Arts & Crafts, Art Nouveau and Art Deco


Well-known member
May 21, 2013
Our main area of collecting is Arts & Crafts, Art Nouveau and Art Deco. Our 'Keepers' are usually signed or 'book pieces' that we hope will hold or grow in value.

Jewelry is a relatively recent interest in the last couple of years, and I regularly kick myself for not paying more attention to it sooner.

However we're trying to make up for lost time.

Pearls and their cousins the blister pearl, and mother of pearl feature a lot in 'Art' jewelry. So I'm going to show a few pieces.

This is the first one and I need help with it. It's an Art Deco silver, marcasite and pearl necklace and earrings suite by Theodor Fahrner of Pforzheim Germany.

Fahrner were designers and manufacturers who supplied prestige retailers, including Liberty & Co, and their pieces are usually exquisitely made.

Look for example at the detail of the chain links and the textured earrings. There is a special name for the fine textured lines on the earrings - 'millegriff'.

Fahrner were at the forefront of fashion from 1900 to the 1930's and then the company resurrected after WWII before going under in the 1970's.

This suite probably dates from the late 1940's to early 1950's, and all the pieces have the Fahrner "TF in a circle" logo.

My question for the Forum relates to the pearl in the necklace. Have you ever seen a cultured pearl of this size and quality from the 1950's or earlier?

It's gritty to the tooth, 9.15mm in diameter. highly lustrous, blemish free to the naked eye, with pink overtones.

Fahrner were certainly big enough and well placed to source any commercial gems available, but were cultured pearls like this available in the 50's?

I'm absolutely sure it's a 'real' pearl (not faux/fake), and I'm thinking it's very large for a cultured pearl of that period. What do you think?
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A fine piece, indeed! Love your excellent photos and the story! The centerpiece pearl is likely a cultured pearl; that is large for Akoya, but not unheard of. Do you feel the earring pearls are Akoya? The presentation box is a work of art too. Thank you so much for sharing your collection.
Hi Kiwipaul,

I will take a guess that the pearl is SSP since there were SSP cultivations even back then.

Here's a brief history of SSP cultivation... The excerpt below is taken from the Fall 1999 issue of GIA's Gems and Gemology magazine page 77. This article is titled "Cultured SSP" written by Andy Muller who at that time was at Golay Buchel.

Brief Historical Background
In 1928, a team of Japanese, led by Dr. Sukeo Fujita, harvested the first cultured South Sea pearls at Buton, Celebes (now called Sulawesi), in Indonesia. The team was financed by Baron Iwasaki of Mitsubishi Goshi-Gaisha of Tokyo (better known today as Mitsubishi Corp.). From 1928 until the outbreak of World War II in 1941, the project produced, on average, 8,000 to 10,000 cultured pearls per year. The majority of the pearls cultivated at Buton were 8-10 mm in diameter, with 12 mm being the rare exception. If we recall that during the same period Akoya pearls cultivated in Japan had an average diameter of 3–4 mm, there is little wonder that these first South Sea pearls created quite a sensation.

For the period during Wold War II and immediately after, from 1941 to 1956, we found no recorded production of any significance. In 1954, however, Kichiro Takashima established a South Sea pearl cul- ture project in Burma (now Myanmar), and the first regular harvests started in 1957. In 1956, another Japanese pearling pioneer, Tokuichi Kuribayashi, started farming in Australia and harvested his first crop in 1958. During the 1960s and 1970s, various farms opened in Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand. Nevertheless, we estimate that in the early 1980s, the total marketable part of these productions was around 95 kan, or a maximum of 100 kan (1 kan=3.75 kg). Since then, however, development has been truly phenomenal.
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Further according to Strack, page 324, in 1926-1927 Mikimoto traveled extensively, "on his return trip from the United States, Mikimoto visited England, France (where he already owned stores in London and Paris), Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Egypt, India and Sri Lanka. The whole trip lasted seven months. It is not known where Mikimoto stayed in Germany. It seems that he had not planned to open a shop in Germany, where at this time only Berlin would have been a suitable place. The author of this book was not able to find out who from within the pearl trade might have seen Mikimoto or at least still knows of his visit to Germany."

Do you feel this piece could possibly be from an earlier time than 40's-50's?

p.s. Put PEARLS by Elizabeth Strack on your holiday gift list, so worth adding to your library!
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Hi Pattye and katbadness, great information in your posts above, thanks so much. I'd love to see a pic of the "necklace from Theodor Fahrner, around 1930 with Japanese cultured pearls" if you're able to get a pic or scan.

Regarding Mikimoto's trip to Germany, I'd think it likely he would try to make it to Pforzheim, then (and still?) Germany's major jewelry and watch production center. It's suggestive that just a few years later Fahrner produced a necklace of "Japanese cultured pearls", that must have been from Mikimoto at that early date.

I'm pretty confident our necklace is late 40's/early 50's. The maker's marks and millegriff technique are distinctive to the period. So maybe Fahrner had pre-war stock of Mitsubishi SSP's, OR maybe they had some exceptionally large Akoyas from Mikimoto.

Whatever the source of the large pearl, this must have been an expensive and sensational piece in its time.

The pearls in the earrings certainly appear to be cultured, they're around 5.5mm.

