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ARTS AND CRAFTS PEARL, DEMANTOID GARNET, AND PLIQUE-À-JOUR ENAMEL NECKLACE BY MARCUS & CO., NEW YORK, CIRCA 1900

  • A necklace of triple swag design, composed of plique-à-jour enamel panels with demantoid beads within textured scrolling borders and ornaments, the central section with pearl accents, joined by chains of small circular gold links with demantoid and pearl accents; mounted in green gold
  • Signed Marcus & Co. and scratch numbered on the clasp and central panel 12476
  • Copy of the original drawing from the Marcus & Co archive
  • Length: 16¼ inches

Additional cataloguing

Literature

  • Albrecht, Donald, and Jeannine Falino. eds. Gilded New York: Design, Fashion, and Society. New York: MCNY, p. 68.
  • Karlin, Elyse Zorn. International Art Jewelry 1895–1925, exh. cat. p. 21.
  • Karlin, Elyse Zorn, ed. Maker & Muse: Women and Early 20th Century Art Jewelry. New York: Monacelli, p. 150.

 

Exhibition

Maker & Muse: Women and Early 20th Century Art Jewelry, Driehaus Museum, Chicago, Illinois, February 14, 2015–January 3, 2016.

Gilded New York, Museum of the City of New York, New York, November 13, 2013–October 31, 2014.

International Art Jewelry 1895–1925, The Forbes Galleries, New York, October 29, 2011–March 17, 2012.

 

Biography

One of the most important American jewelers at the turn of the century, Marcus & Co. created innovative gem-set and enameled pieces that rivaled those of Tiffany & Co. After emigrating from Germany, in 1850, Herman Marcus worked for Tiffany & Co. before joining with his sons to form Marcus & Co. When Herman passed away in 1899, George and William continued to create magnificent Art Nouveau and later Art Deco pieces. Two years after participating in the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, Marcus & Co. closed their doors.

 

Significance

Marcus & Co. was one of the few American jewelers to create jewelry with plique-à-jour enameling. This technique entails filling open spaces in the metal with translucent enamel, which, after several firings, gives the effect of stained glass windows when held up to the light. Only three other jewelers in the United States at the time used this technique in their jewelry designs: Tiffany & Co. in New York and Riker Bros. and Whiteside & Blank in Newark, New Jersey. Of all these jewelers, the plique-à-jour enameling executed by Marcus was the most refined, approaching the beauty and originality of enameling executed by Lalique in Paris.

This necklace utilizes green plique-à-jour enameling in the plaque elements. It serves as a backdrop to the demantoid garnets that, at first glance, appear to be cabochon-cut stones mounted in the central panel but, on closer inspection, are beads that have been pierced and affixed by a wire to either side of the mounting. Instead of using yellow gold, the designer has chosen a greenish shade, subtly finished with stippling to mute the color of the metal while natural pearls, set into the central panel and strung along the three swags, soften the predominantly green hues.

The selection of demantoid garnets for this necklace is very unusual since these stones, mined in the Ural Mountains in Russia, were traditionally set into whimsical brooches, such as salamanders and serpents in the late nineteenth century. The name demantoid, derived from demant, which in German literally means diamond, was originally given to the stones because of their extraordinary brilliance. The highly original design of this necklace, utilizing unique gemstones set in a nontraditional manner and elegantly accented with plique-à-jour enameling, reveals the creativity and craftsmanship of a talented jeweler.

The original drawing for the necklace from the Marcus & Co. design books in the Dartmouth College Library.