Berlin iron jewelry was produced in Germany by the Berlin Royal Foundry beginning in 1804. Previously, iron jewelry had been worn primarily during periods of mourning due to the dark color of its black lacquer finish. However, it reached a high point of popularity between 1813 and 1830. To fund the War of Liberation against Napolean, citizens were asked to donate their precious gold in exchange for iron jewelry. The Berlin iron jewelry was sometimes inscribed with a portrait of Frederick William III of Prussia, or with the words "Gold gab ich für Eisen" (meaning "I gave gold for iron") or "Für das Wohl des Vaterlands" ("For the welfare of our country/fatherland"). Almost overnight, Berlin iron jewelry became a symbol of patriotism. Its beautiful fabrication and lacy appearance gave it widespread appeal, eventually reaching popularity in numerous European countries. Authentic Berlin iron jewelry is now very rare, and well-preserved pieces have become very collectible!
Cut steel jewelry originated in England in the 17th century and subsequently spread throughout Europe, eventually becoming a popular style of jewelry worn by members of high society during the Victorian era. Made of polished faceted steel studs, the pieces were cut by hand and then assembled and riveted onto a metal back. The faceted steel elements give this type of jewelry a subtle, metallic glitter that resembles cut gemstones. Motifs varied from the simple to the sublime, with multiple layers and densely packed studs. The time-consuming process and the artistry required to create cut steel jewelry made it very valuable and highly sought-after during the Victorian age, particularly to wear during the stage of "secondary mourning." Produced up until the turn of the 19th century, antique cut steel jewelry is now highly collectible.
An exceptional Berlin iron and cut steel necklace and earring set from the Georgian (ca1804) era! Crafted in fine Berlin ironwork with delicate cut steel studs and mirrored steel plaques throughout, this well-preserved ensemble is an incredible work of art. The ornate necklace adorns various sized iron-backed links topped with mirrored steel plaques, each one connected together by intricate, lacy Berlin ironwork. The largest link rests at the center, and features an oval-shaped mirrored steel plaque on the front that is adorns a raised iron cameo on the surface. The incredibly detailed image features a lovely winged cherub that is kneeling down and embracing a rooster that appears to bow his head into the embrace. The emotional image is surrounded by gorgeous swirled wirework and cut steel studs, while three smaller complimentary plaques dangle freely from the base. Various geometrically shaped pairs of iron-backed links topped with mirrored plaques grace the remainder of the necklace, each one surrounded by additional lacy wirework and eye-catching steel studs. Embellishing the surface of each mirror are wonderful floral and leafy motifs, adding a lovely feminine touch to the incredibly detailed design. Fastening the necklace together is a push clasp at the back, featuring with an oval-shaped mirrored plaque decorated with a pair of artichoke motifs.
The complimentary earrings display a fabulous dangling design and feature an elongated triangular-shaped mirrored plaque hanging from a gorgeous ironwork topper. The surface is graced with a swirled vine motif that lines the center, and a single cut steel stud adorns the base. Similar to the necklace, the entire plaque is surrounded by wonderful ornate Berlin ironwork. A single, cut steel stud rests at the center of the surmount, and is surrounded by lovely loops of ironwork, creating a wonderful floral appearance. Each surmount is attached to European style rose gold earring wires that have a hinged lever back, fastening in the front. When worn, they dangle with exceptional movement, framing the face beautifully.
Throughout the ensemble, the cut steel studs and mirrored steel plaques reflect the light beautifully with every turn, and perfectly contrast with the rich, black intricate Berlin ironwork. Whether worn separately or as a set, this rare Berlin iron and cut steel ensemble makes a magnificent statement, and is perfect for the serious antique jewelry collector!
Measurements: The necklace measures approximately 16.25" long. The central pendant and dangling links hang about 2 3/4" long, approximately 1 7/8" wide and 1/8" thick. Each earring hangs approximately 2 1/2" long, about 5/8" wide, and 1/8" thick.
Condition: The overall condition of the two piece jewelry set is excellent. Besides normal surface wear, there is no apparent damage to the Berlin ironwork itself. The surface of some of the mirrored plaques shows signs of minor fading, but due to the intricate nature of the entire piece, it is hardly noticeable when worn. It appears that some of the studs have been replaced at some point with similar looking stones, however, due to the number of studs and their placement, the replaced studs are hardly noticeable when worn. The necklace clasp fastens securely and is in good working condition. The hinged European earring wires are secure and in good working condition.