erezCA6X92AI

An art nouveau enamel, peridot and diamond brooch/pendant with opal drop, by Philippe Wolfers, circa 1902Photo Bonhams

The openwork brooch/pendant with collet-set step-cut sapphire highlights, bi-coloured enamel and old brilliant-cut diamonds surrounding a gold Hoopoe with plique-à-jour wings and crest with a central step-cut peridot within a border of similarly-cut diamonds, the whole suspending an opal drop, maker's mark 'WP', length 7.8cm, cased. Sold for £23,750

Note: Philippe Wolfers (1858-1929) was the son of Louis Wolfers, head of the renowned Belgian court jewellers Wolfers Frères. He trained as a jeweller at the family business and became adept at all aspects of jewellery making. At the cutting-edge of jewellery design, he took influences from the far east using flowing lines and a more naturalistic approach to jewellery. His skill was noticed by the Royal Court and he became one of the first jewellers to use the new medium of ivory from the Congo at the request of King Leopold II and created the famous 'Album Congolais'.

In 1889 he had a villa built in La Hulpe and moved there with his team of jewellers. His colleague at Wolfers Brothers, Isidore de Rudder, had urged him to follow his artistic instincts and branch out from the family business and pursue his passion for art nouveau. He spent the years to 1905 using his extensive grounds to study nature and to create a series of 109 unique jewels. This is his Ex(exemplaire) Unique range and each jewel was given a name and was seen as the ultra modern pinnacle of art nouveau jewellery.

He was less prolific in his work than other masters of his period such as René Lalique, however his Ex. Unique series established him as one of the truly great master craftsmen of art nouveau jewellery, and is considered some of the best work of the 20th century.

This jewel titled 'Huppe' is number 134 from the Ex. Unique series. The catalogue entry by Philippe Wolfers states that Huppe was made with a pearl, however in discussion with Werner Adrienssens, author of 'La Dynastie Wolfers' he states that there have been inconsistencies between Philippe Wolfers' catalogue and the jewel itself, so it is possible that this opal drop is the original.

See: A.P., Phillippe Wolfers, Ms.,Cat.Ex.Un.,s.p.[p.22&XI]

Bonhams. Fine Jewellery, 25 Apr 2012. London, New Bond Street www.bonhams.com