An Archaeological Style Gold Demi-Parure by Phillips Brothers (& Son)

London, c.1870


comprising of a pendant in the form of three overlapping laurel leaves centred with a gold sphere accompanied by a pair of earrings, each formed from a single leaf suspended beneath a gold demi-sphere. The extraordinary detail of the veining on the surface of the leaves suggests they were created using lost wax casts taken directly from a real leaf.

London, c.1870

Presented in its original red leather case, the maroon silk lid satin stamped ‘PHILLIPS. 23 COCKSPUR ST, LONDON’ beneath a crown.

A closely comparable demi-parure in silver by Phillips Brothers, also in its original fitted case, can be found in the permanent collection of The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and is illustrated on page 42 of ‘Designers and Jewellery: 1850-1940” (Ritchie, 2018).

Phillips Brothers (Phillips Brothers and Son from 1869) were famous for their beautifully crafted jewels in the archaeological and renaissance tastes. The firm was established by Robert Phillips and his brother Magnus in 1839. They traded from 31 Cockspur Street in London until 1855, when the firm moved to number 23.

In his ‘Notes and Sketches on the Paris Exhibition 1867,’ G A Sala wrote:

“In the production of Etruscan jewellery I have already said that he [Phillips] ranks with Castellani…Mr Phillips’ specimens of ‘classic’ jewellery might have been newly exhumed from the sepulchral jewel box of an Etruscan prince.”

Robert Phillips was awarded a gold medal at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1867, the only English jeweller to be given the highest award. He was later appointed a juror at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1878.

He was decorated by the King of Naples for his service to the coral trade and included among his customers Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) and John Campbell, Marquess of Lorne (later 9th Duke of Argyll). Lorne commissioned  a tiara of buds and bog myrtle for his wedding to Princess Louise in 1871. The firm also famously completed a gold mounted parure for Sir Austen Henry Layard to give to his wife on their wedding day in 1869, made from Assyrian hardstone seals the archaeologists had discovered during excavations in the Middle East (now in the British Museum, no.:105115).