An exquisite Art Nouveau brooch that clearly demonstrates why French Art Nouveau jewels are without parallel. A single orchid blossom, carved from banded chalcedony agate, rests atop a stem and foliage worked in contrasting yellow gold and silver and set with diamonds.
The flower, painstakingly carved from a single piece of stone, relies on the stone’s natural color banding to produce the desired effect. The carver left only a thin layer of opaque orange stone on the back of the flower and finished the pinkish front with a matte surface to create a slightly translucent effect. The carved lines representing veining were more highly polished to glisten just a bit. The combination provides the subtle color variations and velvety textures typical of a real orchid blossom. The blossom is centered by three pistils, each prong-set with an old mine-cut diamond, the largest of which is approximately .2 carats. Just below the blossom, a silver bud is bead-set with rose-cut diamonds. The stem and leaves are worked in yellow gold that is very strongly colored. The strap-like leaves are also set with rose-cut diamonds in various sizes. All the diamonds are of good quality, the larger ones being estimated at J color and SI2 clarity.
Orchids were wildly popular in France during the last three decades of the 19th century, and they often appear in jewels by leading Art Nouveau masters. Pieces of this quality, however, are rarely available on the market. It is a certainty that this brooch was produced by one of the leading Parisian houses such as Boucheron, Vever or Tiffany. French export laws at the time, however, required that all marks on an exported item be removed and replaced with the “tete de Mercure” export mark, which is visible on the pinstem. Signs of the obliterated first mark can still be seen.
Origin: France, ca. 1880. Condition: excellent, some light flaking along edges of the carved flower are visible under 10x magnification, all original. Size: 2-5/8” x 1-1/4”. Weight: 10.25 grams. Approximate Total Diamond Weight: .85 carats.