Important Donors of the British Museum: A Vast Collection of Jewelry
In last week's blog, we took a look at some of the names behind the antique jewelry of the V&A. This week, we take a dive into the magnificent collections of the generous donors of the British Museum. From important art historians and collectors who dedicated their lives to the stories and meanings behind antique jewelry, to curiosity hunters who scoured Europe in their attempts to find antique treasures.
Two-color gold and silver brooch in the form of a vulture fighting a snake twined around a branch, both vulture and snake are pavé-set with turquoises and pearls with eyes of cabochon rubies. French, c.1860. From the Hull Grundy Gift - © The Trustees of the British Museum
Anne Hull Grundy
Anne Hull Grundy (1926–1984) is described by the British Museum as one of the 20th century's most significant jewelry collectors. Born in Nuremberg, Germany, Grundy and her family - a Jewish banking and manufacturing family - were forced to flee to England in 1933, when the National Socialist government (The Nazis) took power in Germany. They re-established their family business in Northampton with great success, placing Anne Hull Grundy in the perfect position to begin collecting.
Starting at the age of 11, Anne Hull Grundy developed a keen interest in antique jewelry. After seeing in a catalog that the British Museum's jewelry collection only went up to the 1700s, Grundy dedicated herself to acquiring 18th and 19th-century objects to fill the gap; from Victorian pieces with hidden messages to lovingly and expertly hand-crafted works of goldsmithing. In 1978, she gifted her collection of over 900 items of jewelry to the Museum.
Early 19th-century English jewels. Top left: A marquise-shaped pendant with seed-pearls, in the form of two birds drinking at a fountain, on a background of blue enamel or glass, bordered with diamonds set in silver, inscribed in French, 'l'amour et l'amitie' (love and friendship). Top middle: Oval gold brooch with seed pearls, in the form of a winged cupid with a lamb, on a background of blue enamel or glass with a pearl border. Inscribed in French, 'Taisez vous' (be quiet). Top right: Gold brooch in the form of a padlock set with pearls and with a dark blue enameled center. Middle left: Gold brooch set with pearls and pink topazes with heart, padlock, and key pendants. Middle right: Bloomed gold brooch in the form of a hand holding a pearl-bordered heart with an inset compartment containing hair and a gold graintille 'key' pendant. Bottom: Gold brooch in the form of a key with diamonds set in silver and a hair compartment in the bow, and a chain from which hang two heart pendants set with a ruby and turquoise. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Miniature English jewels c.1826-1875. Clockwise from top left: Gold bracelet with a double chain and set with a garnet surrounded by small pearls; Enameled gold bracelet with articulated links in the form of a snake, set with diamonds and rubies; Gold bracelet with a flexible band and set with a turquoise surrounded by diamonds; Gold brooch in the form of a padlock and key set with diamonds and sapphires; Brooch in the form of a flower-spray, gold, set with seed-pearls and turquoise.
English 18th-century bracelet in facet-cut steel with a beaded border, one of pair forming a necklace. It is suggested that steel bracelets like this would have been worn mounted on silk to prevent the wearer’s wrists being scratched. - © The Trustees of the British Museum
A French aigrette in the form of a flower spray with a trembler insect. Silver-gilt with a dished closed-back and set with flat-cut garnets. c.1700-1725.
Three English aigrettes set with flat-cut garnets, c.1726-1775. Left: Aigrette in the form of a flower spray, with trembler bird. Silver-gilt with dished closed-back. Middle: Aigrette in the form of flowers and a feather tied with a bow and with a trembler butterfly. Gold with a dished closed-back. Right: Aigrette in the form of a spray of flowers, tied with a bow, with a trembler bird. Silver-gilt with a dished closed-back.
