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Tiffany Opal Necklace

Photograph of the Tiffany opal pendant (NMNH G5120)
Photo by Chip Clark. Click to zoom.
Catalog Number NMNH G5120-00
Locality New South Wales, Australia

Gift of Mrs F. R. Downs Jr. and Mrs R. O. Abbott Jr. in 1974 in memory of Ruth and Townsend Treadway.This object was designed by Louis C. Tiffany.

This necklace was designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany and features black opals accented with brilliant green demantoid garnets. The black opals are from Lightning Ridge, Australia and have a beautiful blue-green play-of-color. The rare demantoid garnets are from Russia. The 18k yellow gold necklace is 30” in length and has a grape leaf motif echoing the design of the pendant. This naturalistic design of leaves and vines and the decorative style of the pendant is a wonderful example of Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts jewelry that was being made in the early 20th century. Louis Comfort Tiffany was considered one of the most important decorative artists working during this time; he was known for his innovative glass, enamels and decorative materials and created windows, glassware, lamps, metalwork, furniture, ceramics and textiles. He did not design and make jewelry until 1902 at the age of 54, after the death of his father Charles Lewis Tiffany, founder of one of this country’s most successful jewelry, silver and luxury goods stores. In 1907 he became artistic director and his distinctive “Tiffany Art Jewelry” being manufactured at Tiffany Furnaces was transferred to Tiffany & Co. and produced there until the department closed in 1933. Tiffany used opals extensively in his jewelry and was influenced and assisted by George Frederick Kunz, the gem expert at Tiffany & Company who traveled the world in search of unusual gems and semi-precious stones for the company’s designers. This pendant necklace was donated to the Smithsonian in 1974 along with a sales receipt from Tiffany’s, dated Dec. 31, 1929.


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