Monthly Archives: November 2010

Plique a’Jour Butterflies

On E-bay, a monarch butterfly barrette made by Alexandre de Paris for Jean Paul Gaultier measures 5.5 inches long and 4.75 inches high: 3 to 4 times the size of other barrettes. Even though I feel the size was probably Gaultier’s idea, Alexandre de Paris’ couture designs innovate from sense of history.

This piece is special not only for its size, but for choosing to imitate plique a’jour enamel technique with modern acrylics.

Plique a’Jour (open to light) was developed in 14th Century France.
Translucent enamels were held in an open framework, which was made by soldering the metal pieces to each other. The framework could be removed after the enamels had cooled. It reached its peak during the art nouveau period, with the legendary jewelry of Lalique, Tiffany, and Faberge.

Here is a plique a’jour butterfly pin, c. 1900, from the estate of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The gold and diamond frame sits atop red, blue, and green enamel.

Here is Gaultier’s version, made by Alexandre de Paris couture.

Three Easy Pieces

These works will be auctioned at Sotheby’s on Dec. 9, 2010.

The barrette is by Cartier, circa 1905. In front, a setting of old European-cut diamonds weighs about 5 carats. Blonde tortoiseshell in back completes the piece. Price estimate: $10,000 – $15,000.

The French made magnificent H combs out of ivory and boxwood during the 15th and 16th centuries. As Medieval painting and music began to express secular themes, so the scenes carved into these combs were about love or decoration, not God. This French Medieval comb is made out of boxwood, has an intricately decorative theme, allows light to shine through it, and is estimated to be worth 6,000 to 8,000 GBP.

Our last piece is a brooch-barrette Louis Comfort Tiffany made for his father’s store, Tiffany & Co, circa 1920. He used 18-karat gold, platinum, set a round black opal in the center, and surrounded it with demantoid (green) and spessartite (orange) garnets. The garnets are accented by sapphires.

French Silver Beauty

By the way the tines are welded on the back, I’d place this silver beauty in France, c. 1850. The first layer of this tiara comb is an intricate rectangular silver design, on top of which is a smaller strip with a larger pattern. Three medalions are welded to the strip in the front so they can hold the arched tiara bridge, punctuated by roses and silver buttons.

I think this is a one-of-a-kind original piece, which shows the thought of the craftsman at a time when many combs remained unsigned. Because there are no pearls or other jewels, it was not made for an aristocrat, but I can imagine it enhanced the beauty of any woman lucky enough to have worn it.

Chinese Export Ivory Comb

There are so many EZ barrette wholesale auctions on ebay now, I’m going to go blind. And the same combs are advertised at prices no one will pay, time and time again. I don’t even know why I bother to check anymore. However, masochistically I looked and found this:

The ivory tines at the bottom are worn, but the design on top tells a story. This is a classic Chinese-made ivory comb for export to the Victorian market, c. 1890. It has 6 days to go, and it’s already over $100. This will go. I will not be bidding. However, I’m watching and will list the final price and winner next week. If I didn’t have an ivory comb in my collection, I’d go for this one.