Berlin Iron & Silesian Wire Jewelry Is Extremely Rare to Find
by Veronica McCullough
Great Vintage Jewelry
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It is difficult to know for certain when the art of Berlin Iron jewelry began, and there is very little written history. It is reasonable to suppose that several of the famous armour producing centers of Europe tried to keep their skills alive in the 17th and 18th centuries, as evidenced by the considerable number of repousse iron plaques, medallions, mirror frames and other ornaments from engraved iron and cast iron. Many examples can be seen at the le Secq des Tournelles Museum at Rouen. Basically speaking, it was the end of the iron age, and many factories were doing what they could to stay in production in some way.
The first factory for making Berlin iron jewelry was the Royal Berlin Factory in 1804. Although this Factory was associated with the Prussian capital, the origin of manufacturing is that of Gleiwitz, Silesia and similar work is said to have been done in France as early as 1789, at the time of the outbreak of the Revolution.
There is a great deal of confusion over the early days of production. There is no evidence pointing to work that was done in Silesia before the move to Berlin, and neo-classical designs of some pieces could possible be earlier than 1804 – possibly by as much as 20 years ; but, could equally, and more likely, be some 6 to 8 years later.
In 1806 the Royal Berlin Factory had only been in operation for 2 years when the factory was raided by Napoleon and all the casts were stolen and taken to France, where manufacturing resumed. There are four stages of production which cannot be distinguished: Silesia before 1804; Berlin 1804-1806; France 1806- ?; Berlin after 1806.
The peak of Berlin iron jewelry seems to be at the time of the War of Liberation against Napoleon in 1813-1815.
Appeals were made to the public, and the wealthy surrendered jewels and gold in return for Berlin Iron Jewelry, as a patriotic war effort. These iron jewelry items often bore the inscription Gold gab ich fur Eisen 1813 ( Gold I gave for Iron 1813) or Ein get auscht zum Wohl des Vaderlands ( Exchanged for the welfare of the Fatherland). It is said that during these wars over 11,000 pieces of iron jewelry were produced, including 5,000 iron crosses.