A c. 1830 girandole pendant of chased, granulated, and cannetille-worked 18k gold, set with a quasi-harlequin trio of gems: aquamarines, amethysts, and citrine. Similar girandole pendants can be seen in the Rijksmuseum (BK-NM-12888) and Landesmuseum Joanneum (Inv 11445). Another is illustrated on p. 217 of Henri Vever’s French Jewelry of the Nineteenth Century. A detailed rendering of this pendant type can be found in the c. 1829 portrait of Nanette Kaulla by Joseph Karl Stieler (1781–1858). In this portrait, the subject wears the girandole in the manner it’s been worn since the 17th century: as a bodice jewel, hooked or pinned to the front center of a neckline.
Named after a lighting fixture with branched arms, girandole jewels first emerged c.1650 and was one of the most popular jewel types throughout the 17th – early 19th centuries. Its attractiveness can be attributed to the harmony of trinities: for example, on the present pendant, three vertical drops are balanced by three horizontal gems across the body; even the selection of gems are three in number. While the girandole was part of an “international” style made throughout Europe, the present example may be French in origin due to the three drops being suspended briolettes (rather than mounted in settings), a style popular with Parisian jewelers and can be seen on p. 163 of Vever.
Varieties of beryl and quartz, the present gems were most likely sourced from the mines of Minas Gerais; following Brazilian independence in 1822, trade treaties with England and France made Brazilian color gems in large desirable carats more widely available to European jewelers, satisfying demand where previously substitutions in paste may have had been necessary.
The 1820-30s decades also saw the pinnacle of goldsmithery in Europe. A post-Napoleonic wars gold scarcity contrarily encouraged the blossoming of goldsmithing techniques, as craftsmen through innovation sought out ways to maximize the visual appeal and impact of scarce gold. The present pendant exhibits many of these techniques: swirling cannetille filigree, extensive granulation beading, and chased texturing in the acanthus scrolls. The center-bottom scroll is even worked in ‘green’ gold, a popular coloring technique during this period, where trace amounts of cadmium is alloyed with gold for a greenish tint. The surfaces have been further acid-treated for a matte, pure-gold appearance, a technique later known as “blooming”, but was referred to during the Georgian era as “dead gold” in reference to the matte look (see La Belle Assemblée, 1806-07). Although c.1820-30 gold can often be delicate and lightweight, the present example is a well-made and sturdy example, weighing a hefty 27 grams.