All © The Trustees of the British Museum
Hair ornament in form of a flower spray with chased silver leaves and gold settings. With a flat-cast back and set with foiled diamonds, four pendant drop-shaped diamonds. Made in the USSR, c.1700-1730. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Three Italian aigrettes. Left: in the form of a ribbon-tied flower spray with a peacock's feather. Silver & gold, closed-back, set with amethysts and colorless zircons, c.1726-1775. Middle: in the form of a crescent with a trembler spray of flowers. Silver and gold with a closed-back and set with diamonds, c.1770. Right: 18th-century, in the form of a flower-filled cornucopia. Silver, silver-gilt, and gold, set with diamonds. All © The Trustees of the British Museum
A Spanish or Portuguese aigrette in the form of a ribbon-tied flower spray. Silver, set with rose and table-cut diamonds and calibré-cut emeralds. The emerald in the large central flower has a screw fitting at the back for a hair pin. - © The Trustees of the British Museum
An English early 19th-century aigrette in the form of a ribbon-tied sheaf of wheat-ears. Silver and gold, set with diamonds. Ears of wheat became a prominent neoclassical motif and symbol of Empire in the early 19th-century, popularized by Empress Josephine of France and the subsequent Empress, Marie-Louise, who commissioned Nitot to create 150 stalks of wheat to adorn her gown and hair, which would form part of the Crown Jewels. Queen Victoria also had several wheat-ear brooches and pieces of jewelry.
A selection of cameos from the collection, c.1800-1900. Top left: Gold pendant set with a shell cameo of Cupid and Psyche, with applied ivy-leaf ornament, Italy & England. Top middle: Enameled gold brooch bordered with diamonds and pearls and set with an onyx cameo of a profile portrait of Alexander the Great(?), Italy & France. Top right: Engraved and enameled gold brooch surmounted by a bow and set with a sardonyx cameo of a helmeted female warrior, the Minerva of Aspasios, Italy & England. Bottom left: Gold brooch with a central sapphire cameo head of Medusa in a heavy ropework setting bordered with pearls, each stopped with minute cabochon rubies. Italy, made by Castellani. Bottom right: Gold brooch set with a malachite cameo of 'Night', a winged female bearing two sleeping children, Italy, made by Bertel Thorvaldsen. - All © The Trustees of the British Museum
Miniature necklace with gold links and set with twenty-nine shell cameos of animals, birds, and cupids, in an antique manner, set in gold turned wirework and bordered with seed-pearls. In the original leather case, which at one time also contained a pair of earrings. Naples, c.1800. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Two 19th-century Italian neoclassical carved-coral pieces. Left: A bracelet depicting the vine-wreathed head of Bacchus with gold mounts and panther-headed terminals, made in Naples. Right: A bracelet of cupids reclining amidst flowers, c.1840. - Both © The Trustees of the British Museum.
Gold archaeological style bracelet with applied scrolls of filigree on the clasp and hinged vertical rods separating three onyx cameos. The largest central cameo is a signed head of Medusa, the others are the classical heads of Venus and Hymen. Made by Tommaso Saulini, Rome, c.1850. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Italian 19th-century gold necklace with 10 cameos in collet settings united by fine chains depicting mythological scenes, episodes of the story of Venus, and a scene from the history of the Trojan War. The cameos are shell-backed with red-stained gypsum to imitate pink quartz.
Necklace of a woven gold chain with five pendants set with coral cameos, alternating with four coral rod and bead pendants and coral bead spacers. The cameos are carved in high relief with the female heads of seasons, their gold settings are flanked by a single gold bead with a beaded triangle below. Made by Carlo Giuliano, Italy & London, c.1860-1880 (cameo), c.1870-1878 (setting). © The Trustees of the British Museum
A gold bracelet with a flat band of woven mesh and five graduated gemstone intaglios in ropework settings, linked by pairs of flower-heads. From left to right: sapphire, cornelian, amethyst, bloodstone, and chalcedony, all engraved with heads in a neo-classical style including two helmeted heads and a Hercules. Each length of chain ends in a box with five loops of twisted wire. Italian, c.1870. © The Trustees of the British Museum.
Oxidized silver and gold demi-parure of a pendant and a pair of earrings. The pendant with a full relief figure of a drinking cupid, seated in front of shell-niche, bordered with beading and wirework and pierced scrollwork ornament. The earrings with cupids sitting on swings with shell motifs and pendant beads. Made by Niccola Marchesini, Italy, c.1870. - © The Trustees of the British Museum.
Gold brooch-pendant with filigree enamel, In the centre is an oval jasper intaglio of a laureate male head in profile inscribed in Greek characters (SKYL) with a border of ropework and roundels of blue enamel surrounded by black palmettes. The rectangular frame is ornamented with alternate blue and white enamel roundels while the four surrounding lobes are ornamented with filigree enamel palmettes and scrolls. At the back is a hair compartment. Italy & England, c.1860-70. © The Trustees of the British Museum.