I'll be heading to soon to put PEARLS by Elizabeth Strack on my shopping list!
Murrle Bennett and Company was a wholesale jeweler established in London in 1884 by the partnership of Ernst M?rrle of Pforzheim, Germany and John Bennett of London, England.

The firm achieved significant successes after 1900, producing pieces in the German Art Nouveau style known as Jugendstil. They supplied Liberty & Co., the London Arts and Crafts emporium, and collaborated with famed art jewelers of the day, including Theodor Fahrner.

There is evidence MB&Co were outworkers to Liberty & Co., supplying Liberty designs to keep up with demands that Liberty couldn't satisfy from their own production firm of William Hair Haseler (WHH) in Birmingham.

Murrle Bennett and Co. was short-lived, and the partnership between the German M?rrle and British Bennett did not survive the trauma of WWI.

This necklace is a fab piece when worn, the pendant is an eye-catching 70mm high and has lovely mobility.

It's a great example of Murrle Bennett's one-off Arts & Crafts pieces, and shows the transition around 1900 to use of non-traditional settings with semi-precious stones and commonplace items such as oyster shell.

The two large sections of blister pearl contrast beautifully with the sparkling red gems, I've never had these tested, however presume they're almandine garnets.

Still they could be rubies, see the very similar MB&Co. ruby earrings below at, which is I think the world's greatest resource for Arts & Crafts, Nouveau and Deco jewelry.


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I always look forward to the posts of the pieces in your collection! Love the history shared about them and of course their uniqueness. These three pieces are so incredibly beautiful, but that MoP pendant is fantastic!
Have you ever seen a cultured pearl of this size and quality from the 1950's or earlier?

First impressions say cultured, but this photo presents with some translucence. Bead nucleated pearls rarely pass light.

Would it be possible to get photos of all three pearls from the side using pinpointed back light? Candling often helps to reveal a pearl's origin.

Is it perfectly round or button shaped?
Hi Dave, it did cross my mind they could be naturals and I tried the L.E.D. booklight trick I used on our pipi pearl.
Quite difficult on the big pearl because of the way it's set, half enclosed in silver. A bit easier with the earrings.

All three pearls look to be more or less perfectly round, again hard to be sure on the big one because of that setting.

I played around with different lights and masking, and think I can see a bead in both the big pearl and earrings.
They seemed translucent around the edges, but certainly don't have the total translucency I achieved illuminating the pipi.
My guess is they are high quality cultured, however I'm tossing up whether to X-Ray.
Problem is the big pearl will probably be inconclusive because of that setting.

The good news is I have a preliminary verbal report on the pipi pearl and it has come back as a natural.
See my thread in the "Naturals" section here:

I'll have the full report and x-ray slides in a couple of days and will update the Forum then.
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Certain that all three pearls have nuclei by your inspection is quite telling. The size of the pearl is not common for the period, but certainly not unusual.

This is a beautiful and original suite. Finely crafted and quite collectable.
Liberty & Co. and Archibald Knox

Liberty & Co. and Archibald Knox

Liberty & Co is a luxury goods department store that opened in Regent Street, London in 1875, and is still trading. From the late 1890's they were extremely successful in promoting Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau styles in clothing, furnishings, homewares and jewelry.

Liberty & Co. used external designers, and one of these was Archibald Knox, who was born on the Isle of Man, where Celtic ornamentation survived on various buildings and monuments.

Knox developed a modern interpretation of Celtic design, and Liberty released his sterling silver pieces under the brand name "Cymric", and pewter items branded as "Tudric".

The success of these metal wares was so great that Liberty formed a partnership with the silver smithing company of William Hair Haseler to produce the product. They also introduced designs from other artists such as Bernard Cuzner and Jessie King, and outsourced pieces from Murrle Bennett & Co to keep up with demand.

Liberty & Co jewelry is now very sought after and Archibald Knox pieces can fetch phenomenal prices. His pieces feature in many museums, there are several books on Knox's designs, and the Archibald Knox Society is based on the Isle of Man (see their great website with lots of Knox jewelry designs here:

Knox used pearls in many of his jewelry designs, here's a few examples:

The little pearl drop may be a Tay River freshwater mussel pearl from Scotland, these were plentiful back in the day, the mussels are highly endangered now.

This pendant is about 6cm x 3.5cm, in 9ct gold, hallmarked WHH Birmingham, 1904. It's a deceptively simple design until you look at it closely and take in its Celtic context.

Lots of Liberty & Co. jewelry is unmarked as to maker or gold content, and is consequently unrecognized by their owners.

I shiver when I think that these could get scrapped by gold buyers, particularly once you realise the value, one of these (with an amethyst rather than a turquoise) sold a few years back at Bonhams L.A. for $7,930 (including premium), see:

Here's another Knox piece featuring seed pearls, this is 15ct gold, but unmarked other than on the chain.

It is however well documented - a photo of the design was found in Knox's studio after his death, and is now in the Knox archive in the Manx Museum.

I'll post the final piece de resistance in this Archibald Knox series below
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This piece de resistance is better than the Fahrner items above and better than your Poe Pipi beauty?
Oh boy...
Such delicious anticipation! I'm soo glad you joined P-G