This breathtaking brooch, which can also be worn beautifully as a pendant or hair ornament, dates from soon after the First World War, but has a decidedly 19th century look. In fact, its girandole form with three gracefully swaying drops dates from the 18th century, but Queen Victoria kept it popular via her passion for wearing jewels made for her grandmother, Queen Charlotte.
Also evoking earlier times is the dazzling array of multi-colored stones favored in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which World War I ended. The brooch's "Czecho" stamp -- the first signature used after Czech independence -- reminds us of how Eastern Europe was reshaped in 1918. Still, the Imperial tastes survived beautifully for a brief while. Long known for producing the finest art glass gems, this region was also renowned for brilliant enameling and fancy gilt filigree metalwork. Here we see it all come together in lavish "Last Gasp of the Old Austro-Hungarian Empire" style.
The brooch is of significant size (2.5 by 2.75 inches) and in fine condition, showing surprisingly little wear even on the brightly gilded reverse. In deference to the purists among us, we've left it in as-found condition, but you may want to touch the small patches of verdigris with a bit of vinegar to neutralize them so they won't spread, then dab the vinegar away with a little water. It's a good idea to do this, whenever you notice greenish areas on your antique treasures.
This rare and splendid piece reached us from a California estate. Its safety clasp is of the type introduced around 1890, with two levers instead of one; the hinge is the old 19th century type, which lets the pinstem wobble a bit from side to side; and the pinstem shows evidence of being snipped and filed down at some time -- which is great for safety, since the extra-long ones could so easily draw blood. That's why they phased out during the earliest years of the 20th century, when women stopped wearing layers of intricate underclothing, and seldom appear on items crafted after World War I.
To wear the brooch as a glamorous necklace pendant, just run a narrow ribbon or chain through the filigree at the top.
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