Western Europe, England, late Renaissance or Tudor period, ca. 1510 to 1590 CE. Perhaps the single finest article of jewelry we have ever offered, an exceptional Renaissance-era gold chain necklace with a masterclass cruciform pendant inset with 13 table-cut and polished Indian sapphires. The obverse of each sapphire is cut with flat faces whilst the versos still retain their rough pyramidal forms so it can be worn in either orientation. The 4 triangular gems are set at cardinal directions surrounding a central, lozenge-shaped gem and with 4 petite gems set on the diagonals, all surrounded with gold collar mounts bearing cable-twist molding. The 4 gems set on the exterior of each wedge-form arm are also set in gold but are likely later additions. Soldered above the topmost sapphire is a minimalist suspension loop from which hangs a chain formed from 93 gold loop-in-loop links that terminate in a loop and bar neck fastener. Size (necklace): 17.5" L (44.4 cm); (pendant): 1.1" W x 1.57" H (2.8 cm x 4 cm); (central sapphire): 0.35" W (0.9 cm); (total sapphire karat value): 15K-16K; gold quality of chain & pendant: 23K; total weight: 9.3 grams
In a report about this pendant and necklace, Simon J N Tomson BA (Hons), Dip S M Arch, AifL writes, "In its original form the jewel probably looked like an expanded-arm cross with four subordinate gems within the angles - the monarch framed within the four kingdoms of Britain or the four evangelists perhaps? The jewel was then expanded to the cross set within eight subordinate gems, perhaps representing the heavenly stars?
The intense blue of the sapphire was considered "most apt to fyngres of Kins" in the 13th century, whilst the presence of sapphire granted medicinal powers to counteract poisons, envy or drunkenness, and to bestow courage, victory or conciliation. Thus the wearing of such a jewel was believed to enhance the powers of the individual.
Royal portraiture of the Tudor period illustrates sitters wearing jewels composed of multiple coloured gems, sometimes with pearls in the same setting. The portrait of young Prince Henry painted in about 1500 shows him wearing a sapphire and pearl cruciform jewel, similar in form and design to the present example. Queen Catherine of Aragon and Queen Anne (of Cleves) also wear similar jewels including sapphires and pearls.
It is however on a miniature portrait of Queen Elizabeth I painted in about 1590 that we see the nearest to the design of the sapphire jewel under discussion. Nicholas Hilliard created a miniature in enamels depicting the Virgin Queen in court dress wearing gems of sapphire set in silver, surrounding a central ruby set in gold within a gold cross embroidered in multiples into her bodice hem. The design is remarkably similar to the jewel under discussion. The miniature can be seen in the Portland Collection at the Harley Gallery, Welbeck Estate, Nottinghamshire[.]
A date for the original Sapphire and Gold Jewelled Cross can therefore be established at between 1500 and 1590 based on dated painting evidence. However it was later modified and embellished at an unknown date by the addition of the four subsidiary gems, hanger and chain.
The sapphires were mined in India, traded into Europe via Egypt and Italy, possibly mounted in monastic jewels until Henry VIII's confiscation in 1540, then "acquired" by the Royal Treasury for regal use.
This is a high-status item. A jewel such as this would have graced the neck of a prominent member of a European court, Royal or Ducal, within the period 1510 to 1590. The four outermost sapphires were probably added soon after manufacture to further enhance the jewel's splendour.
Whilst the cross is a Christian symbol it is in this case not ostensibly so, hinting that the wearer was a member of the lay community at court and possibly of the Protestant faith.
The jewel is a remarkable survival from the 16th century. Many were broken up and re-made to reflect later fashions, or were lost to their original owners and their materials re-cycled."
Cf. a portrait attributed to Flemish painter Joannes Corvus (Jan Rav) at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, accession number 48.1142.; also see an early 18th century portrait of Katherine of Aragon, wife of King Henry VIII, depicted circa 1530 with a similar pendant setting at the National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG 163.
Cf. a portrait miniature by Hans Holbein the Younger of Anne of Cleves wearing a similar pendant at the Victoria and Albert Museum, accession number P.153:1, 2-1910.
Cf. a portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger of Lady Elizabeth Grey, Lady Audley, one of Mary Tudor's maids of honor, wearing a similar pendant at the Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 422292.
This piece has been searched against the Art Loss Register database and has been cleared. The Art Loss Register maintains the world's largest database of stolen art, collectibles, and antiques.
Please note: this item is currently located in the United Kingdom with its current owner. This item will be sent to Artemis Gallery prior to being shipped to the winning bidder, so the winning bidder should expect a delay in shipping.
Provenance: private Andrew Green collection, West Yorkshire, England, UK, acquired 2012
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Four sapphires and gold mounts on exterior of each triangular arm, suspension bale, and gold chain are likely later additions, but there is no way to tell how much later. Minor bending to bezels surrounding some sapphires, with very light abrasions to some sapphires and gold components, otherwise choice and world-class. Slight bending to some gold chain links, suspension loop, loop and bar neck fastener, and other later gold additions. Fantastic patina to gold components, and sapphires still present with some of the most beautiful shades of blue ever beheld.