as Lieutenant General of the armed forces. In tandem with Prince Rupert, he was appointed admiral of the fleet and a great victory was won over the Dutch in 1666. Having died in 1670, he was buried at Westminster Abbey.
George Monk lived at the family estate known as Potheridge House in the village of Merton in Devon. His efforts rebuilt the manor, with splendid stables and a magnificent manor and chapel. It still remains and now is occupied as a farmhouse. He had one son, Christopher, the Second Duke of Albemarle, (1653-1688) who died childless and sadly, far less successfully than the father.
Measuring a bit less than 7/8 of an inch wide by just over 1 inch high (2.2 cm by 2.6 cm long), the enamel is set within a tightly pinched silver collet. The entire pendant brooch measures 1-11/16 inches wide by 2-3/8 inches long (4.3 cm by 6 cm). The large diamond measures a splendid 9.5 mm high by 8 mm wide.
The condition is superb with no imperfection of note. On the reverse of the enamel are one deep blue and two white areas that are part of the makeup of the piece.
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