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The Fox and the Hound & The Myth of the Essex Crystal
10 / 04




Below are two examples of 19th century miniature portraiture jewelry. The names for these pieces are often used interchangeably, but they are in fact very different.

© Copyright Sugar et Cie


The fox and the hound are recent additions to the boutique. The Jack Russell Terrier brooch on the right, is a Reverse Intaglio Crystal Brooch. It is often erroneously called an Essex Crystal. So much so, that dealers often refer to these pieces as Essex Crystals, even though they know that they are not. The moniker is used so often and is so widespread, that it has sort of stuck. On the left, is a painted enamel miniature portrait of a fox by W.B. Ford, a student of William Essex’.




The reverse intaglio crystal is an art form that is time consuming, painstaking, and involves multiple steps.


It begins with a piece of rock crystal. The rough is repeatedly polished by hand, with a progressively fine polishing tool to create a domed cabochon on one side and a flat back on the other. The design is drawn on the flat back/reverse side of the crystal cabochon, it is hand carved, and then painted by a master artisan. This yields a three-dimensional appearance. In this particular example, you can even see the shadow of the dog’s muzzle. Finally, it is sealed with a back, typically mother of pearl or gold.


The technique originated in Belgium with Emile Marius Pradier (circa 1860). Reverse Intaglio Crystals were developed and popularized by Thomas Cooke in England (circa 1880). There are many out there, but the good ones are few and far between. It is relatively easy to see the difference in the quality from piece to piece. Take out your loupe and you can see the fineness in the details.




William Essex (c.1784 – 1869) was an English enamel painter. He is widely regarded as the best enamelist of his generation. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1818. He was appointed enameler to Queen Victoria in 1839 and wrote a treatise on the art of enameling. Most of his work is based on copies of the Old Masters or works by famous contemporaries such as Landseer and Winterhalter.


William Bishop Ford (1832 – 1922), the artist who painted the miniature fox portrait at the center of the brooch above, was a student of William Essex’. Ford also specialized in the painting of miniature enamels and exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1854 – 1895. Like Essex, Ford painted miniatures based upon oil painting by famous masters. The fox head portrait above, by Ford, is after “The Fox” (1817) by Abraham Cooper. An engraving print on paper, reflecting the work by Abraham Cooper (1787 – 1868), is part of Victoria & Albert Museum’s collection. According to V&A, the print is “…FROM THE ORIGINAL PICTURE BY A. COOPER.”




Courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum, Abraham Cooper, The Fox



When I first started researching the topic, I wondered why painting a miniature portrait in enamel was considered its own art form. I was surprised to find out how difficult and challenging it was. According to the V&A museum, “The advantage of enamel over traditional miniature painting (watercolour painted on vellum or on ivory) is that it does not fade when exposed to light.” The cons are that it is a challenging process fraught with risk. “The first colours to be laid on the metal support have to be the ones that need to be fired at the highest temperature. Then more colours are added and the enamel is re-fired. The process ends with the colours that need the lowest temperature. Such labour meant that it was an expensive option.”


In an article from 1837 in The London and Edinburgh Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science, “Some Account of the Art of Painting in Enamel,” Alfred Essex, William’s partner and brother, writes of the difficulty of achieving the desired colors and crispness of image required to rival the traditional medium of oil on canvas.




So why does the erroneous moniker “Essex Crystal” persist? Because it is so widespread, dealers still use it to help those that are looking for what they think are Essex Crystals find what they are looking for, and so it goes. How did the misnomer get started? There are several stories circulating as to the origin. William Essex was the enamel painter for Queen Victoria and created other amazing small portraits using enamels. It is possible that because the artwork is so fine and because both are forms of small portraits that Reverse Intaglio Crystals were attributed to William Essex.



In love with the fox or the hound, but not a brooch wearer? A simple addition of one or two hinged bails would make it possible to wear the Reverse Intaglio Crystal as a pendant. I would pair it with an Albert Watch Chain (on the chunky side). Many enamel portraits are being converted to pendants or rings. The fox would also make a lovely pendant. It is relatively lighter and could be worn with a more delicate chain.


