1850s Victorian 18k Gold Repoussé Necklace with Almandine Garnets

A lavish and gorgeously embellished English c. 1850-60s antique Victorian 18k gold slider necklace, of lariat form with two ends of the thickly braided snake chain threading through a ribbon-like pendant inset with three 0.5 carat almandine garnets and dangling with heavy stylized tassel drops. The surface of the gold is entirely decorated with engraved, chased, and repoussé scrollwork. The pendant reverse has a crystal compartment containing neatly pleated hair.

What a well-preserved example from the golden age of Victorian jewelry making! Between 1840s – 60s, English jewelers fully explored the decorative and aesthetic potentials of gold as a material, and broke new grounds in the technical and imaginative scope of their craft. Part of this shift in the way jewelers regarded gold was ushered by its greater availability: gold rushes in California (1848) and Australia (1851) somewhat alleviated its scarcity, and made it possible for craftsmen to work with the material in greater quantity than ever before. Prior to 1848, Britain sourced gold mostly from Russia and Brazil; its scarcity meant that it was often a component in jewelry rather than the main feature. 18th century jewelers for instance used gold as backing for silver, or as settings and decorative findings to feature gemstones. But in the 1840s, jewelry that were unabashedly and predominantly gold emerged. Jewelers during this period were much more unsparing in the utilization of gold, and in the exorbitance of decorative finishes to the form and surface, whether by engraving, chasing, or repoussé work. Pieces like this necklace have almost an exuberant energy, as if to say, “gold, gold, and more gold! Glorious, gorgeous, glamorous gold.”

Another feature worth noting is the necklace and its association with the Victorian “cult of sentimentalism”. The ascendency of a young, pretty queen to the English throne after four generations of hefty Hanoverian Georges heralded a new age in which fashions were sweet, romantic, and quite feminine. Love tokens and sentimental jewelry, already popular during the Georgian era, became even more firmly interwoven with the Victorian culture of courtship, as various symbols (swallows, anchors, snakes etc) and forms (knot rings, portrait miniatures, etc) created a kind of material “vocabulary” of love. This particular necklace would have been gifted as a sentimental token of courtship; the pleated hair in the reverse crystal compartment would have belonged to a woman’s beau.

Description

Date: 1850-60s, Early / Mid Victorian era

Materials: almandine garnets, solid 18k gold (acid tested, and checked with neodymium magnet to rule out presence of a base metal core)

Weight: 8.6 grams

Dimension of almandine garnets: 5.5 x 4.5 mm, 6 x 4.4 mm, 5.4 x 4.4 mm (about 1.5 carats total)

Dimension of ribbon pendant: 34 x 16 mm

Dimension of individual drops: 18 x 9 mm

Length of necklace: 44 cm (17 in) max

Sourced from: a Pawtucket, Rhode Island estate

Condition: really fantastic antique condition without any observed flaws; ready to wear.