Floral Motifs in Antique Jewelry
Hair-pin ornament in the form of an open flower. Silver with a trembler center and closed-back. The petals are of emeralds, rubies, diamonds, sapphires, and topazes, and the large central emerald is bordered with diamonds and sapphires. France, c.1770. - © The Trustees of the British Museum.
Three-colour gold tiara with swags of leaves and flowers surmounted by a row of large flowers formed by clusters of turquoises surrounded by cannetille work with a small diamond in the center. It has been converted from a frontlet ornament. French or Italian, c.1805 or c.1830. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Various antique English floral gold brooches from 1826-1875. Including wild roses and convolvulus sprays carved from shell, a spray of leaves and fruit in coral, an orange blossom spray of porcelain, and orange-blossom sprays with shell petals and coral buds. Queen Victoria made orange blossom very popular by wearing real orange blossom in her hair and on her bodice for her wedding, and Albert gifted her many orange blossom pieces of jewelry over his lifetime. © The Trustees of the British Museum.
Gold hair ornament set with briolette-cut garnet drops and pearls, Austria, c.1830. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Antique English forget-me-not jewels, c.1830-40. Top row: Gold demi-parure of a brooch and earrings set with turquoises and small diamonds in the form of forget-me-not sprays. Middle row: Two-colour gold demi-parure of a brooch and earrings set with turquoises. The brooch with a yellow gold bird with red wings and tail on a forget-me-not spray; The earrings are forget-me-not sprays with gold leaves. Bottom left: Two-colour gold pendant set with turquoises in the form of a forget-me-not spray with a bow and crossed arrows. Bottom right: Gold brooch set with turquoises in the form of a forget-me-not spray. © The Trustees of the British Museum.
Parure of necklace, brooch, bracelet, and earrings with flat gold link chains and chased two-colour gold set with turquoises in the form of fruiting vines and forget-me-nots. London, c.1837-1846. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Bloomed and chased gold parure of necklace, brooch, and earrings set with seed pearls in the form of vine leaves and bunches of grapes. In the original leather case, lined with blue velvet. Italy, c.1840.
Left: Chased two-colour gold brooch set with carved amethysts in the form of a fruiting mulberry with an enameled gold ladybird on one leaf. Black mulberry means 'I will not survive you', and the use of amethyst as a darker stone than most may suggest its purpose as a mourning jewel. English, c1840. Right: Bloomed and chased two-colour gold brooch set with cornelian beads in the form of a red-currant spray. Austrian, c.1840. Brooches of exactly this type are shown worn in the hair in a portrait of a lady by Friedrich Wassmann, 1840, and painted in the Austrian Tyrol. - © The Trustees of the British Museum.
Antique English brooches in the form of sprays of convolvulus, c.1840. One of chased and polished two-color gold, set with rubies, the other two of chased and polished yellow gold set with rubies and turquoises in the form of ribbon-tied sprays of convolvulus and forget-me-nots.
Above: a bloomed and chased gold demi-parure of a brooch and ear-rings in the form of sprays of violets with tinted ivory flowers. In the original leather case, labelled inside the silk lining of the lid. England, 1850. Below: 3 chased two-colour gold brooches set with a combination of amethysts, topazes, pearls, and turquoises in the form of pansy flowers, England, c.1840-50. - © The Trustees of the British Museum
Bloomed and chased three-colour gold hair or corsage ornament set with diamonds in the form of a large spray of mixed flowers including pansies and green petals and a diamond-set butterfly mounted on a trembler spring. English, c.1850. - © The Trustees of the British Museum.
Bloomed and chased two-color gold tiara set with round and leaf-shaped cabochon garnets in the form of a half circlet of flowers and leaves. England, c.1850. © The Trustees of the British Museum
A tiara in three pieces in the form of branches of oak leaves and acorns. Silver and gold, open-back, set with diamonds and convertible to a brooch or to use as comb-mounts. In the original case are also two tortoise-shell combs and gold frames for the tiara and brooch. The lid of the case is stamped with a Viscount's coronet and the initials 'MP'. Made by: Hunt & Roskell England, c.1855. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Bloomed and chased two-colour gold brooch set with emeralds and pearls in the form of a spray of lily of the valley and wheat-ears, tied with a ribbon bow. In the original leather case labeled on the silk lining of the lid. Made by M Emanuel & Sons, England, c.1850. In the language of flowers, the lily of the valley symbolized the 'return of happiness' and wheat stood for 'prosperity'.
