Antique Butterfly Filigree Pendant 20k Chinese


20k Straits Chinese filigree pendant crafted in a period between 1920s and 1940s.

This antique gold pendant is made by Chinese or Indian craftsmen in this region (Singapore, Malaysia, or then “Malaya”). Such Peranakan pieces reflect a blending of local culture and Victorian fashion, exploding in a myriad of styles that adapt Art Nouveau and Art Deco motifs.

Because there was so much demand for Peranakan jewelry, it is more common to find a piece of jewelry adapting a predecessor piece (ie. similar but dissimilar!), than to find a piece truly Victorian or chiefly Art Nouveau or Deco era. The Peranakan affluence (and hence exposure to Western fashion) and love for Western culture before enthusiastically adapting to local auspices cannot be overstated!

This filigree pendant is quintessentially Peranakan, with Nature’s insect motif, in this case, a butterfly weaved amidst its open gold work. The natural diamonds are hand cleaved, present to break the shiny gold and not for actual gemstone presence. This is the bohemian arm of Peranakan jewelry art, not the bold diamond studded wing of Peranakan legacy.

I feel the charm in this piece is how the diamond shape encapsulates the open gold work, the butterfly within more a peek-a-boo than immediate.

The pendant is considered to bear compact filigree (compared to the giardinetti or freeform pendants also listed), but because the filigree web is intricate the pendant’s outline is the first impression the eye picks up.

If you examine the open gold work, you will appreciate the gold filigree does not lie flat, but is built at a contour so the pendant will sit slightly raised when strung on a necklace.

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