The rare Armenian silver filigree, enamel, and gilt: a box set with emeralds, pearls, and garnets
This fine, domed chest is of Armenian origin and most probably served a religious purpose – possibly it was used to hold incense. It is of a gilded silver sheet that has then been covered with an outer layer of silver filigree to which champleve enameled silver floral plaques have been applied. This rich decoration has been further embellished with the addition of Baroque pearls and square emeralds and round garnet cabochons all in high box settings.
The silver filigree is arrayed on all sides in a floral cruciform pattern, with leaves enameled finely in green, and flowers enameled in delicate pink and blue against a cream background. The interior and base have been gilded, with the gilding of the interior remaining especially bright. The overall exterior frame of the box has been chased with a rope-twist motif and also is gilded. The hinged, domed lid is surmounted by an applied, raised silver flower partly infilled with blue enamel and topped by a Baroque pearl.
The Kalfayan Collection of Armenian Art includes a bowl with similar gilding, filigree, floral enameling, and applied gems, which is dated to the eighteenth century (Hassiotis, 2010, p. 150-151). The box here has several indistinct assay marks, including French import marks for foreign-made silver. The French connection is unsurprising; there has long been a significant and influential emigre Armenian community in Paris and France more generally. In fact, France has the world’s third largest community of Armenians most of whom arrived in France after the 1915 Armenian Genocide.