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A Silver, Enamel, and Black Opal Bracelet by Elsie Reeve

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    Posted 7 years ago

    (117 items)

    New Zealand's great Arts & Crafts jeweller was Elsie Reeve (1885-1927).

    She was born in Melbourne, Australia, and studied at the School of Art at the Regent Street Polytechnic Institute in London. She won the school's highest honour for design, a silver medal and one year scholarship, which she used to acquire metalworking skills, including enamelling.

    In 1909 she travelled to New Zealand with her parents. Her father was a dentist, who set up practice in Wellington, where Elsie established a studio as an "artist in enamels" making mainly enamel brooches and pendants.

    From 1914 to 1922 Elsie returned to London and worked for the Admiralty during WWI. By 1922 she was back in New Zealand and set up business in Auckland as an "art worker" making "hand-wrought" jewellery. Her work was of a high standard, and she exhibited widely, including at the New Zealand and South Seas International Exhibition held in Dunedin in 1925.

    From a young age Elsie Reeve suffered from fibrosis of the lungs, and in 1927, aged just 42, she died from complications of the disease.

    There's very little known about Elsie Reeve's influences, however one of her signature styles is a design of grapes and leaves very similar to pieces by the Artificers' Guild, whose showroom was near Elsie's school at the Regent Street Polytechnic.

    The silver bracelet shown above has Elsie's very distinctive purple enamelling on panels which alternate with black opal cabochons, shot through with streaks of blue. It’s a most effective design and the only piece I've ever heard of by Elsie Reeve that uses opal.

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    1. kiwipaul kiwipaul, 7 years ago
      Information above from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, see:
    2. Peasejean55 Peasejean55, 7 years ago
      Lovely bracelet, I haven't heard of her, but I shall certainly look her up on Wiki. Very sad she died very young.
    3. kyratango kyratango, 7 years ago
      Unusual color combo, very attractive!
      Is it usual for her to use open links (not soldered) in her work, or the bracelet was modified in your opinion?
    4. kiwipaul kiwipaul, 7 years ago
      Hi Kyra, I got this from an old jewellers closing down sale, it sat in a drawer for years because a jump ring had come off an enameled panel, and no way to fix it back in the day.

      I cut the larger links open to take off the panel so I could send it away to have the ring lasered back on. Now my local restorer has a laser, so sooner or later I'll get them to close up those links.
    5. Peasejean55 Peasejean55, 7 years ago
      Oh Paul, I might send my Murrle Bennett bracelet to you. I got in contact with a lady she never replied, I gave her all the diagrams you gave me.
      You wouldn't happen to know anybody in the UK who does this kind work. It's such a shame I can't even wear it because it is far to big for me.
    6. Peasejean55 Peasejean55, 7 years ago This is the bracelet.
    7. kiwipaul kiwipaul, 7 years ago
      Hi Jean, I remember it well. Next week I'll go and see my jewellers, and show them the pics and diagrams and get a quote, if they can do it I'm happy to help.
    8. Peasejean55 Peasejean55, 7 years ago
      That would be great, thanks Paul.
    9. kiwipaul kiwipaul, 7 years ago
      Hi Jean, good news, they say it shouldn't be a problem. Please email me via and we can work out the details.
    10. Jewels1900 Jewels1900, 7 years ago
      Thanks for sharing Paul. Seeing this one is quite a treat.

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