A demi-parure of earrings and 3 brooches of chased gold in the form of bunches of bulrushes and leaves, the heads pavé-set with turquoise. England, c.1860. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Two English brooches, c.1860. Left: Chased two-color gold brooch set with almandine garnets and pearls in the form of a flower spray. Right: Chased two-color gold brooch set with almandine garnets and chrysoberyls in the form of a flower spray. - © The Trustees of the British Museum.
Gold brooch-pendant set with an oval panel of hardstone inlay or pietra dura depicting a bunch of pansies. The gold ropework border is in 'archaeological style' with a single thread of twisted wire decorating a detachable pendant loop. A hinged glass-covered compartment in the reverse. Florence, c.1850-70. In the Victorian language of sentiment, pansies stood for 'pensées' (thoughts, or ‘I think of you’). © The Trustees of the British Museum
Antique Animal Jewelry
Chased gold brooch with a heraldic crest: a fox sejant upon a 'chapeau'. The fox holds a chain with a pendant heart-shaped compartment for hair. England, c.1820.
A stunning gold swivel ouroboros memorial ring, the bezel containing miniature gold medallion under glass with relief head of Frederick Duke of York, framed by a black cross-hatched enamel ouroboros with a red enamel eye; shoulders with foliate ornament in relief. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Antique German/Swiss carved ivory jewels from the workshop of Count von Erbach-Erbach, c.1830-60. Including a brooch with three horses inside a border of oak twigs, a brooch with a stag and three deer under a tree in a border of scrolling leaf ornament, a stag and two deer beneath trees, and a demi-parure of earrings and a brooch featuring deer within borders of scrolls and leaves. © The Trustees of the British Museum
An equine demi-parure in carved and pierced ivory of horse's heads with cabochon ruby eyes and a border of oak leaves. From the workshop of Count von Erbach-Erbach, c.1830-60. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Chased two-color brooch set with rubies and pearls and gold grain work in the form of a peacock with a spread tail. Made in India or England, c.1830. - © The Trustees of the British Museum
Two antique French dragon brooches. Left: Cast and chased gold brooch-pendant in the form of two dragons back to back, with entwined tails, set in the center with a cabochon sapphire. From the workshop of Messrs J Pinard, Paris, c.1869-1872. Middle: Cast and chased gold pendant in the form of a winged dragon set with a pearl in the dragon's mouth and an emerald for the eye, c.1838-1919. Right: Cast and chased gold brooch or 'crochet de montre' in the form of a winged dragon with a suspension hook on the reverse for a watch. Made in France, after 1838. - © The Trustees of the British Museum
Early 19th-century English gold brooch in the form of a snake biting its tail (ouroboros) set with pearls and gems that spell out 'regard' on a cannetille pendant: ruby, emerald, garnet, amethyst, ruby, and diamond. In the center of the pendant is a glass-covered compartment containing hair. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Bloomed and chased three-colour gold demi-parure of brooch and earrings set with turquoises, rubies, and pearls in the centre of forget-me-nots with birds on trembler springs. Made by J & C Turner, London, c.1850. Featured alongside other bird and forget-me-not antique jewels from the Hull Grundy gift. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Bloomed and chased two-colour gold brooch set with turquoises in the form of a forget-me-not spray with a tropical bird made of hummingbird feathers. The white patch on the underside of the bird is platinum soldered in with gold solder. His beak is iron. Made in the USA, c.1860. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Cast and chased gold brooch in the form of an eagle fighting a snake. The snake is pavé-set with turquoises and has cabochon ruby eyes. Paris, c.1860 - © The Trustees of the British Museum
Antique dog cravat-pins. Left: Gold with the head in the form of an enameled miniature of a great dane, inscribed on the reverse. Painted by William Bishop Ford, England, c.1876. Middle: Chased gold with the head in the form of a pointer, France, c.1850. Right: Gold with the head in the form of an enameled miniature of a pug dog, inscribed on the reverse. Painted by William Bishop Ford, England, c.1882. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Gold bracelet with overlapping flexible links and set with turquoises in the form of a lizard. In the original velvet case labeled on the silk lining of the lid. Made by: Streeter & Co, London, c.1880.
