Posted 3 years ago
This is one of my favourites in our little collection. Another design by Archibald Knox for Liberty & Co, and quite a rare piece due its the impressive opal.
Knox at his best, aided and abetted by William Hair Haseler and Arthur Lasenby Liberty - what a team!
This pendant is recorded as model 500/36 and also as 500/58 in the jewellery section on http://www.archibaldknoxsociety.com. It's about 50 x 30mm including the very clever bale. The opal is about 17 x 12mm.
The piece dates to around 1900-04, and at that time Lightning Ridge black opals were undiscovered. The best opal of the day was Queensland boulder opal, and that's what Liberty & Co. have used here.
A review of Liberty's opal jewellery from the early C20th suggests they exclusively used boulder opal, and it also appears that almost all the Liberty pieces featuring these opals were Archibald Knox designs.
Liberty & Co. were not alone in adopting opals. In France Rene Lalique was creating spectacular masterpieces incorporating opals, and in the USA Louis Comfort Tiffany, and Marcus & Co., made marvellous opal jewels.
They became a signature gemstone for the Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau jewellery movements, and were prominent in British pieces by leading makers including the Guild of Handicrafts, Arthur & Georgina Gaskin, and The Artificers' Guild.