Mauboussin Hummingbird Brooch Sold at Christie's Likely Made Between 1947 and 1967

Gemstone Bird Pendant a similar motif as Mauboussin This gorgeous gemstone encrusted pendant shares similarities with the Mauboussin bird pendant sold at Christie's. Click here for more information. Photo ©2018 EraGem Jewelry.


A lovely enamel brooch hummingbird sold for $2405 at Christie's this past January. Featuring a cabochon sapphire and diamond eye, the stylized bird clip was made at an unrecorded time by the jewelers at Mauboussin. As is well known, trends in jewelry come and go much like the ebb and flow of the tides. Christie's did not provide a date for the piece, which presents an intriguing mystery for any avid jewelry collector.

Hummingbirds were most certainly in vogue during the 1870s, a time in which the French jewelry firm was enjoying grand success. However, it was far more popular at that time to fashion these ornaments out of real hummingbird heads and feathers. While this practice abated by the 1890s, jeweled birds remained wildly popular during the Art Nouveau period, particularly the grand peacock.

Once again, though, it does not appear that this hummingbird brooch was made at the turn of the century. For one thing, the tiny jeweled creatures were a passing fancy and not a real trend of the period. More importantly, this particular brooch, though highly stylized, has none of the artsy characteristics of Art Nouveau jewelry.

Heading into World War I, the fashion tides changed once again. Out swept the natural motifs of France's "New Art," and in flowed the architectural lines patterned after the modern mechanical wonders, the steam engine, the airplane, and the automobiles. The jewelry firm, founded by M. Rocher, weathered the transition well, now with Georges Mauboussin at the helm.

As Primavera Gallery reports, Mauboussin won Grand Prize at the Exposition des Arts Decoratifs in Paris in 1925 for their jewels, "which boasted legibility of design, clear bold lines and a proclivity towards geometric patterns." Clearly, this hummingbird design does not find its origins in the Art Deco period, which lasted through the 1930s.

By turning to Mauboussin's ad campaigns in the 1940s and 1950s, one can finally see where this little birdie might have made its debut. Thanks to the Paris firm, HPrints, there exists a limited record of Mauboussin's design trends throughout this vintage period. The ads of the early '40s feature hints of the bird beauties to come, with brooches and earrings increasingly featuring the classic feather tips and jeweled plumes indicative of the emerging naturalist themes. Butterflies make their debut in a photo shoot by Edgar Elshoud, a prominent ad photographer in the 1940s. In addition to Moaboussin, his clients included the likes of Cartier and Boucheron, as well as many famous couturiers.

A brooch featuring two whimsically plump birds perched upon a branch rounds out a 1945 spread for Mauboussin accessories, and the first stylized 'bird of paradise' appears in a 1947 ad spotlighting the design talent of Rene Sim Lecaze. In 1948, we see the first sign of the peacock's influence on Mauboussin's designs. An ad illustrated by S. Markovitch features a magnificent necklace. Its expertly placed emerald and ruby cabochons evoke images of the tail feathers of a peacock in repose. It is absolutely breathtaking in its execution and its evocation.

The bird motif became increasingly popular as the 1940s gave way to the 1950s. During this time, all the major houses were making sculpted birds in gold and precious stones. This ad, dated 1947, features examples from France's top four jewelers, including Cartier, Mauboussin, Boucheron, and Van Cleef & Arpels. A similar ad taken out in 1959 features a comparable layout featuring stylized bird clips made exclusively by Mauboussin.

The bird motif seems to be ebbing by the 1960s. However, what appear to be catalog pages from 1964 and 1967 feature several whimsical bird pieces that bear some resemblance to the lines of this hummingbird brooch sold recently by Christie's. Though none of these advertisements definitively place the hummingbird on Mauboussin's timeline, it is safe to estimate that it was created sometime between 1947 and 1967.