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Project for the restoration of a bouquet of flowers made by Jérémie Pauzié

Bouquet of flowers made from precious and semiprecious stones in a vase.
Saint Petersburg. 1740s. Made by Jérémie Pauzié. 
Gold, silver, diamonds, precious and semiprecious stones, glass, fabric.
Techniques: polishing, faceting.
14.0 × 12.5 cm

The Hermitage’s collection of precious jewellery includes several bouquets made with precious and semiprecious stones. The place where they were created, the selection of minerals and their decorative arrangement vary, depending on changing tastes and stylistic preferences.. For a long time, the bouquets were considered the work of an unknown mid-18th-century craftsman, but then they were attributed by Marina Torneus, the keeper of the Hermitage collection, to Jérémie Pauzié. He was the most significant jeweller active in Saint Petersburg in the mid-1700s and his clients included members of the imperial family, courtiers and the nobility of the Russian capital.

Jérémie Pauzié was born in Geneva in 1716. At the age of thirteen, he moved to Russia together with his father. Shortly before his death, in 1731, Pauzié senior apprenticed the youngster to the court diamond-cutter Benoît Gravereaux in Saint Petersburg for a period of seven years. Pauzié was an apprentice and then a journeyman right up until 1740, in which year he first opened his own workshop. Now a master craftsman, he worked in the Russian capital for a long time, enjoying the patronage of Empress Elizabeth. He repeatedly travelled abroad to buy fresh materials and finished pieces. The jeweller made snuffboxes, rings, the insignia of orders of chivalry and decorative adornments. He gained particularly fame for his work on the crown for Catherine II. Pauzié left memoirs of his life and work in Saint Petersburg. He held the title of court jeweller. Nonetheless, in 1764 he moved back to Geneva, leaving his business to his assistants. Pauzié died in Geneva in 1779. The jeweller’s mark and signature are not known.

Jérémie Pauzié enjoyed the great confidence of the court and the nobility, constantly supplying them with works that they commissioned from him. The craftsman’s name frequently occurs in the records as receiving payment for pieces of jewellery produced for the court of Empress Elizabeth.

 

  • The stems of the bouquet are made of silver and gold. The little leaves on the shoots are made from a natural silk fabric.
  • The flowers in the bouquet are made of precious and semiprecious stones. The bouquet contains 407 brilliant-cut diamonds with a total weight of 21.3 carats, 468 other diamonds (2.35 ct.), 19 sapphires (45.9 ct.), 84 emeralds (19.95 ct.), 5 rubies (0.5 ct.), 1 spinel (?), 48 garnets, 14 chrysolites, 1 agate, 3 topazes, 1 citrine, 1 turquoise, 3 chachalongs and 5 onyxes.
  • Setting of the stones: all the flowers are fixed in a silver mount (the reverse side and the settings can be seen in figs. 03 and 04). Bezel and claw settings were used to mount the stones. A claw or prong setting generally leaves the stone exposed on all sides, but in some instances, when it was necessary to insert a backing beneath the stone, the underside was covered.
  • The flowers were attached to the stems using flexible joints that created the effect of movement, as if the bouquet were freshly cut and easily stirred.
  • During previous restoration work, breaks and damage to elements of the construction had been secured using copper wire, and also soldered together. The soft solder used had a composition of 93% tin and 7% lead.
  • The white material in the flowers is cachalong, also known as pearl opal.
  • Before restoration
  • After restoration
  • Before restoration
  • After restoration
  • Before restoration
  • After restoration
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The stones making up the flowers in this bouquet are for the most part mounted in silver settings, while gold was used for the stems and shoots. The master jeweller used diamonds in different ways. More than 400 of them have a brilliant cut and serve as the centre of a flower or as petals; small rose-cut diamonds (more than 450 of them) edge the brighter stones. It is those – blue and yellow sapphires, rubies, chrysolites, topazes and emeralds – that serve as the main accents in the bouquet, forming the flowers and shoots. Pauzié also used diamonds to mark out the less important minerals, such as garnets of various shades (pyropes, hessonites, almandines). Even the decorative stones (agates, turquoise, chachalong, onyx) do not appear secondary. To add life and a little bit of curiosity, the jeweller attached the tiny figure of an insect to the bouquet. It can be seen on the emerald shoot.

