The giardinetto (little garden) style -- often called giardinetti, the plural -- originated in Italy during the Rococo years of the 18th century and has been revived in other eras when an exceptionally feminine look was prized. Here the artist made the look totally fresh, adapted in the Jugendstil style of late 19th century Eastern Europe.
This elaborate multi-part antique pendant brooch is one of the most delightful Victorian jewels I've seen and, fittingly, it's been treasured. Notice the rose gold gilding, still shining as brightly as new. There's delicate chasing around the bar pin, which has an elongated pinstem, tube hinge and safety-pin clasp reliably dating the piece to the 1880s. Most wonderfully of all, an oval bail beneath the pin suspends a fully dimensional, round basket holding a bouquet of gorgeously enameled flowers and leaves with highly polished accent stones of rose, emerald and coral art glass. Quite sizeable, it measures about 2 1/4 inches tall and 1 1/4 inches at its widest -- large enough to look sensational on a coat or jacket -- and obviously the basket drop can also be worn to great effect on a necklace chain or ribbon.
Without markings, which in this age appeared only on precious metals, one can't be absolutely certain, but all the indications of Austro-Hungarian origin are present -- and, if you love jewelry from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, you know how difficult it is to find now. There was never much, since the Dual Monarchy lasted only from 1867 to 1918 - besides which jewels from this area and period are so special that people seldom let them go. They share the decorative opulence we prize in the shimmering paintings of Klimt, a goldsmith's son who studied at Vienna's celebrated School of Applied Arts. Its students learned to design outstanding arts and crafts products that could be mass-produced for a growing middle class who emulated the aristocracy and had refined tastes. I expect the creator of this elaborate multi-part pendant brooch was trained there.
It isn't surprising when "ballroom" jewels survive in splendid condition, but this charmer was more likely worn by a young lady enjoying the casual pleasures of the Heurigen (wine gardens of the Vienna woods) or riding the Riesenrad, prototype of ferris wheels. Nonetheless, it's as imaginatively and carefully crafted as the adornments of aristocrats.
The underlying metal appears to be a sturdy luxury-weight brass. To see minute losses of gilding and enamel requires extremely high magnification. To the naked eye (at least mine), this jewel is perfect. Its provenance is a North Carolina estate and you'd have to look a long time to find anything comparable.
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