This 2in (5cm) long brooch is textbook Lalique. Fashioned as a cicada, its main constituent is glass set into a gold frame. The insect’s body is formed from pâte de verre and the wings from plique à jour enamel, both favourite Lalique materials.
One of René Lalique’s particular skills as a jewellery designer, and something that makes his work so desirable today, was his ability to create inventive, dramatic jewels from constituents of no great intrinsic worth. Their value is all in the workmanship, not the materials.
The only precious stones are in this example are the little diamonds forming the eyes and set to the wing tips, elements which would give it an intrinsic value of around £80. But as a piece by one of the best-known names in Art Nouveau jewellery, it was the pièce de résistance in Woolley and Wallis’s jewellery sale in Salisbury on July 31 where it sold for £58,000. The brooch is signed to the reverse and comes in the original cream box inscribed R. Lalique 40, Cours-La-Reine, Paris. As Lalique only worked at this address from 1901-5, it can be dated with some accuracy.