06 / 10




Equestrian jewelry never seems to go out of fashion and now more than ever, it’s in high demand. Who doesn’t love a lucky horseshoe pendant, a riding crop brooch, hounds of all sorts, and of course right in the middle of it all, stirring things up – the fox!




For a variety of reasons, a good number of equestrian motif jewels happen to be in the form of a brooch. A category of jewelry that may be considered uninteresting or outdated by some, is now gaining in popularity as designers, celebrities and the trend setter in your office come up with new and fun ways to wear them.


Here are a few of our takes on how to incorporate the Equestrian Jewelry Trend into your wardrobe.




Clockwise from top left, Kendall Jenner courtesy of Vogue, Versace Safety Pin Dress courtesy of Richmond Classics, Versace Versus courtesy of Net-a-Porter, Vintage Tiffany Equestrian Stock Pins, Sugar et Cie




Start with a focus pin/brooch in a motif (Equestrian), gem/metal/color you love, or shape (linear or round), and work around it. Looking for something equestrian and love the combination of sparkling rubies and diamonds? Start with our latest addition, an antique riding crop brooch (pictured below). Pair it with a fox stick pin and a diamond bar brooch.



Our latest addition, Antique Equestrian Riding Crop Brooch with Rubies and an Old European Cut Diamond © Copyright Sugar et Cie 2016


Some color consistency in your group, generally yields a more cohesive look. You may have to play around with your pins a bit before you get the look you want.




Wear your brooches, bar pins, hunting stock pins, kilt pins, double clip brooch/dress pin in unexpected places. Pin them to straps of a cocktail dress, to the front vent of a blazer (Versace Versus), or to the top flap of a pocket.


On our last buying trip, we acquired a pair of vintage diamond, pearl, and platinum lingerie pins. We think they will look amazing pinned vertically on the front cuffs of a menswear inspired white shirt (or in place of cufflinks).




If all else fails – convert it! We wouldn’t recommend touching something that is rare, but isn’t jewelry meant to be worn?


If it doesn’t work for you in its current form, you should feel free to change it. Some conversions are quite easy and some take a bit of advice and a good jeweler who knows how to work with antique jewelry (and who has a laser welder). It’s happening all of the time. Stick pins converted to rings or single stud earrings, brooches to pendants or barrettes. We’ve been known to convert a few ourselves.


The latest craze in equestrian conversions: foxes and hounds from stick pins/brooches to rings, horseshoe brooches to pendants and rings. So if you fall in love with a brooch and none of our creative ideas on how to wear it spark your interest – convert it!




Equestrian seems to be a key style inspiration for multiple fashion houses for the Fall (2016). I especially love Vogue’s Elisabeth von Thurn und Taxis’ take on the trend seen in: Great Gatsby Meets Downton Abbey in Wales (great title!).



model wearing riding clothes, jacket, pants and riding boots


Courtesy of Vogue – Photograph by Jooney Woodward


Both Chanel and Ralph Lauren’s Ready-to-Wear runway shows have included a bit of equestrian style. Each has paired multiple looks with riding boots: from hot pink tweed suits to long black coats piled with ropes of pearls.


long double breasted winter coat in black from Chanel's 2016 Fall Ready-to-Wear Collection


Chanel’s 2016 Ready-to-Wear Collection courtesy of Vogue



hot pink tweed suit


Chanel’s 2016 Ready-to-Wear Collection courtesy of Vogue


RALPH LAUREN (riding boots, jodhpur style pants, and more) BUCKTROUT TAILORING (hacking jackets), LE CHAMEAU (riding and hunting boots for the field and street wear), AIGLE (riding and hunting boots for the field and street wear), are all great sources for equestrian style.


