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Bracelet (France), ca. 1860

This is a bracelet. It was attributed to Honore Severin Bourdoncle. It is dated ca. 1860 and we acquired it in 2004. Its medium is aluminum, gold, brass. It is a part of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department.

This elaborate, highly sculptural bracelet appears to be an early example of aluminum jewelry. First discovered and isolated in 1825, aluminum was still a rare and expensive metal in the 1850s and 1860s. Intricate bracelets, like this example, were produced as luxury items by many notable Parisian jewelers. During that time, aluminum was often combined with other more precious and expensive materials, such as gold and gems, in ways that required intensive labor and exacting workmanship. Aluminum and gold could not be soldered easily and instead required riveting. The rivet heads, as seen in the small beads and flower buds in this bracelet, were made into a design feature.
This bracelet is attributed to Honoré-Séverin Bourdoncle, a successful chaser and one of the most famous jewelers to produce aluminum objects. He was awarded medals at the French Expositions of 1855 and 1877. Emperor Napoleon III, a proponent of new materials, technologies, and entrepreneurship associated with technological advances, was among Bourdoncle’s clientele. Aluminum’s life as a precious metal came to an end after the 1860s, when metallurgists devised methods to produce it in large commercial quantities, thereby reducing the cost of the material.
The bracelet proposed for acquisition relates to early aluminum jewelry in the museum’s collection: a suite of brooch, earrings, and cuff studs with elaborate gold mounts and bright-cut geometric patterns (1928-5-3-a,b and 1928-5-4-a/c). This bracelet offers a stylistic contrast, however, as the sculptural decoration is in a more romantic mode—the figures, strap-work, and foliage motifs were probably inspired by 16th- and 17th-century design. This bracelet would be a significant and desirable addition to our holdings of 19th-century jewelry.

This object was bequest of Raizel F. Halpin. It is credited Bequest of Raizel Halpin and Dora Jane Janson, in honor of their great friendship and shared love of antique jewelry.

Its dimensions are

H x diam. (clasped): 3.9 x 6.8 cm (1 9/16 x 2 11/16 in.)

It has the following markings


Cite this object as

Bracelet (France), ca. 1860; Attributed to Honore Severin Bourdoncle (French, 1823 - 1893); aluminum, gold, brass; H x diam. (clasped): 3.9 x 6.8 cm (1 9/16 x 2 11/16 in.); Bequest of Raizel Halpin and Dora Jane Janson, in honor of their great friendship and shared love of antique jewelry; 2003-20-1

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Faster, Cheaper, Newer, More: The Revolutions of 1848.

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Bracelet (France), ca. 1860 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=7 May 2021 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>