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Marcus & Co. Black Opal and Enamel Pendant Necklace

Created around 1900, this Art Nouveau 18K gold, opal and enamel pendant necklace was made by Marcus & Co., New York, and its design is attributed to George Marcus. Ordered as a special commission, the pendant is designed as a shaped black opal within a frame of chased gold iris blossoms and intertwined green basse taille enamel leaves with gold tips, reverse with high relief conforming iris buds, blossoms, and intertwining enamel fronds, with flexible champleve green enamel tear-drop pendant, all suspended from delicate trace link chain highlighted by four chased iris blossom links. This wearable art jewel of refined design and workmanship, centering on a mysterious deep blue and green opal, is an early exploration by this American firm of the sensitive naturalism of French Art Nouveau.

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  • Product Details
  • Curator's Notes

Item #: N-21004
Artist: Attributed to George Marcus, Marcus & Co., New York
Country: United States
Circa: 1899-1901
Dimensions: 16.00" length
Materials: Shaped black opal; Basse Taille and Champleve Enamel; 18K Gold
Signed: numbered 17435 and 8969, in fitted and signed period box.
Literature: A more elaborate pendant necklace belonging to this theme, dating from c. 1905-6, resides in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2015.588) and was exhibited there in Jewelry: The Body Transformed, 2018.

Records indicate that the Marcus family generally visited Europe two or even three times a year, starting in the 1890s. The family was deeply interested in the exquisite and intellectual work of the leading French art jewelry designers, among them Lalique, Vever, and also Colonna, a one time associate of Louis Tiffany's who worked for Siegfried Bing in Paris. The Marcus family had met Vever in 1893, and likely admired Lalique's jewels both in Paris as well as in the periodical art literature of the time. Lalique was the first jeweler to look beyond trite idealization and explore without blinking the evolving beauty of blossoming plant life, from budding through to wilting and decay. In this Marcus pendant, the iris leaves are shown with drooping golden tips - as in nature, even as the flowers reach full bloom, the leaves begin to pass their prime and yellow. Additionally, George, an intuitive designer, did not enamel the iris blossoms, entrusting the vivd indigo blue of the opal to leave a lasting impression on the mind's eye. The archival numbering of this pendant suggests a date of 1899-1901 - several years before Louis Tiffany masterfully explored this theme.