Brooch – Antique Diamond-Set Dolphin
An antique mid-Victorian circular brooch finely styled as a dolphin of Oriental influence¹ extensively set a-jouré² with antique diamonds in a silver-coloured pavé-setting arranged in size and shape to accentuate the design. Also featuring a rubover-set ruby eye, and a yellow gold-coloured undersetting. Employing a pin and hook fitting. English, circa 1855-1865.
Assessment of the Principal Diamonds (two).
First principal stone.
Cut: baroque³ pear brilliant-cut.
Measuring: 5.10mm x 3.40mm x 2.40mm.
Calculated weight: 0.29cts.
Second principal stone.
Cut: baroque³ oval brilliant-cut.
Measuring: 3.80mm x 3.00mm x 2.40mm.
Calculated weight: 0.20cts.
Assessment of the Complimentary Diamonds(101).
Principally featuring 47 octagonal eight-cuts⁴, as well as ten baroque³ round/cushion brilliants, nine English star-cuts⁵, three French-cuts⁶, 31 rose-cuts⁷ (some ‘chips’), and one lasque⁸.
Graduating in size: <1.00mm to 3.60mm.
Estimated total weight: 2.88cts.
Average colour: G/H/I (mixed).
Average clarity: VS-SI (mixed).
Assessment of the Ruby.
Cut (mixed): double-cut crown over step-cut pavilion.
Measuring: 2.30mm x 2.00mm x 1.49mm.
Calculated weight: 0.06cts.
Details of the Setting.
Measuring: 42.75mm x 41.67mm.
Unhallmarked: valued as 15ct gold and silver.
No stamps or markings observed.
Additional suspension ring on the reverse⁹.
¹. In 1854, commander Parry of the US Navy was successful in signing a treaty of trading rights between America and Japan. Other countries soon followed and this opened up an unknown culture to Europe and the United States. A treasure house full of the wonders of exotic arts and crafts was now seen and examined for the first time. They had an amazing effect on all decorative designs, creating a mania for all things Japanese. Simplicity was the keynote to all designs; and economy of line, perfectly spaced and proportioned asymmetrical compositions, and just one carefully observed individual characteristic of each leaf, flower, bird but all the elements needed to create the atmosphere and aesthetic beauty that so intoxicated Europe and the west. The jewellery in the Japanese taste was decorated with motifs derived from print sources. Articles in periodical and Japanese design books consisting of coloured woodblocks of figures, landscapes and birds, were available from at least 1860 (Shirley Bury, ‘Jewellery: The International Era 1789-1910. Volume 2 1862-1910, 1991).
The Paris Exposition Universal in 1867, visited by William Morris and his followers, also bears witness to other oriental influences. In 1860 French and British troops were operating in Peking - appropriating artefacts from the Sumer Palace as part of the Anglo-French expedition to China. Some of the Emperors fine Jade was taken back to Paris where it was carved and mounted into jewellery in gold and precious stones by Eugene Fontenay. (Peter Hinks, 'Nineteenth Century Jewellery', 1975). This French firm was renowned for producing jewels in the classical manner now displayed their new creations at the same Paris exposition in 1867. Records show that amongst the neoclassical jewels shown by Fontenay are those of Chinese derivation.
². Classical Georgian rings were one of the last pieces of English jewellery that still employed traditional 'closed-back' settings. Although being considered an important (and costly) aspect of jewellery production, this method was gradually abandoned in favour of open-back settings first observed for use with diamonds in the mid-16th century Renaissance. Those early examples are documented in various noble house inventories as being 'á joure', and 'set on daylight'; a literal translation of á joure (Jack Ogden, Diamonds: An Early History of the King of Gems, 2018).
². Many Victorian jewels are convertible; extra fittings were provided so that sets of star brooches could be transformed into a tiara and necklaces (for example). Diamond crescent could be worn as either as brooches or in the hair. One of the handsome bracelets (illustrated in the trade catalogues of London based jewellers of 1900) was described as forming a pendant brooch or hair pin. At that time fashionable women liked jewels to be versatile so that they could ring the changes on them according to their fancy (Peter Hinks, 'Victorian Jewellery', 1991).
³. Herbert Tillander describes all antique brilliant-cut diamonds that were divided and bruted without powered mechanical means, as baroque brilliants. These stones, like modern brilliants have 58 facets; 33 facets on the crown across upper halves, mains and upper stars, and 25 on the pavilion across mains and lower halves. “The term Baroque, which derives from the period in which such diamonds were first fashioned, has a wider relevance. Exact symmetry was not important; instead, we find attractive minor irregularities in both the shape and the size of the different facets. The term Baroque, therefore, should not be restricted to early cuts, but should apply to any similarly fashioned brilliant of whatever period, including the brilliants for which the London cutters were so famous in the 18th and first half of the 19th century, producing such diamonds as the Regent and probably also the Dresden Green (Herbert Tillander, ‘Diamond Cuts in Historic Jewellery, 1381-1910’, 1994).The common outlines are identical to those still used today: “In 1750, David Jeffries (a mid-18th century diamond expert) illustrated round, oval, and pear-shaped brilliant-cut diamonds as well as the then standard square cushion-shape brilliants. These brilliants are the true forerunners of the twentieth century brilliants; indeed, proportions changed little from the early eighteenth to later nineteenth centuries (Jack Ogden, Diamonds: An Early History of the King of Gems, 2018).
