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circa 1830s
An antique gold and polychrome Swiss enamel six piece desk set including a pen, pencil and seal.

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An antique gold and polychrome Swiss enamel desk set c.1830s, comprised of a pen holder, nib box with sliding lid, letter opener with agate handle, snuff box with vinaigrette in one end, seal with uncut amethyst and propelling pencil with push up pen nib and knife and central perpetual calendar, all decorated with brightly coloured enamel floral and foliate motifs on a black enamel ground and embellished with chased gold work, housed in a fitted leather box with decorative panel and initials to the top and lined in silk and velvet.
  • OriginSwitzerland
  • Gemstones and Other MaterialsAn amethyst seal stone measuring 15mm x 13.5mm
  • Condition ReportVery fine
  • SettingGold
  • Weight description395 grams
  • DimensionsBoxed set 19.5cm x 12xm
Directors notes
During the 19th century, Switzerland (in particular Geneva) distinguished itself as a centre of excellence for enamel work. Swiss or Geneva enamel pieces typically took one of two forms, which were sometimes combined in the same pieces. Firstly, the beautifully painted plaques depicting scenes of lakes and countryside which were often set in jewels such as brooches and necklaces and inlaid into the lids of pocket watches (another Swiss speciality) and small boxes. These pieces were particularly popular with the upper classes on their ‘Grand Tours’ of Europe who would purchase these items as souvenirs of their travels. Secondly, the bright polychrome enamel floral and foliate motifs in both opaque and translucent finish set into a plain background, frequently black in colour, as seen here in this desk set. The contrast of the dark background not only with the bold and varied colours of the flowers but also against the polished gold inlay creates a distinctive and striking effect which is particularly beautiful and works very well over small surfaces.