A silver gilt and enamel plaque de cou by Andre Kauffer
For sale is this rare art nouveau plaque de cou (choker or dog collar) by Andre Kauffer. The choker is silver gilt, with French assay marks and Kauffer’s maker’s mark. The plique a jour enamel is original and perfect and depicts the thorns and leaves of the Acacia tree. I have shown two images of the front of the choker that capture the cool green colour of the enamel and strong gold gilding separately (flash photography makes the gilding look silver).
There is something exceptional about the design of this piece. The influence of the art nouveau is very clear, but this piece has a stylization, crispness and modernity that is unusual in most French jewellery of the period.
The depiction of Acacia foliage is also highly unusual and quite probably highly symbolic. According to the Hebrew Bible Acacia tree wood was used to make the Ark of the Covenant and parts of the Tabernacle. The tree has taken on great symbolism in many cultures, typically symbolizing renewal, fortitude and pureness. In the Jewish culture, in the past, it was common to plant an Acacia branch at the head of a person’s grave to mark it, which came to symbolize these qualities and also remembrance. The black enamel surround of this piece does make me wonder if that is this choker’s symbolism, transformed as jewellery. Undoubtedly in the same vein, in Freemasonry, the Acacia tree is a symbol of the immortality of the human soul.
Andre Kauffer was a highly regarded Nancy jeweller. This choker is quite renowned, with an identical example (with slightly darker green enamel) previously with Tadema, and reproduced heavily in jewellery literature as listed below:
Beatriz Chadour-Sampson & Sonya Newell-Smith, “Tadema Gallery London Jewellery from the 1860s to 1960s”, p. 109
Nancy N. Schiffer, “Silver Jewelry Designs”, 1996, Illustrated p. 109.
Victor Arwas, “Art Nouveau, The French Aesthetic”, 2002, illustrated p. 352.
Martin, Étienne. “Bijoux Art Nouveau”, Nancy 1890-1920, Éditions du Quotidien, Strasbourg, 2015, page 96
The plaque de cou is designed to be worn on a cloth (I would suggest velvet) choker and one can be made to go with this piece on purchase.
Maker: Andre Kauffer
Designer: Andre Kauffer
Date: c. 1905
Marks: AK, french assay mark
Material: Sterling silver gilt, enamel
Size: 6.7 cm x 4.0 cm
Weight: 1.1 oz, 31 grams