Regency Treasures from the Venetian Lagoon

Regency Treasures from the Venetian Lagoon

Head of Jewellery, Catriona Smith, dives into the history of goldstone...

22 September 2022

A rare survivor of the Regency era, this 15ct gold synthetic goldstone girandole demi parure c.1820, is composed of a necklace and brooch. The necklace has a centrepiece of three graduated pansy flower head clusters, with graduated pear-shaped synthetic goldstone cabochons claw set to shallow collets with fine bead edges. There are graduated girandole drops suspended below with pairs of baby belcher chain swags, with three rows of matching chains towards the back with large oval cabochon synthetic goldstone plaques to a Maltese cross concealed box clasp.


 A Regency synthetic goldstone girandole necklace and brooch suite, c.1820


Girandole, a style named after a type of candelabra, and at its most popular during the 18th century, is usually comprised of a bow-shaped frame, with a series of graduated pear-shaped pendant drops which were often then mirrored in necklaces and brooches. It’s not uncommon to see partial suites or pieces with their girandole drops removed, which is what has happened to the brooch in this demi-parure, often then used to produce smaller items of jewellery. Perhaps the complete suite was bequeathed to sisters, who then divided it between them, but it would have been completed with the addition of a pair of girandole earrings and possibly a pair of bracelets.


The innovation so impressed the population of Venice that the Miotti family were bestowed with an exclusive license by the Doge


Goldstone or synthetic goldstone is not a natural gemstone or mineral but a manmade form of glass often used in jewellery, small carvings, inlaid boxes, micromosaic and pietra dura pieces. It is believed to have been created during the 17th century by Vincenzo Motti, an astronomer and physicist who belonged to the influential Motti family from Murano, a group of islands located in the Venetian lagoon, famed for its glass production. The innovation so impressed the population of Venice that the Miotti family were bestowed with an exclusive license by the Doge. There is a legend that goldstone was an accidental discovery by an order of Italian monks who accidentally spilled copper filings into molten glass, but there is no documentation to confirm this. There is evidence that earlier artisans were also able to produce this material with the alternative names of Stellarta, Aventurina glass, and Monk’s glass, alluding to the story of the accidental discovery by monks. Chinese glassmakers also produced this form of aventurescent glass, with snuff bottles given as gifts and prizes by the Qing court, having been produced in the Imperial Workshop.



The most commonly found form of synthetic goldstone is a terracotta brown, containing tiny octahedral crystals of metallic copper, but it is also produced in blue and purple, and instead of copper, contains chromium oxide or manganese. The appearance can vary significantly, with the most desirable material being from the heart of the batch which can have large bright crystals suspended in a colourless or near colourless glass matrix. The brooch illustrated has examples of this highly regarded synthetic goldstone.  

Georgian and Regency jewellery has become highly collectable over the last ten years, often achieving high hammer prices at auction, and Sworders’ Jewellery department is always seeking fine examples from this period, or even remnants of much larger pieces. Our next Fine Jewellery sale will take place on 23 November with consignments open until 23 September.



 For further information contact:

Catriona Smith |





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