The trick to this trend is in the contrast. Evening with day (Ralph Lauren’s silk brocade evening dress with riding boots), or frayed with traditional (Bucktrout hacking jacket with frayed jeans and stilettos). Avoid wearing it from head to toe, unless of course you are about to go riding.


tweed hacking jacket


Sarah Jacket, in Lovat tweed courtesy of Bucktrout Tailoring


frayed jeans


Frayed Jeans, courtesy of Man Repeller


Three different black tall riding boots


Riding boots: Ralph Lauren, Venerie by Le Chameau, Steve Madden


You can find the Ralph Lauren’s riding boots on Ralph Lauren’s site. Unfortunately, finding Le Chameau boots in the U.S. is currently a bit difficult. At the time this post was written, their website was not set up for U.S. eCommerce.


Looking for the same luxe look for a little bit less? Steve Madden’s Lace Up Boots are a great option.


Ralph Lauren Fall 2016 model wearing long gold skirt with black riding boots


Ralph Lauren Fall 2016 Ready-to-Wear, courtesy of Vogue


Ralph Lauren Fall 2016 model wearing long purple and gold brocade skirt with high slit and black riding boots


Ralph Lauren Fall 2016 Ready-to-Wear, courtesy of Vogue




06 / 10




We just got back from a buying trip and picked-up a lot of great things which you will be seeing on our site this week and next. One item in particular has been on our must have list for a while: an antique star brooch set with old mine cut diamonds in silver over gold from the Victorian Period. 

Antique Diamond Star Brooch

© Copyright Sugar et Cie 2014



A Close-Up of Old Mine Cut Diamonds


© Copyright Sugar et Cie 2014




The minute I saw this portrait of Empress Elisabeth (“Sisi”) of Austria (1837-1898) wearing diamond stars pinned into her hair, I was hooked.


Empress Elisabeth of Austria bry Franz Xaver Winterhalter


Attributed to Franz Xaver Winterhalter (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons


According to the Schloss Schönbrunn palace and the Sisi Museum, the Empress commissioned Rozet & Fischmeister and other court jewelers to have multiple stars made. Some were 8 points, some were 10 points, and some had a pearl at the center.


Empress Elisabeth was not the only royal to favor wearing diamond stars. Queen Alexandra of England (1844-1925) had a set. There are numerous pictures of her wearing her stars pinned across the bodice of her dress. Just like Sisi, she was also a royal fashion trend-setter. Everything she did and wore was copied by society’s elite. The collier de chien (multiple strands of pearls and diamonds in the form of a collar necklace) is still associated with Alexandra to this day.




Once worn only for special events (wedding e.g. bridal jewelry), you can now find more and more women with a bit of sparkle in their hair. It’s hard to pick up a copy of Vogue, ELLE, Lucky, etc. and not find a feature or story about something jeweled for one’s tresses.


Believe it or not jeweled hair pins can be worn with jeans and a Tee, think a single tiny diamond star pin. Or with a cocktail dress: try two Art Deco Diamond Barrettes just above the ear to pull back your waves (e.g. channeling Veronica Lake). It’s all in how you style it. The below is from backstage at Valentino…


Antique Diamond Star Brooch


Valentino Show Autumn/Winter 2011-12, courtesy of Vogue


For more ideas, take a look at our Pinterest Board: She Had Diamonds on the Crown of Her Head, peruse our website for diamond barrettes, or ask us if we can convert one of our vintage or antique brooches to a barrette.


12 / 03





A Picture of the Newly Released Jewels by Jar Book


In our October 5th blog we shared with you that the MET was launching an exhibit of JAR’s Jewels in November. We were excited to share the fact that a book (a catalog of the exhibit in hardcover) would be published in concert with the Exhibit’s opening and sold on Amazon for a mere $26.68. It’s chock full of colorful, unique, and jaw dropping gem-set earrings, brooches, earrings, etc. from JAR’s body of work. As JAR lovers know, published images of his work are few and far between.


The one book and auction catalog that have been published are not cheap. The book’s price tag on the secondary market is often in the $1,000-$3,000 range with the 2003 Christie’s Catalog usually selling for north of $500. A reprint of the two volume set is being offered on the MET’s website for $1,400, Volume I on its own, $750 and Volume II on its own $800. I suspect that the limit of one per person might have something to do with its secondary market value although it could just be about controlling the distribution.


