French 18ct Yellow Gold Fringe-Style Necklace c.1890

A French gold necklace by Wièse c.1890, designed in the archaeological revivalist style, the fringe-style necklace strung with alternate polished spherical beads and phallic motifs with rope twist and hammered decoration, all to a clasp designed as an ouroboros, the ancient Greek symbol of a snake eating its own tail. The snake and the phallus motif were both used as fertility symbols in classical antiquity, the phallus was also a symbol of good fortune and the snake, particularly the ouroboros, represented life, rebirth and infinity. Wièse has cleverly used a gold alloy with a reddish patina for this piece (as he did with others) to give the impression of an ancient jewel that has been in the earth for many hundreds of years.

Further Details

Condition ReportVery fine
SettingYellow gold signed Wiese and with maker's mark and French assay marks
Weight description90 grams
Dimensions47cm / 18.5" long

Directors Notes

Louis Wièse took over the running of his father Jules’ workshop in 1880 and sought to continue the exemplary reputation for fine craftsmanship that his father had earned over the previous forty years. Louis continued working in the same tradition, producing beautifully crafted goldwork (sometimes to his father’s designs) which explored the familiar themes of the Neo-Renaissance and Gothic imagination whilst also looking to religion and archaeology to inspire him. His work was highly sculptural, often featuring figures which could be human or mythological in nature. He frequently employed grotesque beasts and gargoyles, ecclesiastic detailing and historic influences. If gems were used he would typically set them using antique-inspired methods and he was also known to use mercury oxide to distress the surface of metal, further enhancing the ‘aged’ appearance of his jewels. Enamelling was used to introduce colour and add another dimension to his pieces which are still highly regarded today and collected by a discerning group of individuals as well as contemporary goldsmiths. Examples of his jewellery can be found in major museums worldwide such as the British Museum and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.

Literature & Exhibitions

Cf. The Belle Époque of French Jewellery by Michael Koch et al. 1990 – p100 for a revivalist necklace made using similar red toned gold with rope twist detailing and the same style clasp.


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Jules Wièse is regarded as one of the finest silver and goldsmiths of the 19th Century. 

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