Thousands of people visit this site and arrive at a specific post via a search engine without seeing the main page. Please click on the PrivateCollection logo at the top to go there. The site is maintained as a Tribute to Susan as a small part of her legacy. Nothing on the site is for sale. Questions are sometimes answered, time permitting. PrivateCollection is the Photo Blog for Susan Dods, a long time antique dealer and collector. The site features photographs and commentary on very special pieces of Chinese Jewelry. View ALL of the posts in the archive with our exclusive PictureBook format.     相片书

Mandarin Court Necklace-Qing Dynasty Cultural Icon

If one were to pick a single symbol or ‘cultural icon’ to represent the 268 years of the Qing Dynasty, the Mandarin Court Necklace would certainly be on the short list. This pictorial timeline, shows that the necklace is a ‘constant’ throughout the reign of all 12 of the Emperors and Consorts.

The beginning of the Qing Dynasty starts with Emperor Shunzhi who was 5 years old when he became Emperor in 1644.

“Legend has it that the Court necklace was patterned after a mala (a string of Tibetan prayer beads) that were given to Emperor Shunzhi (1644-1661) as a gift from the Dalai Lama.” PrivateCollection

In 1653, the 10th year of the reign of the Emperor Shunzhi of the Qing dynasty, the 5th Dalai Lama, who had reached Beijing in the previous year, was granted an honorific title plus a golden certificate of appointment and a golden seal of authority by the Qing imperial court.

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Chinese Canton Enamel – Cloisonné Bead Comparison

Neither of the these enamel techniques have their origins in China. Enamel painting was introduced probably from the French in the early 18th century where it was adapted with such skill that the form is often referred to as ‘Canton Enamel’ because …Chinese artisans excel in it.

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[ click on images to enlarge …. photos by: RP (Bob) Birt ]

The other technique’s origin (with its French name – Cloisonné (cloisons in French), was originally from Byzantium or the Islamic world and the technique reached China in the 13-14th centuries.  There are a number of good articles on the internet about both techniques… Wikipedia and the Metropolitan museum have a great deal of history and information.

Chinese cloisonné is sometimes confused with Canton enamel, a similar type of enamel work that is painted on freehand and does not utilize partitions to hold the colors separate.” What I thought would be helpful to show how a cloisonné bead was made and compare it to the relatively free form of the Canton Enamel technique.

Steps in Cloisonné Process

[ click on images to enlarge …. photos by: RP (Bob) Birt ]

Cantonese Enamel Beads

 

These necklaces were created with the link chain already in place. Even without the metal forms found in cloisonné, Chinese artisans are remarkable in creating beautiful symmetries and repeating patterns, It is a wonderful mix of freeform design and discipline… not to mention the vivid color and presence of each bead.

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Out of the Attic

Chinese Mandarin Court Necklace Restoration Project

Introduction

In 2007 when we were just getting the blog started, one of the first pieces I photographed for Susan was a Mandarin Court Necklace. There are two things that I remember the most. The first was trying to figure out how to lay out a very large and complicated piece to illustrate it to its best advantage. The second was how different it was from the other pieces in the collection.

When Susan wrote in the post, “The Mandarin Court Necklace is the goal of the serious collector. Legend has it that the Court necklace was patterned after a mala (a string of Tibetan prayer beads) that were given to Emperor Shunzhi (1644-1661) as a gift from the Dalai Lama,” I really understood why.

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Antique Chinese Silver Jade Broach Conversion

I found a lovely antique Chinese broach with a beautiful 19th century jadeite carving …butterflies and flowers and set in a intricate silver setting. The pin was missing, clasp broken… but it was an ideal piece to use for a necklace.

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[ click on images to enlarge …. photos by: RP (Bob) Birt ]

Silver solder can’t be used near a gemstone because the heat could crack the stone and other soldering techniques are not dependable. So, in the past, converting a broach to a pendant posed a big challenge, a great deal of time and it created quite a dilemma; risk cracking the beautiful jade or possibly damaging the wonderful intricate silver setting beyond repair by removing the stone from it.

Today, laser technology solves that problem and my wonderful jeweller Ralph Schroetter owns one… so it was possible to fuse the silver without risking damage. We mounted two silver loops allowing me to add the jade beads and a silver clasp.

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Preserving a beautiful example of Chinese workmanship… a combination of old and new techniques comes together in harmony for a change.

Visit PrivateCollection’s PictureBook to see additional photos… many in larger formats.

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Chinese Vintage Vermeil Eggplant Necklace

This is a very unique and beautiful Chinese Wedding Necklace. It took me a while to figure out what the 30 symbols hanging on this beautiful silver vermeil wedding necklace were …

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[ click on images to enlarge …. photos by: RP (Bob) Birt ]

The shape seemed so familiar…I checked with Patricia Welch’s book Chinese Art … "An eggplant is a fertility symbolegg plant as it is both fast growing and has numerous seeds … because cucumbers, gourds, melons and pumpkins grow on vines and have large numbers of seeds, they are all associated with fertility… the Chinese artist could utilize pictures of seeds and nuts to convey the wish for many children"

Bob showed me a photo his friend Tracy Lamb had just shot for one of her client’s brochures … Eggplant …it had to be! Perhaps the artist took a bit of liberty as to which end of the fruit the stem was on?

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The style of the workmanship was also familiar. The necklace is marked: MADE IN CHINA SILVER but it also has a mark that has appeared on a number of pieces in the collection… NO. 23. There has been some discussion that the mark is for an Assay Office (which existed from approximately 1890-1937 in China) but we have also seen the mark used for pieces that do not test silver like the bracelet used in these black and white photos that Bob did for his portfolio.

NO. 23 seems to have a style and quality associated with it that is not dependant on materials…

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Never the less, this is a wonderful Chinese Wedding Necklace made even more charming by its artistic quirks and beautiful symbolism… there was a very lucky bride!

Visit PrivateCollection’s PictureBook to see additional photos… many in larger formats.

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