It is believed that bouquets like this were used to adorn an outfit, being attached to either the belt or the shoulder, for which purpose there is a flat hook at the back. Probably later, when the pieces were exhibited in the Treasure Gallery, a crystal glass vase was made. It is possible, though, that in the 18th century, too, the vase was used as a place to keep this masterpiece.

Condition prior to restoration

Light soiling. The fabric was torn in places. Some leaves were missing. Slight deformation of the metal was observed. The lower flowers were missing a petal, while one diamond flower lacked its stone decoration. The construction had movement in it. Three parts existed separately: a part with a single brilliant-cut diamond and five others; a part with one brilliant-cut diamond; a part with three diamonds and an empty socket for a fourth, which is available. The stones had natural inclusions. Joints soldered with tin were in evidence. There were chips and cracks, as well as losses of stones; breaks and losses of the metal decoration, deformation of the gilded elements and the fastener.

To study the bouquet, researchers Yury Spiridonov and Yana Urazayeva conducted a series of physical and chemical analyses in the research centre of the State Hermitage’s Department of Scientific Restoration and Conservation.

 

Determining the composition of the metal and identifying the red pigment

  • Identifying the glue on the green leaves
  • Metal (Cu, Zn)
  • Picture 3 - red - Fe, Al, Si; orange - Cu, Zn, yellow - C, O
  • Picture 4
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The adhesive on the leaves has been identified as hide glue. That is confirmed by its infrared spectrum (pic. 3) and its chemical composition, which includes a fairly large amount of nitrogen. Hide glue contains such nitrogenous compounds as oligopeptides and cysteine.

The adhesive’s infrared spectrum correlates with that of hide glue in the database (an 87% match). The spectrum was also compared with the spectrum in an online database (pic. 4).

The green pigment on the surface of the silk

  

The glue on the surface of a leaf

 

The pigment in the green paint on the silk leaf contains copper. Copper salts impart a green colour.

Unfortunately, it has not proved possible to determine the composition of the glue by infrared spectrum. The chemical composition of the glue is practically indistinguishable from that of the green pigment, with the exception of its nitrogen content, which is roughly twice as high. The glue may be of animal origin. The photograph taken with an electron microscope shows that the glue is darker than the aluminium support plate and darker than the copper pigment. That suggests that the glue is most probably of organic origin.

Setting precious stones on a silver base

Setting diamonds on a silver base was typical practice for the 18th century. To add brightness and sparkle, polished silver backing produced from flattened metal was used. It was fixed into the sockets with an organic glue. The stones were “rolled” into the silver using prongs at the corners, after which a cutting tool was used to remove the excess metal. In some instances, ageing of the silver and deformation had caused cracks and gaps to start forming. Examinations were performed on a Zeiss Merlin scanning electron microscope, while an ALPHA FT-IR spectrometer was used to study the glues and organic compounds.

 

After thorough research of the bouquet, a commission decided on the stages for its restoration. The silk leaves that had fallen off were put back in place.

  • Before restoration. The separate loose leaves
  • Before restoration. The separate loose leaves
  • After restoration. The fallen leaves reattached
  • After restoration. The fallen leaves reattached
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Restoration work carried out

The restorers removed traces of a previous restoration and organic soiling. They used a polymer to impregnate the stones and reinforced the cracks and chips. They performed delicate laser welding of the structure of the bouquet, gaps and cracks in the metal. They fixed the precious stones in their settings. Special mounts, moulds and a tool were produced in order to correct the partial deformation.

After the completion of the restoration, this exhibit has been included in the permanent display of the Hermitage’s Treasure Gallery.

  • After restoration
  • After restoration
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The working group from
the Laboratory for the Scientific Restoration of Precious and Archaeological Metals

  • Igor Karlovich Malkielartist-restorer, head of the laboratory

  • Yury Leonidovich Spiridonovresearcher, physicist
  • Yana Rustemovna Urazayevaresearcher, chemist
  • Sergei Vadimovich Solovyevphotographer

This project has been implemented with the support of the Hennessy social and cultural foundation.