Saturday, March 30, 2013


Violet ring by Gustav Manz
Made for his daughter Helen, circa 1916
Image (c) Gustav Manz LLC

One of the loveliest drawings pressed into Gustav Manz's business ledgers is his design for a ring featuring naturalistic violet blossoms, leaves and narrow stems along the shank. Carved in yellow gold with a central amethyst or sapphire and small diamonds, violets were among his most popular mountings. Buyers included Paul Gillot (Gillot & Co), Shreve, Crump & Low, A.A. Vantine, George Bell, F. Walter Lawrence Inc., and Tiffany & Company. A circa 1916 platinum and gold version was set with 22 stones. 

Gustav Manz design for a gold, amethyst and diamond Violet Ring sold to gem merchant C.G. Bernhardt in 1920. Greeks in ancient times drank from carved amethyst cups believing the stone would ward off intoxication. Gouache rendering from Gustav Manz archive at Winterthur Museum

Manz also created custom posies for several family members, including an aquamarine version for his daughter Helen and a signet ring for his business partner (and mother-in-law) Sophie Bachem. In 1911, Manz produced a line of floral mountings to fit traditional birth-month stones that along with flower symbolism were adored by Victorians (during her reign, Queen V's favorite violet sold by the pint in Covent Garden). Today, it's the modesty of his trompe l'oeil blossoms that charms us most.

Within my reach (Almost) 

Within my reach!
I could have touched!
I might have chanced that way!
Soft sauntered through the village,
Sauntered as soft away!
So unsuspected violets
Within the fields lie low;
Too late for striving fingers
That passed, an hour ago.

Gold and diamond Violet Brooch designed and fabricated 
by Gustav Manz, circa 1910
Private collection

What beautiful sounding names 
he got for his plays, didn't he?
—but then, he makes that charm 
over everything. The spring flowers 
in his hands are nearly 
as beautiful as themselves, 
and the girls' names—Viola
—Olivia—Perdita. Oh dear!


The phrase "amethysts in the hedgerows" was coined by French herbalist Maurice Messegue

Extract from Kate Greenaway letter to John Ruskin, 1896, in Kate Greenaway by M.H. Spielmann and G.S. Layard published by Adam and Charles Black, London, 1905

Gustav Manz Violet Brooch was exhibited in "Finer Things: Jewelry and Accessories from the 1880s-1930s" curated by Elise Zorn Karlin at Stan Hywet Museum in Akron, OH, April 2012-October 2012

All images not otherwise marked copyright Gustav Manz LLC

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All Rights Reserved 
Gustav Manz LLC

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