From the Vault
THE CRESCENT BROOCH
Crescent brooches were one of the Edwardians'
favorite jewelry choices -- especially using diamonds and pearls
by Elise B. Misiorowski
Beautiful and mysterious, the crescent was one of the most widely used
motifs in jewelry of the late 19th century in Europe and America. A carryover
from the Neo-classicism of the late 1700s, the crescent motif was reintroduced
in jewelry around 1888 and remained in favor through 1910. Linked with the
Edwardian style, the crescent became popular about the time Edward and Alexandra,
Prince and Princess of Wales, were starting to have an impact on society.
The Edwardian style - known for its monochromatic look featuring diamonds
and pearls - favored motifs worn by royalty from previous centuries.
A 0.95-ct. old-mine-cut diamond centers the star in this crescent
and star pin. The piece has a silver top and gold back, not to mention 55
smaller old-mine-cut diamonds totaling about 6.80 carats. The pin is courtesy
of J&SS De Young Inc., New York City. Photo by Robert Weldon
Until platinum was introduced for jewelry use in the late 1890s, diamonds
and pearls were set in silver to complement their essential colorlessness
and were backed with gold for stability. Gold also protected the wearer's
clothing and skin from tarnish. Initially, platinum settings for diamonds
and pearls also were backed with gold, though that was unnecessary because
platinum doesn't tarnish. The gold backings added credibility to the value
of the piece until platinum became universally accepted as a precious metal
and was used on its own.
Diamond-set crescents were the most in demand, induced by the abundant
supply of diamonds discovered in South Africa at the time. Other white gems
often used were pearls from the Persian Gulf, opals from Australia and moonstones
from Ceylon. Sometimes crescents were set with new finds of sapphires from
Kashmir and rubies from Burma, typically in combination with diamonds or
pearls. Crescent brooches could be set with single, double or triple rows
of gems in many variations. Three-row crescents were often set in a slightly
rounded mounting with larger stones making up the center row giving
the piece a pleasing, three-dimensional aspect.
The crescent most often appears as a single brooch, though the motif
was used also for bracelets, necklaces, pendants and smaller scarf, lace
and hat pins. The crescent brooch almost always came with a double-pronged
hairpin fitting so it could be worn in the hair. This style, á la
Diane, refers to the goddess Diana, whose emblem is the crescent moon. Sometimes
other motifs would be combined with the crescent, including stars, birds,
flowers and trefoils. The star and crescent illustrated here was especially
popular worn á la Diane.
Perhaps the most beguiling combination was the bee and crescent brooch
signifying "honey-moon." The bee and crescent made it an ideal
gift for a groom to give his new bride, a custom that could easily be revived
Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.