Cast and chased gold bracelet-slide or neck-ribbon ornament in the form of a pheasant amidst flowers. Made by Messrs Gorham, USA, c.1880. - © The Trustees of the British Museum
Silver brooch with the enameled head of a dog in relief with cropped ears in a chased-gold setting in the form of a collar and lead. There is a glass-covered compartment for hair in the reverse. French, c.1890.
Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild
Also known as Ferdinand James Anselm Freiherr von Rothschild (1839-1898), or 'Ferdy' to his sister Alice and friends, he was a British Jewish art collector, politician, and banker of the renowned Rothschild banking family of Austria. Son of the Viennese baron and an Englishwoman, Ferdinand was born in Paris and was fluent in three languages. He was 'as much at home in Paris as in London', London being the city to which he relocated, where he married his second cousin, Evelina de Rothschild.
Ferdinand de Rothschild built and equipped the Evelina Hospital for Sick Children in Southwark, London, shortly after his wife Evelina died giving birth to their stillborn son. He was also instrumental in founding the Army Reservists' Home, was High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire in 1883, and had a 19th-century manor - called Waddesdon Manor - built for himself based on a 16th-century French chateau to house his collections from all over Europe. Most of this collection, later donated to the British Museum as part of the Waddesdon bequest, covers the renaissance period. Here, we highlight a few of the later pieces from the collection.
A gold fede-ring, enameled, with a broad band covered by alternating twisted and plain wires; two pairs of white hands clasped over red heart project from each edge, between them is a crystal set in a heart over crossed arrows and fixed with a padlock. Hungary, c.1800-1898.
Three antique French pendant jewels c.1800-1850. Top: Cleopatra standing on an emerald with a mirror in one hand and a snake in the other; with rubies, a sapphire, and 3 pendant pearls. Middle: Venus standing on a shell between two dolphins, set with a sapphire, diamonds, and rubies, surmounted by a pearl and with 3 pendant pearls. Bottom: Venus and Cupid in white enamel, in an alcove with three onyx columns; set with quadrangular diamonds and rubies, a pearl at each side, and a single one pendant from the base. © The Trustees of the British Museum
A gold pendant jewel set with cabochon emeralds in the form of a hippocamp ridden by a small female figure wearing a feather diadem and holding a trident. The body of the animal is chased with cartouches, enameled, and set with graduated emeralds; scroll feet; suspends from a double chain with four pearls; cartouche set with emerald and pearl pendant suspended from it. Spain, c.1800-1847.
A gold pendant jewel in the form of a sea-dragon; the tail and one side of the body formed of a large baroque pearl, the other side chased with cartouche and enameled; wings are each set with pearls; plain suspension chain set with pearls; pearl pendant below. Spain or Paris, c.1800-1883.
A gold pendant jewel set with rubies and two diamonds in the form of a lady and gentleman riding a white horse; clothes enameled; the gentleman with a falcon on his wrist; enclosed within a circle closely set with rubies with three pendant pearls; enameled back; triple suspension chain set with rubies and pearls. Paris or London, c.1825-1857. - © The Trustees of the British Museum
A gold pendant jewel with an enameled green parrot; set with clusters of rubies; hemispheroidal base; upper plate engraved and enameled with shields and flowers; rounded sides pierced with strapwork scrolls, enameled and with a pendant pearl; hangs from three chains joined by a three-sided cartouche enameled with a pearl pendant. Spain or France, c.1850-1898, the parrot c.1500-1600.
A pendant with an openwork enameled gold frame set with four rubies on a cruciform design with fleurs-de-lis between arms, each with quatrefoil at the base. There is an onyx cameo of a helmeted head at the center, the helmet formed of a mask of Pan; a modern pendant pearl. c.1850-98, the cameo c.1500-1600.
A gold pendant jewel in the form of a hawk with outstretched wings, standing on a branch from which spring enameled scrolls, with four raised settings with diamonds and a ruby; the body enameled green with a diamond set in the breast; wings studded with rubies; collar of diamonds; short suspension chain with rubies and pearls. Hungary, c.1800-1898. © The Trustees of the British Museum