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Gold necklace set with the heads of hummingbirds

 

Width: 200.000 mm

Gift of Robert C. Kwok, Esq.

M&ME 1993,2-5,1

Prehistory and Europe

    Gold necklace set with the heads of hummingbirds

    London, England, AD 1865-70

    In the original manufacturer's case of Harry Emanuel of Bond Street

    'Novelty' jewellery in the nineteenth century referred to jewellery made to new designs, materials or techniques. Such jewellery was shown to a wide public in the International Exhibitions, which stimulated a growing demand for ever more exotic material and design. Emanuel took out a patent for the use of hummingbirds' heads in 1865, a method which involved removing the feathers from the birds' heads, and attaching them to gold mounts for use in jewellery. Here he has used emerald green and scarlet hummingbirds. The scarlet heads are placed upside down to show the colour on top of the head. Although most pieces made with such natural material as birds' feathers, insect bodies and wings were acquired only for show, they remained extremely fragile, and few examples survive. However, they are well documented in trade journals and catalogues of the time.

    The Hull Grundy Gift contains a number of items in their original cases. Mrs Hull Grundy recognized their significance as an extremely valuable tool in the dating of jewellery: case-maker's impressed stamps can be used together with the retailer's known addresses and dates of trading to provide conclusive proof of the dates of production. In this instance, the case-maker, Louis Autra, traded from 80 Wardour Street between 1852 and 1870. We have the patent date of 1865 for the use of the hummingbirds, so the piece can be dated securely to the years 1865-70.

    J. Rudoe, 'Humming-bird necklace by Harry Emanuel', British Museum Magazine: the-4, 19 (Autumn 1994), p. 25

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