ARTS & CRAFTS COLLAR NECKLACE BY PAULDING FARNHAM, NEW YORK, CIRCA 1908

SOLD

A collar necklace centering a pink tourmaline cabochon atop a greentourmaline cabochon atop a collet-set cushion-shaped citrine bordered by gold circles and ovals, the collar composed of an openwork ground of collet-set stones including heart-shaped citrines, square and oval-shaped topaz, pear and round-shaped quartz, oval-shaped green tourmalinecabochons, and round and oval-shapedpink tourmaline cabochons; mounted in 18-karat gold

  • Measurements: 13 1/2 x 1 7/16 inches

Additional cataloguing

Provenance

  • Lucia James Madill, Paulding Farnham’s sister-in-law

 

Biography

Paulding Farnham began working at Tiffany & Co. in 1885 as an apprentice under Edward C. Moore, head designer at the company who stressed drawing and modeling from nature. At 29, Farnham was appointed to design the jewelry collection for the firm’s exhibit at the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris, for which the company received a gold medal. Farnham was catapulted to celebrity, eventually becoming head designer in 1891 and winning accolades for his designers at international fairs. In 1902, when Louis Comfort Tiffany inherited the company and began to change direction, Farnham’s role was gradually reduced until he left the company in 1907.

 

Significance

At the turn of the last century, Paulding Farnham was the most important American jewelry designer. He gained international acclaim for creating the famed enameled orchids for the Tiffany showcase at the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris. Inspired by the writings of Charles Darwin and the botanical paintings of Martin Johnson Heade, Farnham produced a series of 24 lifelike blooms in enamel set with precious stones. Precisely modeled on actual orchids, the flowers reflected an interest in both modern science and modern art. European critics noted the “America taste in all its purity.”

The first great American jewelry designer, Farnham established Tiffany as a jeweler able to compete with the best French design. Farnham continued to create show-stopping jewels, and again won the grand prize for jewelry at the Paris Exposition in 1900, this time based on Farnham’s work with gemologist George Frederick Kunz who provided Tiffany with the unusual stones that led to their iconic color combinations, materials such as conch pearls, pink topaz, demantoid garnet, Mexican fire opals, Montana sapphires, and Arizona turquoise. Farnham’s reign ended when Louis Comfort Tiffany inherited the company in 1902 and seized control of the designs, relegating Farnham to working as a draftsman. Farnham left the company in 1907.

Farnham was married to Sally James Farnham, a prominent America sculptor of society busts and public monuments from an important American family. This necklace was commissioned by Dr. Grant Madill, the husband of Sally’s sister, Lucia James Madill and passed down through the family. A fantastic creation of multi-colored collet-set tourmaline, citrines, topaz, and quartz, the stones were likely furnished by Kunz to be organized by Farnham into a fabulous openwork collar that is prescient of the design changes of the Art Deco period both in bold color and use of varied geometric form. This is the last known work by a master jeweler and shows the direction he might have taken if he continued to design jewelry. A masterpiece of American jewelry design, this would be an important addition to any collection.

Lucia James Madill wearing the necklace designed by her brother-in-law, Paulding Farnham, circa 1908.