Sunday, 11 November 2012


The Belle Epoque is the period that goes from 1890 until the outbreak of World War I. It was a time of opulence and extravagant luxury. The world was thriving economically and a new class of wealth had taken over society; the American millionaire. Not just the americans, industrialist and merchants worldwide found themselves capable of buying their entry into high society. Money was not the problem and it was thrown into decorative arts commissions as the perfect display for their success. Obviously jewellery was a the centre of this trend. The discovery of diamonds in South Africa in the 1860's inundated the market with stones and the newly discovered use of platinum became the perfect marriage for "white" jewellery of delicate lace designs known as the Garland Style.

Jewellery acquired such significance that elegance required that only certain type of pieces were worn depending on the occasion. Sautoirs and pearls were appropriate only for dinner parties, tiaras for the opera, corsage ornaments for evening dresses etc…

A rare and extremely delicate Belle Epoque pearl and diamond brooch, it will be auctioned by Christie's Geneva on November 13th.

It was also a time when it was socially acceptable to acknowledge mistresses and courtesans  publicly, the famous "Grandes Horizontales" or demi-monde women that ruled Paris during these decades and whose fame has reached until today for who has not heard of La Paiva, La Belle Otero or Liane de Pougy. These women collected the most fabulous jewels made in their time as they attached their security and status to them. A review of their collection will take almost a new blog. There is an important anecdote though, the jewellery that was considered "elegant" was set in platinum with pearls and diamonds only; the use of yellow gold or coloured gemstones was not considered tasteful.

This is a Belle Epoque brooch made by Cartier set with magnificent colombian emeralds. It would have been appropriate only as "daytime" jewellery and not to wear it to a formal occasion. It will be auctioned by Christie's Geneva on November 13th.