We pre-ordered our copy of Jewels by JAR and it arrived last week. It’s no surprise that the day after it was released it had a “Temporarily Out of Stock” notice on Amazon, which is still the case. There is also a “Backordered” notice on the MET’s webiste. If you can get your hands on one at close to the release price, it is probably worthwhile. If the past is any indication, there’s a good chance its value will go up. Either way, it is a great reference book to have if you love jewelry or are a student of design.


The book is comprised primarily of images of JAR’s jewelry. There are 65 color images. A few of my favorites are below. There is a 31 page essay at the front of the book by Adrian Sassoon which covers JAR’s early days, his design philosophies, and a variety of interesting tidbits that make for a surprisingly enjoyable read. I love the fact that JAR will mix the antique with the modern. In the first image below, the centerpiece is an antique cameo to which he has added rubies and brown diamonds (modern cut) pavé-set into silver-topped-gold rose petals.


On the con side, I do wish that the pictures on the whole where sharper and that the details of the construction had been shared pictorially. We read about hidden details such as diamonds set into the back of earrings, there only for the owner to see and enjoy. Unfortunately, the book owner does not get to visually indulge in these hidden treats.



JAR Jewelry



JAR – Cameo and Rose Petal Brooch: antique cameo, rubies, brown diamonds, silver and gold.



JAR Jewelry



JAR – The Seesaw Earrings: kunzite, pink sapphires and diamonds.



JAR Jewelry



JAR – Two Pansy Rings and Two Pansy Bracelets utilizing green garnets, rubies, diamonds, black spinels, emeralds, tourmalines, topaz, chrysoberyls, and citrines.



JAR Jewelry



JAR – Fountain Pendant Earrings: aquamarines, diamonds, silver and gold.



JAR Jewelry



JAR – Gardenia Ring: diamonds, silver and gold.


10 / 05




For all of you jewelry fanatics out there, an exhibition entitled: Jewels by JAR, is opening at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art during the month of November. It’s scheduled to run through March of 2014. The Met’s exhibit will feature 150 pieces from the jewelry designer, Joel A. Rosenthal (JAR), created during the last twenty-five years.


If you’re not familiar with JAR’s work. Here are a couple of pieces from Christie’s sale last year. Below is a camelia brooch by JAR, pavé set with 173.09 carats of rubies in silver over gold. It sold for $4,319,591 in Christie’s “Jewels for Hope: The Collection of Mrs. Lily Safra” sale (May of 2012).


Ruby Camelia brooch by jeweler JAR

Courtesy of French Vogue and Christie’s


Another of our favorites from JAR and the Christie’s sale: An emerald, pearl and diamond ring set in platinum. The lot description includes the fact that the emerald was tested by the SSEF Swiss Gemmological Institute, and is of Colombian origin with a moderate amount of oil. It sold for $521,200.

Emerald ring by jeweler JAR



Courtesy of French Vogue and Christie’s


Joel A. Rosenthal was born in New York, but started his career in Paris in textiles. For the past thirty-six years, he has had his atelier in the Place Vendôme. He creates a limited number of pieces each year and his client list is so exclusive that you have to be invited to be a client or know someone in order to visit his atelier. Or so it is rumored.




A limited number of his jewels have been seen by the public via publication or exhibition. A book published in 2002, accompanied one of the few exhibits of his work, this one at Somerset House in London. The First Edition is out of print and difficult to find.


When one does pop up, it sells for more than the price of a couple of ounces of gold (current price for the book, used, on Amazon is $3,500). It looks likes a Second Edition was reprinted this year (2013). I don’t know if there are differences in the editions, but the market price seems to be better. A handful of the second edition (not to be confused with the Christie’s Catalog with a similar title) are listed on Abe Books, priced in the range of $900 to $1000, at the time this post was published.


If you are dying to get your hands on a book that includes pictures of JAR jewels at a reasonable price, Amazon is pre-selling the catalog: Jewels by JAR (Metropolitan Museum of Art) in Hardcover by Adrian Sassoon, for the upcoming exhibition at the Met. Although it only includes 40 images, at $26.23 it seems like a bargain!