How war makes iron cast jewelry popular. When you read my blog post more often, you know that FlorenceJewelshop makes jewelry of precious metal and gemstone. Glass, plastic, or iron is a material I ever use. I just don’t like it. But a visit to an exhibition in Amsterdam changes my mind completely. There I see an iron cast bracelet that is so delicate and so beautiful. I want to know more about this type of jewelry. Read this remarkable story.
Fall of the Bastille
In 1789 the Parisians are very unsatisfied with their government. The government doesn’t do anything for the normal people and the one who complains ends up in prison, the Bastille. That prison becomes the symbol of the revolution. Then the mob attacks it frees all the prisoners. The government has to go.
The Parisian break the Bastille down and from the iron bars and stones. And they make revolutionary iron jewelry from that material. Most of the time that jewelry, like rings, has inscriptions like ‘liberté Francaise 14 Juillet’ (French liberty July 14). This type of iron jewelry is very popular well into the 1790s.
Iron cast jewelry popular as mourning jewelry
Count Stolberg starts in the mid-1790s a factory to make iron. At first, he produces vases, garden furniture, and fences of iron. In his factory, an engineer gets inspired by the French revolution and iron jewelry. He discovers iron that is more fluid or purer. And a jeweler makes iron jewelry of this material.
Due to its low costs and the black color, this type of jewelry becomes popular as mourning jewelry. Wearing shiny and luxurious jewelry when you mourn is just not done in those days. This iron jewelry has a lacquer coating to make it less shiny and it prevents the jewelry from rusting.
How to produce this jewelry?
It is very hard to make jewelry out of an iron bar. So they come up with a new method of making delicate and fine jewelry made of iron. That same Count Stolberg’s people find that method.
You first make molds of wax. And they use designs of flowers, butterflies, etc. Then you press the mold in very fine white sand. The impressions in that sand are filled with the pure fluid iron and set to cool down. It is a lot of work to finish the piece of jewelry and to cover it with black lacquer. But the result is a very fine filigrain piece of jewelry. You cannot solder iron so the pieces were put together with small iron rings. This type of jewelry is called ‘Fer-de-Berlin’.
War makes iron cast jewelry popular.
France and Germany have quite a few wars or conflicts between 1804 and 1815, the so-called Napoleonic Wars. Germany has not enough money to finance the wars. And the government asks wealthy people to donate their jewelry. In exchange for their gift, they receive iron-cast jewelry, made by the factory of Count Stolberg.
And the donators start to show off with their new iron jewelry. Everyone wants to recognized as patriotic. They wore iron-cast jewelry or jewelry made from Silesian wirework. The Silesian wirework jewels are made of very fine iron mesh that is manipulated in all kinds of shapes. And they are lightweight and black.
The concept was stolen
In 1806 it is clear that Napoleon Bonaparte wins the war as he marches into Berlin. And he wants to bring back a war trophy that improves the state of the French economy.
He ships the patterns and molds for the iron jewelry from the Royal Prussian Iron Foundry to Paris. The French have to find out how to work with this material. But soon enough they manage to make beautiful iron jewelry. This jewelry becomes very popular in France. And well beyond the tradition of wearing these beauties only with mourning. The fashion lasts until the 1850s.
Very rare and valuable
When you talk about iron jewelry you cannot imagine that this type of jewelry becomes very expensive and valuable. Iron jewelry is fragile and cannot be repaired. And when it breaks most of the jewelry ends up in a garbage bin. Only a few pieces are in a museum.
And in a museum in Amsterdam, I saw these bracelets, owned by the Romanov family from Russia. These bracelets are made in Berlin between 1830 and 1840.
I hope you like this story. If you want more stories about jewelry and gemstones, tips and secrets how to wear your jewelry and now and then a great offer? Every week I publish my FlorenceJewelshop Secrets and it is free! Just let me know where I can send them too.