This is a jewel that could be housed in any museum, yet is also wearable and deserves to be shown to the world.
This necklace stands as a testament to the 17th century’s obsession with enamel work and with flowers. Gold and enamel have been transmuted into an object of indescribable beauty, entirely hand-made by master craftspeople over 350 years ago.
The central plaque is breathtaking in its adept artistry. A miniature painting in enamel, it depicts three figures floating amid violet hued clouds. One, a reclining female figure is shown robed in royal blue with a long cloth of jonquil yellow and maroon tones. At her feet rests an enrapt putti; in her hand she holds a staff aloft.
Over her is a winged angel with a flowing green scarf and dressed in rose toned robes. A wreath of leaves rests on her head.
The oval plaque is held in place with a rim of patterned gold. Next are tiny pillows of enamel in black and rose, which appear to be in tulip form. (See later historical notes for more about the tulip in Europe). This is secured with gold serrated edges, typical of the time period.
The back of the enamel is rendered in an opaque white ground. A slightly bluish tint reveals the metal beneath (likely copper). It is thoughtfully decorated in rose tones with a tiny pattern in the center and at four points (one now missing) are raised beads of enamel.
On each side of the plaque are two filigree elements of the most ornate and fine workmanship. Of swirls and coils of gold, they link the plaque to the chain.
Chain-making is something which, on the surface, can be perceived as mundane – merely a backdrop for hanging a pendant. But it can be the most creative, versatile and varied of jewelry-making elements.
This is one of the most intricate and unusual types of chains you will ever see. Round circlets of gold are dimpled with puffed texture and joined together to form vertical rows of four each.
Tiny orbs of gold dot each juncture. These are then placed side by side and joined with hand wrought circles of gold to form flat sections. At the top and bottom of each section are florets of gold with tiny gold stamen centers, and filled with black and white enamel. The flowers demarcate the linking of each section.
Swirled with gold filigree, floral and flora, the clasp is a small masterpiece in itself. The surface is raised with miniscule filigree work. Each end is a tiny white flower of four petals, in the center a large black flower of 5 inner petals and 6 outer petals with white dots and white center. Intricate designs encrust the entire surface as well.
Later sections of four rows of hand-made oval and patterned 14k gold chain have been added toward the back. These can be removed if desired. The remainder of the necklace is 15-18k gold.
A rare and fine reminder that during the Renaissance and up until around 1700, jewelry’s focus was on enamel, rather than on gemstones or diamonds.