Precious Metal Weight: 2.42 dwt
Precious Metal Material: 18k buttery yellow gold
Dimensions: Overall, 52.40 mm long x ~9.91 mm wide x 13.13 mm deep including stem; dove measures 11.47 mm beak to tail x 9.22 mm left wing to right rivet (as an estimate, it would have been 14.27 mm wide if right wing were still present) x 9.02 mm deep
Weight: A very nice weight of 3.77 grams
Markings: “GW” in rectangular cartouche (stamped twice) and “18” in rectangular cartouche (stamped twice), and “76·J”. GW represents the Austrian jeweler Gustav Wild, who operated from 1867-1922. J represents the original giver or receiver, and 76 represents the year 1876 when it was either gifted or received.
Era: This brooch dates to the mid 1870s, just past the middle-Victorian (1837-1901) years. It was likely worn to commemorate the loss of a loved one, though is not definitively or exclusively a mourning jewel. Its high complexity and simultaneous simplicity make it both universally applicable in symbolism, and universally wearable. The maker’s marks and the hand-etched “76” affirm this understood Victorian date range, as does the piece’s construction type and the open c-clasp closure mechanism (c.1850-1890).
Buyer Notes: This piece is a wonderful example of late Victorian, deeply symbolic jewelry. Aside from the narrative conveyed through its aesthetic elements, this brooch boasts exquisite attention to detail that is truly unmatched and wholly singular. There are no comparable brooches quite like it on the open market at the time of listing. The almost filigree-like construction of the bird was created by manipulating solid gold wire tendrils and granulation, known as ‘Cannetille’. This style was most popular in jewelry between the 1820s and 1830s during the Georgian era, and all but disappeared in jewelry by the end of the 1830s. Simply put, that makes this brooch insanely rare! This could also mean that the mourning dove may pre-date the arrow, and actually be of the late Georgian years, c.1820 and later appended to the arrow; the arrow pin itself may, therefore, date to the 1870s purchased to extend the life of the dove which would have been an heirloom by this time. Without knowing an exact provenance, we cannot ascertain a more precise lineage of this brooch beyond what our years of collecting, dealing, learning and refining our expertise enables us to determine. Nonetheless, the piece is a historic treasure with quite the story to boot.
Intricately and skillfully crafted by hand during the last few decades of the 19th century, this brooch features a mourning dove launching just before flight, his feathers puffed and full-bodied. The bird veers his head to one side, while his left wing prepares to soar. This dove is made of solid gold wiring and components, complexly woven and assembled to create its dimensional figure. The craftsmanship of the dove is undeniable, as every piece is entirely textural and highly detailed, the shape of each gold material catching the light in glistening fashion. Every bit of his form was meticulously set by hand exhibiting the dove as a truly masterful work of art on a remarkably miniature scale.
Worth noting is that the bird’s right wing appears to have been lost to time, and the extremely tiny (~1.35 mm) rivet upon which it would have originally been affixed can be observed upon close magnification, as photographed. While its presence would have made the dove appear as a three-dimensional sculpture in the full round, its loss simply makes him appear as a three-quarter round sculpture instead. When procured for the shop, the wing’s absence was actually not noticed, and it was not until the piece was in our possession and inspected through a loupe that this ‘injury’ was even perceived at all. It does not look unintentional, and somehow such a historic loss makes the mourning dove all the more symbolic.
This creature is sometimes referred to as the rain dove, and colloquially known as the ‘turtle dove’, and are notable for certain characteristics: these doves do not live in deep, dense woods, but rather prefer to either perch around forty feet or so above open ground, or atop the open earth itself. From both kinds of stations, they have clear eyed vision of their territory and unhampered sightlines. A male puffs and coos to impress a female, and both partners work together to build their nests and feed their young.
On this jewel, the dove is perched atop an arrow, complete with fletching and a nock on one end and a pointed head on the other. He faces the point of the arrow in a deliberate, forward-looking posture. The arrow denotes divine guidance fueled by affection, and offers protection against despair. In suit, doves are believed to be spiritual messengers for a peaceful heart, the certainty of revival in new beginnings, and a promise of protection and purpose in the midst of tragedy. When these references are understood in tandem with the tiny dove’s lost right wing, his significance is beautifully profound and reminds the wearer that there is value in sacrifice and heartbreak.
The reverse of the arrow’s fletching is stamped and etched with a series of marks including “GW” within a rectangular cartouche followed by an “18” in another rectangular cartouche. This duo is stamped twice on both sides of the fletching, on one side they are side-by-side and on the other side they are stacked. The side on which they are stacked, a hand-inscribed “76·J” may also be found, likely indicating the original owner or gifter of the piece (“J”) and the year it was given or purchased (1876). “GW” is the maker’s mark for maker Gustav Wolf of Austria, a jeweler that operated between 1867 and 1922, which places the forging of this brooch a decade after GW’s establishment during the height of the Victorian era.