René Jules Lalique
René-Jules Lalique was born in the Marne region of France. As a young student he showed great artistic promise and his mother guided him toward jewelry making. From 1876 to 1878 he apprenticed with Louis Aucoc, a noted Parisian jeweler. By the 1890s he had opened his own workshop in Paris and become one of the most admired jewelers of the day.
Lalique avoided using precious stones and the conservatively classical settings favored by other leading jewelers of the time. Rather, he combined semiprecious stones with such materials as enamel, horn, ivory, coral, rock crystal, and irregularly shaped Baroque pearls in settings of organic inspiration, frequently accentuated by asymmetrical curves or elaborate flourishes.
He designed this powerfully evocative necklace for his second wife, Augustine-Alice Ledru, around the turn of the century. The repeats of the main motif — an attenuated female nude whose highly stylized curling hair swirls around her head and whose arms sensuously curve down to become a border enclosing enamel-and-gold swans and an oval cabochon amethyst — are separated by pendants set with fire opals mounted in swirling gold tendrils.