Tiffany & Company (American, 1837present)
Gold, diamonds; Overall 6 1/4 x 1 3/16 in. (15.9 x 3 cm)
Gift of Susan Dwight Bliss, 1941 (41.84.20a–e)
Diamonds had become so fashionable by the last quarter of the nineteenth century that their presence in American society was being noted in the daily press. On April 7, 1889, the New York Sun announced "Diamonds flash from the buttons of a baby's layette, gleam on the dimpled hands of the tiniest child, sparkle on the young girl's fingers, and blaze from the neck and ears and wrists of the society belle ." With the discovery in 1869 of rich diamond fields in South Africa, Americans gained a new and more abundant source for the sparkling gems, which had previously come from India or Brazil. Coinciding with greater availability was the invention of new faceting techniques that sped production as well as enhancing the stone's brilliance. Circular collet settings with foil and metal backings were replaced by more open settings that allowed light to shine through. A particularly American fashion was the corsage piece, a garland of diamonds that was worn on the bodice or waist of a dress. The present example, set with 305 diamonds, was made as a flexible cascade of flowers graduated in size. Its owner, Susan Dwight Bliss (died 1966), donated a handsome collection of diamond jewelry to the Metropolitan Museum in the 1940s and '50s.