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An exceedingly rare Georgian 18K yellow gold pendant locket celebrating the first manned flight by the Montgolfier brothers from Paris in 1783. Hot air balloons were one of the scientific wonders of the late 18th century, and balloon designs were worked into furniture, textiles, clothing and jewels. This locket features a hot air balloon carved from a piece of mother of pearl and then decorated with gilding and realistic painted detail. The balloon is affixed to a pale blue silk background and enclosed behind convex glass in an 18K yellow gold frame bordered by a ropetwist motif worked in gold and natural seed pearls. The edges of the frame are further accented with a beaded ogee design and bright-cut stippling. The back of the locket, also glass covered, features a mother of pearl plaque painted with the initial "F.H.", also affixed to a blue silk background. A piece such as this would most certainly have been made-to-order, so it is not surprising that it is unmarked. Tested and guaranteed 18K.
The rarity of this pendant really cannot be overstated. Very little late 18th century French jewelry survived the Revolution and pieces with a Montgolfier theme are exceptional.
Origin: probably France, ca. 1785. Condition: excellent; a small piece of the balloon carving has become dislodged (probably from the top finial of the balloon) and slipped toward the bottom of the frame (the frame could be opened the the loosened piece reattached). Size: 1-7/8" x 1-5/8".