Bayreuth: Carved Rock Crystal Candlesticks
Roskin Gem News Report
A PAIR OF VICTORIAN SILVER-GILT AND ROCK CRYSTAL CANDLESTICKS
MARK OF LEOPOLD HENRY RADCLYFFE, LONDON, 1850
Estimate: GBP 4,000 – GBP 6,000
Coming up in Christie’s July 7 London auction, you will find a pair of Leopold Henry Radclyffe carved rock crystal and silver-gilt candlesticks. They’re estimated to sell between 4,000 and 6,000 pounds.
Why are these so important?
Who was Leopold Henry Radclyffe?
The history of Edward Radclyffe begins with an 1830 business card found in the British Museum’s Collection. On the card is Radclyffe’s name, business address, and occupation – Carver and Gilder.
E. Radclyffe started his career as a carver and gilder, and was listed as such in most directories. Reportedly, he had (at least) ten children, many of whom followed him in business. One of his children was named Leopold Henry, whose mark is on the listed candlesticks, pictured above.
Rock crystal can be such an underappreciated gem material, with all of the other gem materials available today. But back in the day, rock crystal was seen as an important ornamental object.
Whether it was believed to possess mystical properties, or simply adornment in jewelry, amulets, and decorative objects, rock crystal has a long history that dates back thousands of years.
It was once associated with the gods and believed to have protective powers. Said to have healing powers, this is still believed even today.
The ancient Greeks and Romans carved rock crystal into intricate pieces of jewelry, cameos, and vessels. They were status symbols amongst the elite. Rock crystal continued to be treasured throughout the Middle Ages, used for religious objects, as well as goblets, vases, and decorative tableware. In the Baroque and Rococo Eras, rock crystal was incorporated into extravagant chandeliers, candelabras, and sconces, as a symbol of wealth and opulence. And it continued into the Victorian Era and into present day fashion. We see rock crystal in jewelry, as well as objects such as perfume bottles, picture frames, candlesticks, etc.
When Crystal was Crystal
In gemology, “crystal” is the abbreviated term for Rock Crystal Quartz. When you read about crystal balls, crystal bowls, and crystal candlesticks, we are referring to rock crystal quartz. For example, in the Palace of Versailles, the principal residence of the French kings from the time of Louis XIV to Louis XVI, the “crystal” chandeliers were literally made using rock crystal quartz pendants.
Dangling ceiling lights are called chandeliers. Before the invention of the lightbulb, chandeliers were designed for candles along with rock crystal dangling pendants to light up a room.
The most expensive chandeliers were decorated with the highest quality rock crystal. The crystal shapes were for both design and for optics, cut and polished to act as lenses and prisms, to disperse the light from the candles throughout the room.
Batyah Shtrum, & Olivier Lagarde
Today, the word “crystal” is more often associated with high quality leaded glass.
What’s the difference between a glass, and crystal? Traditionally, the difference is in the percentage of lead oxide added to the glass.
Crystal should have at least 20-25% lead when compared to a standard glass. The addition of lead gives crystal a higher refractive index, causing the light passing through to bend more, which, in a faceted pendant or candlestick, usually results in more spectral colors.
More lead however does reduce crystal’s durability. It can scratch and chip easily, compared to glass.
Unfortunately, the use of the term crystal becomes even more problematic as it is often used to refer to high-quality glassware, even if it doesn’t contain lead.
About the Bayreuth Collection: A Connoisseur’s Collection
Christie’s: “The philosophy that has driven the creation of the Bayreuth Collection has been one of quality, be it for condition, provenance, rarity or even novelty. It has been the collector’s passion for over 40 years.
It is evident that behind the collection there is an innate understanding of the imagination and the creative skill of the craftsman, and an erudite appreciation of its ownership, whether by a celebrated collector, such as William Beckford, or from a great country house; Chatsworth, Belvoir Castle, or Stowe House, to name but a few.
The collection has been formed under the disciplined and passionate eye of a collector with boundless energy and enthusiasm, allied with a scholarly curiosity to delve deeper into specialised fields. It is a reflection of true connoisseurship in its most enriching form.”
Also at auction:
A GEORGE III JEWELLED AND ENAMEL GOLD ‘RECOVERY FROM ILLNESS’ MEDALLION CONVERTED INTO A LOCKET PENDANT
THE MEDALLION ENGLAND, DATED 1789, THE MOUNTS CIRCA 1820
Estimate: GBP 3,000 – GBP 5,000
Circular, centred with the medallion enamelled in white, red and blue and inscribed ‘Regi Amato Reduci / Vivat G III R / Mart X MDCCLXXXIX’, within a gold rim shaped as a serpent, the reverse with a glazed compartment containing a lock of hair of Queen Charlotte (1744-1818) and another lock of hair of King George III (1738-1820), both within black enamelled rims, all surmounted by an enamelled crown, set with diamonds, rubies and emeralds, with a hinged suspension loop
3 in. (7.5 cm.) high
gross weight 1 oz. 2 dwt. (34.5 gr.)
King George III
Who was King George III? George III reigned as the King of Great Britain and Ireland from 1760 to 1801, and as the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1801 until his death in 1820.
Amongst being the King who is described as having played a crucial role in the development of the British constitutional monarchy, King George III is THE King George named in the American Declaration of Independence. Yes, THAT King George.
Declaration of Independence
“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.” … then follow are a list of 27 complaints against King George III that constitute the proof of the right to rebellion. Congress cast “the causes which impel them to separation.”
While King George III did not personally devise all of the policies and acts that angered the colonists, he did support and implement them. His steadfast refusal to compromise with the colonists’ demands for greater representation and his unwillingness to address their grievances contributed to the escalation of the conflict. – the US National Archives
Therefore, while King George III was not the sole cause of the American Revolution, his policies and actions as the British monarch played a significant role in driving the colonists toward seeking independence from Britain.
The Jewelled Crown
After speaking with Harry Williams-Bulkeley, International Head of Silver Department, Christie’s London, the medallion is indeed adorned with rubies, emeralds, and diamonds, with the rubies being prong-set around the crown on the arches as well as around the band, while the bright red “gems” beneath the right and left arches are in fact made of red enamel.
The medallion presented by Queen Charlotte (1744-1818), 19 March 1789.
SHOWING LOYALTY TO THE KING
The present pendant incorporates a rare medallion, which was commissioned by Queen Charlotte as a gift to close friends, who had remained loyal during the King’s illness, to celebrate King’s recovery in 1789, subsequently diagnosed as porphyria. The event was greeted with widespread celebrations, and Parliament presented addresses of congratulation to the King on 10 March, the date commemorated on the medallion. The later conversion to a locket enclosing the hair of the King and Queen makes it a very personal memento mori.