Demi-parure (brooch and earrings) and case, bloomed gold / paper / textile, made by J.M. Wendt, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia, 1860-1870
Established by Jochim Mattias Wendt (1830-1917) in 1854, J. M. Wendt was a prominent firm of Adelaide silversmiths, jewellers and retailers throughout the late nineteenth century. Born in Schleswig-Holstein, J.M. Wendt came to Adelaide in 1854 and established an enduring and productive business first at Pirie Street and then in Rundle Street. (The duchies of Schleswig and Holstein were much fought over by Denmark and Prussia particularly until in 1866 they became one as part of Prussia through the Peace of Prague.) He collaborated with Julius Schomburgk, who later worked in his own right. It is believed that between 1863 and 1870, much of the work produced under the Wendt name was Schomburgk's. (J.B. Hawkins, 19th Century Australian Silver (Woodbridge: Antique Collector's Club, 1990), vol. 2, p.61). Wendts sold imported jewellery and silverware and produced its own jewellery. The latter, in gold, were entered in the Sydney International Exhibition 1879 and Wendt was 'awarded a First Degree of Merit for Jewellery and Silverware'.
Unlike some of its competitors, Wendts managed to weather the financial crises of the 1890s. An advertisement from 1895, shows that they advertised themselves as 'The Cheapest House in Australia'. Wendts produced a wide range of objects in silver and jewellery, some of the best known being the candelabra, inkstands and silver mounted emu egg pieces which used Australian flora and fauna and figures of Australian Aborigines. Many were commissions. The Powerhouse holds a significant collection of pieces by Wendts. (2002/78/6; A7283; 91/142; 85/412 and 2002/81/2) A number of other pieces by Wendt and or Schomburgk were lent to the Powerhouse Museum for the exhibition 'Australian gold and silver, 1851-1900' held between March 1995 and March 1996 at the Mint Museum, Sydney.
This demi-parure is characteristic of the naturalism favoured by Australian jewellers during the second half of the nineteenth century. Naturalism was an international trend. The matte texture of the leaves may have been produced by chemical dipping, a technique often used by makers of naturalistic jewellery. This parure also echoes changes in hair fashions in this period. During the 1850s, women often wore their hair over their ears. The following decade saw a reverse of this trend, leaving the ear uncovered and therefore a fashion for pendant earrings.
Markers marks on the piece indicates that the demi-parure was made by Joachim Matthias Wendt in Adelaide. The pieces were made between 1860 and 1870.
Jochim Mathias Wendt (1830-1917) arrived in Australia in 1854. He established Wendt Jewellers in Adelaide in 1854 and began a career of over 30 years as a leading retailer and manufacturer of jewellery and silver. By 1887 Wendt's Rundle Street business was employing 12 craftspeople and assistants. Wendt retired in 1903 and the business was taken over by his Jule and stepson Herman Koeppen Wendt.