Sweet Piece of L’ Art Nouveau

October 14th, 2010 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG
Enameled Art Nouveau Sweet Pea

Enameled Art Nouveau Sweet Pea Pin

Every now and then, we see something that really excites us. Today, while working with a client on her new custom ring, we were discussing what to do with some pieces of jewelry that she doesn't use anymore.

We buy cast off and damaged jewelry to recycle, as well as consigning resalable pieces. As a big fan of all things Art Nouveau, my heart skipped a beat when she laid this enameled Sweet Pea pin in front of me and asked about consigning it.

The design is graceful and executed with a natural realism– The flower is beautifully modeled, just as you would expect from a good piece of Art Nouveau jewelry from the Edwardian period. You can see how several pieces of gold were constructed and assembled just the way the natural flower would be. The enameled petals were modeled and enameled separately then riveted or screwed into the beautifully tooled flower base, and the 3 mm Old Mine cut diamond is set in a classic Tiffany prong setting that is riveted into the petal.

Sweet Pea #2

The back has the classic bloomed gold we see on well made enamels, and you can see how the enameled flower is attached to the pin frame and stem with a rivet. We tested the gold and found the stem and base to be 14K green gold, and the flower to be 18K.

Bloomed Gold & Rivet

Bloomed Gold & Rivet

Imagine my disappointment when close inspection showed that the enameled flower had numerous areas of damage and discoloration– the piece had probably been handled non too delicately for years. It didn't appear to have been dropped so my guess is that rubbing and bumping against other pieces in a jewelery box had caused the chips and discolored areas.

The delicate color of the enameling is exquisite but seriously marred by the chips and open areas. The best hope for this piece as a truly salable item in the estate department is to redo the enamel. The question is whether the piece is worth the expense to restore it. Maybe we can find a collector who will accept the piece “as is.”

The once red hot market for Art Nouveau items has cooled off like so many areas of commerce, and of course, pins are not the easiest items to sell to today's casual consumer.

The symbolism of the Sweet Pea in the Late Victorian and Edwardian era was that of blissful pleasure or good-by, and the hidden message in this flower is “Thank you for a lovely time.” This piece has seen better days, but they were certainly lovely days!

Sweet Pea #1

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