⁴. This facet design usually consists of eight facets on the crown and eight on the pavilion, an octagonal table and a large culet. The facets are often unequal in size, with those in the corners being the narrowest. This typically gives the stone an octagonal shape with either a squarish or rectangular outline. This facet design gives an indication on the prevailing faceting demand of the time it was fashioned; namely weight preservation whilst modernising older cuts in the early seventeenth century. As described by Tillander, “occasionally old table-cut diamonds were given additional facets, usually to disguise broken corners, disturbing inclusions, and so on. The result was usually eight facets in the crown and eight in the pavilion. When poorly fashioned table-cuts were brought over from India, these were scorned except as raw material for refashioning into brilliants or eight-cuts.” (Herbert Tillander, ‘Diamond Cuts in Historic Jewellery, 1381-1910’, 1994). The second half of the 18th century was a great period of recutting unfashionable designs, and the cutters would have achieved a slightly larger display and weight retention with an octagonal stone that would not have been possible if gem had been reduced to a sharp cornered outline, such as a square. These antique octagonal eight-cuts were used as complimentary diamonds to larger square brilliants during the second half of the eighteenth century, as the table shape and outlines would have harmoniously matched, before being abandoned in favour of the more technically arranged English star-cuts in the first half of the eighteenth century.
⁵. The facet design on this diamond uses 32 facets and a table. The crown has eight girdle break facets and eight ‘star’ facets (differing from a full brilliant-cut, by way of omission of the main, or ‘kite’, facets). These are sometimes called ‘Double-Cuts’ in the trade, owing to the two-tiered arrangement of facets. This facet design was used from the 18th century onwards for small complimentary diamonds, “if they were fashioned from dodecahedrons, these cuts were known as English Star-Cuts, and from octahedrons English square cuts. Why they were ever called English is open to question. The most plausible explanation is that they were thus named in order to distinguish them from the untidy cuts of the large continental cutting centres. The London cutters of the first half of the 18th century were renowned for the precision of their work. They gave to even the smallest diamonds distinctive fascinating designs, correct proportions, good symmetry and thin girdles. In theory, the outline of the English star cut should have been octagonal, but in practice outlines were more often rounded. And, of course, the shape of the rough affected the shape of the final gem. Around the turn of the 20th century the English Star-Cut became completely circular and the height proportions lower. Modern bruting and sawing methods had greatly reduced the amount of material wasted. For some reason this refined cut was known as the Swiss-Cut. With the increase of automation, even this this was eventually replaced by the small full-cut brilliant” (Herbert Tillander, ‘Diamond Cuts in Historic Jewellery, 1381-1910’, 1994).
⁶. “Pavilion-based French-cuts were square multifaceted diamonds. They date back to the early 15th century, and seem to have been favoured by royalty and members of nobility-Francis the first of France, Elizabeth of Austria and the Duke of Buckingham among them-but they didn’t become fashionable until the 17th century, when brilliance was first of all merely excepted and finally became a requisite of all diamonds. To fashion this type of cut, first the apex has to be ground down to make square table with its side set diagonally to the sides of the diamond. Then the main crystal faces were remodelled into facets and the outline squared. Finally, the pavilion was adjusted to a proper depth given a plain faceting, often in the form of a narrow cross. Although the original reason for fashioning pavilion-based French-cuts was to transform obsolete cuts into something more fashionable, the fascinating design has survived to the present day” (Herbert Tillander, ‘Diamond Cuts in Historic Jewellery, 1381-1910’, 1994). The most prevalent use in the modern era for this facet design is with complimentary stones; blue sapphires, rubies, and sometimes emeralds in 1920 post Edwardian jewels.
⁷. "The final shape of a diamond and the number of its facets were influenced by the size and shape of the raw material, and consideration of weight retention coupled with the aesthetic desire for symmetry. When the starting point was cleavage fragment of diamond, the flat cleavage surface could form a flat base to the stone, and was sometimes left unpolished, particularly with small stones. The upper part could be formed into a faceted dome. The form of stone is what we can loosely define as a rose cut. This echoes the English lexicographer Nathan Bailey's succinct definition in the early eighteenth century when he explained that a rose-cut "is one that is quite flat underneath, but whose upper part is cut in divers little faces, usually triangles, the uppermost of which terminates a point" (Jack Ogden, Diamonds: An Early History of the King of Gems, 2018).
⁸. "The range of plain Table Cuts is vast. They may have crowns of any height; the table facets may be anything from very small to very large; some have shallow pavilions and some have outsized to culet. In diamonds of irregular proportions (as opposed to the regular Mirror Cut and high Table Cuts), the reflections are irregular too. A large part of the light entering through the crown escapes through the pavilion facets, instead of being reflected internally and then dispersed through the crown facets. Shallow tablet cuts were considered acceptable as long as they displayed at least moderate internal reflections-which could, in any case, be improved by foiling. But they were often given the description 'laxy', a trade term for very shallow diamonds lacking brilliance. Extremely shallow diamonds, consisting of virtually nothing but a table and a culet separated by a tiny row of girdle facets, are called Portrait Diamonds or ‘Lasques’. They were used instead of glass to protect miniature portraits or watch face. The word lasque, derived from Hindi, means the equivalent of about 100,000 Indian rupees" (Herbert Tillander, ‘Diamond Cuts in Historic Jewellery, 1381-1910’, 1994).
⁹. “Many Victorian jewels are convertible; extra fittings were provided so that sets of star brooches could be transformed into a tiara and necklaces. Diamond crescent could be worn as either as brooches or in the hair. One of the handsome bracelets (illustrated in the trade catalogues of London based jewellers of 1900) was described as forming a pendant brooch or hair pin. At that time fashionable women liked jewels to be versatile so that they could ring the changes on them according to their fancy” (Peter Hinks, 'Victorian Jewellery', 1991).