The origins of Berlin iron jewelry might date back as far as 1806, but it wasn’t until the final years of the Napoleonic Wars that it truly found its heart and soul. As the notorious French emperor and military commander’s campaign of conquest raged on throughout Europe, the people of Prussia began financing an uprising by donating whatever items of silver or gold that they owned. In exchange for their sacrifice, they were given pieces of cast-iron jewelry that had been blackened with a lacquer made from flaxseed to prevent rusting. The pieces were often inscribed with the phrases “Gold gab ich für Eisen” (I gave gold for iron) or “Für das Wohl des Vaterlands” (for the welfare of our homeland), and a style of jewelry that was once associated with mourning became a symbol of patriotism.
In 1825 — ten years after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo and subsequent exile — Berlin iron began taking a turn toward the Gothic. Pieces such as this necklace were designed to reflect the look of cathedral windows and wrought iron gates (though long chains of this style were scarcely produced, and very few have managed to survive the passage of time). Their popularity began to wane after 1850, and as the 20th century approach, production of Berlin iron jewelry all but ceased entirely. But in the centuries since, collectors with a flair for the darkly dramatic and an appreciation for rebellion have sought these little pieces of history that serve as a reminder of the value of bravery in the face of tyranny.
This long chain is an extremely rare example of early 19th Century Berlin Iron.
Year: 1810s Material: Berlin Iron Weight: 40.0g Length: 95.25cm/ 37.5 inches Width:11.75 mm Condition: Pristine Vintage, Extremely Rare Made Kingdom of Prussia