Antique Gold Work

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Victorian Revival Necklace courtesy of ADIN

Antique Gold Work can incorporate ancient and medieval technologies and  provide important dating clues for the switched-on antique jewelry investor. 

In all the gold-forming techniques, used throughout the History of Jewelry,  it was the gold work applied to antique gold jewelry ,in the 19th century, that was the very finest.

Jewelry as an art form, has traveled through a series of different gold work techniques, applied at specific time periods. When identifying Gold Antique Jewelry, the different gold work applications, will help you with dating the piece. A jewelers loupe will be essential in the identification process.

Beautiful gold work, embellishing Antique Jewelry, painstakingly created by master craftsman, revolved around Three fundamental gold work techniques....

Late Georgian Antique Jewelry and early Antique Victorian Jewelry incorporated an antique gold work application known as:

 1. Cannetille 

Cannetille is French Word, however it is thought that Cannetille first originated in England and later adopted in France. It  is a recurring decoration on Antique Gold jewelry. Cannetille gold work may be evident on the most impressive antique gold pieces in existence today.

In the 1830's gold was skillfully wrought into antique filigree jewelry in the shape of sprays of flowers, brooches with stylized flowers- the heads of which were made from Persian turquoise, pearls or sometimes citrines and amethyst gems for pansies.

And as if coming to us from a fairy tale as gold spun from a wooden spinning wheel, this exquisite antique gold work technique was used to make light and yet luxurious jewelry.

Cannetille or "canetille" was named after the gold embroideries of the Napoleonic years; a type of embroidery made with very twisted gold or silver thread. The patterns are often in the form of scrolls or rosettes made of tightly coiled wires.

This labor intensive technique was unfortunately short-lived and fell out of favor soon after it was introduced and no one has dared take up the difficult process since.

During this time semi-precious stones also became fashionable. Amethysts, topaz and aquamarines were set in this beautiful filigree 'Cannetille' antique gold work, that made the most of a small amount of gold.

Cannetille takes the form of a filigree pattern, where the surface is encrusted with fine detailing in gold, consisting of spirals of wire orgrainti where small granules are used, often enhanced with gemstones or enameling.

Gold articles so decorated were hand-made but when used on silver or a base metal, the pattern was made by stamping. This style was popular in both England and France during the 1820's.

Stones were often foiled for uniformity of color and were set in nests of tightly-curled fine gold wires with trails of tiny gold granules.


Antique Gold Work Fades to Repoussé

By 1840, the taste for Cannetille had completely faded and was replaced by a form of gold work called:

 2. Repoussé

With this method the design was raised in relief by hammering the gold from the back, and machine made parts were often hand finished. Repoussé hammered by the hand of an artist demonstrated the skill and fine craftsmanship produced in the [Victorian era.]

Designs for this style of Gold Jewelry were, scroll-work, strap-work, shells, flowers and leaves. Many of these motifs and patterns established during this pre-Victorian era continued throughout the century.

Colored gold mixed with copper provided a red sheen or with silver a green tint and was used for stems and leaves and the matte surface complimented the satin finish of the turquoise or Natural Pearls.

Some of the best examples of this style of gold work  can also be seen in  pre-Victorian gentleman's seals, considered an important item at the period. Incredible skill and care went into these important accessories.

On both large and minute seals, richly chased  flowers, leaves, seashell motifs, animals or coiled serpents is often evident.


Granulation - An Ancient Gold work Technique

Major archaeological discoveries from the middle of the century re-introduced a lost new 'archaeological style' of antique gold work known as:

 3.Granulation (See Image Top of Page)

While genuine ancient examples had occasionally been seen in society, such as the newly discovered Etruscan pieces worn by Lucien Bonaparte's wife in Rome in the 1830s, these were rare.

The finest jewelry from the ancient world was created by the Etruscans who had settled in Tuscany in Italy in the late 8th century BC. Their reputation rests primarily on their unequaled mastery of the difficult ancient gold work technique of Granulation, that created superb, textured surface patterning, on their gold work.

Minute gold spheres were heated to melting point (sometimes as small as 0.14mm) and then attached to the gold surface below without melting the surface. This technique had largely been a mystery until the 1930s.

It was then discovered that a mixture of copper carbonate, water and fish glue was used to hold the granules in place and on heating the copper fused with the gold to create a solder-less joint.

The process could create simple geometric patterns and intricate scenes to cover whole areas. It looked like fine gold dust!

There was a revival in 'archaeological style' jewelry in the 1860s following excavation in Italy and the Crimea.

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A number of European jewelers became famous for their close copies.

One of the most important working in the archaeological style and using antique gold work techniques of Granulation was Fortunato Pio Castellani (1793-1865) followed by his two sons, Alessandro (1824-83) and Augusto (1929-1914). Casellani's work was inspired by Etruscan and Greek originals. They kept up to date with the new archaeological discoveries and were able to amass a great collection of Etruscan, Greek and Roman gold work.

Their knowledge of ancient jewelry won them international reputation. Castellani of Rome had shops in London and Paris.

Ancient gold work was often heavily embossed with details in intricate gold filigree and fine granules. And although Castellani did not achieve an exact replication of the Etruscan technique he achieved a pretty close match using solder.

Antique Jewelry Investors can identify ancient 'archeological style'  by the antique gold work applied to  the  surface.

I hope you enjoyed reading about Antique Gold Work!

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