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tlineopen  Silver Jewelry
tline3open  Niello Brooch/Pendant

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Author Topic:   Niello Brooch/Pendant

Posts: 2
Registered: Nov 2005

iconnumber posted 11-05-2005 10:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Uska     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi -

I received this today and am stymied.

It appears to be Russian niello, but the mark on the back doesn't appear Russian. The only mark at all is 800. I've included photos of the front, back and mark.

Can anyone help?


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Registered: Aug 2005

iconnumber posted 11-06-2005 10:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for FWG     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
To my eye it looks like it could come from the Caucasus/Anatolia region, and marking systems are both somewhat unregulated and poorly documented for much of that region. Probably not terribly old, but a nice wearable piece. It's what, about 2" diameter?

Will also write you off-list, with a Richmond tip -- I'm a native Richmonder, although I haven't lived there for over a decade....

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Registered: Nov 2005

iconnumber posted 11-06-2005 10:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Uska     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yep - it's 2.5" in diameter. I received your email. Thank you for the info! When you say "not terribly old" what does that mean? My thought was that it was pre-1940 simply because the pin-stem extends farther than the catch. Although that applies to American costume jewelry, I do no know how or whether it applies elsewhere.

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Registered: Jul 2004

iconnumber posted 11-06-2005 02:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tmockait     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have bought such jewelry and other pieces in Georgia, where a lot of Niello has been made. The pieces I have seen from both the Tsarist and Soviet periods bore traditional Zolotniks, so I question whether it was made in the Caucasus. Also, 800 silver is more typical of continental (excluding Russian) silver), so I am wondering if this might not have been made in a Russian area of either the Austro-Hungarian or German Empires. In any event, it is a nice piece.

Good luck,

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Registered: Aug 2005

iconnumber posted 11-07-2005 11:10 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for FWG     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My gut feeling is 1960s or more recent. That form of catch is still used today in some areas, and the combination pin/pendant form is much more common in the later 20th century.

I particularly like how the boss is attached with a rivet on this piece.

It is quite true that Georgian silver one sees on the market is routinely fully marked, but the Caucasian/Anatolian region also includes Armenia, Azerbaijan, Chechnya, Daghestan, Iran, Turkey, etc. Each has its own marking system, none of which -- officially -- includes the mark shown here. But I regularly see pieces that look like they should be from this region, either not marked or marked in non-standard ways. Particularly 'tribal' pieces, but also work done in areas remote enough to not care so much about assayers but un-remote enough to still get visitors/tourists -- which hasn't taken much since the 1960s and the rise of trekkers. In a small-scale society quality can be guaranteed by the reputation of the person who makes or sells a piece (as is also the case with much American coin silver, for example). But when you start selling to outsiders, some form of guarantee of quality beyond the reputation of the person may be needed, and a mark like this would fit the bill. Similar cases exist around the world, in goldwork as well as silver.

Looking through the nice book on jewelry done by the Museum of the Ethnography of the Peoples of the USSR (Leningrad, 1988, and convenient because it's available in English), the closest parallels to this piece that I see are from Daghestan, over on the Caspian. Some of the general elements can be found from southern Siberia or Mongolia across maybe even as far as the Ukraine, but the Caspian area would be my guess.

One other possibility worth mentioning is Thailand, or southeast Asia more generally. There one can also find fine niello work, and the use of rivets to attach parts, and even such numerical marks. But I'd consider that highly unlikely in this case -- because of the design primarily -- and mention it only for the sake of completeness.

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