Orchid hair ornament

This hair ornament is only 7.6 centimetres high. Made of translucent enamel and precious gemstones, it illustrates the luxury and innovation in Art Nouveau jewellery.

Jewellers working in the Art Nouveau style rejected large gemstones. Here, Philippe Wolfers has carefully positioned diamonds and a row of small rubies to enhance the colourful and sinuous design.

Orchid hair ornament

 

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Orchid hair ornament

Brussels, dated 1902
Designed by Philippe Wolfers (1858-1929)
Gold with enamel, diamonds and rubies
V&A: M.11-1962

Philippe Wolfers holding a piece of jewellery

 

Wolfers had a long and successful career spanning both the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements.

The eldest son of a prominent Brussels silversmith, Louis Wolfers, he began work in his father’s workshop at the age of 16. He had wider artistic ambitions than his father and alongside his work for the family business developed his talents as a sculptor. The ‘ex unique’ jewellery he designed between 1897 and 1907 was another manifestation of this artistic vision.

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Philippe Wolfers holding a piece of jewellery

After 1903
Photograph

Design Museum, Ghent, Belgium

 

This photograph shows the jewellery workshop of Louis Wolfers Père et Fils (later Wolfers Frères).

As the family firm grew in size and reputation, a large complex of workshops evolved. They were equipped with modern machinery and even a photography studio. Philippe maintained a separate workshop, away from the bustle of commercial production.

Philippe Wolfers’ jewellery workshop

 

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Philippe Wolfers’ jewellery workshop

Brussels, about 1905
Photograph

Design Museum, Ghent, Belgium
Drawing of an orchid

 

Orchids were one of the favourite themes of Art Nouveau jewellery. They epitomised the movement’s fascination with nature, sensuality and the exotic.

Wolfers made many detailed life studies from real orchids and incorporated the motif into designs for silverware, ceramics and jewellery.

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Drawing of an orchid

Brussels, 1894
By Philippe Wolfers
Pencil on paper

Design Museum, Ghent, Belgium