Falize: An Unmasked Jewel
veryone who works in the industry has heard the story of “that one piece” that their friend had come across, which turned out to be much more than the dealer was selling it as, and recently I’ve been fortunate enough to have this happen to me when I came across a which could possibly be by the French jeweller Falize.
Recently, I recall a friend of mine coming across an eBay listing for a brooch marked “Sterle.” The piece was being sold as gold plated sterling silver, made in France. Taking a mild chance, she bought the brooch. When it arrived, she would discover it would be by none other than the acclaimed retro designer Pierre Sterlé, and crafted in gold, platinum and diamonds!
Needless to say I was gobsmacked when I heard her tale, and didn’t believe it until she showed me the evidence. At the time, I had no clue that in just a few short weeks my own tale would begin to take shape.
Fast forward to an average day at work, sorting through jewellery for resale, and doing a little more digging on the pieces I found interesting and different. Casually pulling out my paperknife, and cutting open the plain white envelopes our purchases are stored in, out slid a brooch which left me breathless.
Weight, like a pebble sitting in your palm.
Enamel, expertly crafted cloisonné and gold wire inlay, with two separate motifs; clearly the work of a master.
Finish, although age had taken its toll and a period repair had left the brooch wanting, you could still see its glimmer beneath its now aged and lightly scarred face.
I rolled over to my microscope to begin looking for a makers mark, a karat mark, something to help me decipher its secrets. But, the brooch gave me nothing. The only conclusion I could make at the time was that it was an antique piece, likely dating from the 1860’s – 1870’s based on pin’s closure style.
Left feeling underwhelmed with the lack of more discovery, I knew in my gut that it was something…different, even though I couldn’t quite place it yet. So, I slid the brooch back into its envelope, and tucked it away for safe keeping.
Six months would pass, and countless pieces would go through my hands before I would discover more about the anonymous piece sitting in the vault. I was researching and browsing a sale which had happened in 2017 at Christie’s, when my heart would suddenly jump out of my chest as if I had seen a ghost.
A brooch, bearing a striking resemblance to the one I had. I rushed to the vault, and pulled it up beside the image, and couldn’t believe my eyes. Just like that, I had a potential name: Falize.
Who was Falize?
Falize was born in Belgium, the son of a notable shoe maker in 1811. The eldest of four, he found his passion early in life when his father arranged for him to enroll in drawing classes. When he was 11, his father passed away and was sent to live in Paris under the guardianship of relatives. Just six years later, Falize would leave school and would be introduced to the world of fine jewellery.
Working in an administrative role for Mellerio dits Meller in 1833, he would be drawn in and would spend as much of his time as possible handling the spectacular jewellery which surrounded him. When his employer discovered his draughtsmanship skill, they encouraged Falize to contribute his designs to the firm. Much of his work found approval, and he created jewels for both stock, and bespoke commissions.
“He would…spend as much of his time as possible handling the spectacular jewellery…”
Two years later, Falize would leave to work for Madamme Janisset. Falize spent the next three years under her, learning the manufacturing side of the business from the ground up. And when the opportunity came for Falize to purchase his own workshop, Janisset lent him the money with the agreement that she had exclusive rights to his work. Falize was becoming his own master and now had full creative freedom over his pieces, and registered his own mark in 1841. The revolution of 1848 would bankrupt Janisset, and provide a new freedom to Falize to sell his own designs to anyone he pleased, and his reputation quickly spread.
Having spent years pursuing his interest in enamel as a medium, Falize would partner with Antoine Tard to create and exhibit a range of pieces under his own name for the first time in 1869. His collection of Japanese inspired brooches, necklaces, and earrings at the Union Centrale des Beaux-Arts Appliqués à l’Industrie focussed heavily on cloisonné enamel, and would gift him a first class medal. Falize would continue to work alongside his son, Lucien who had joined in 1856, and would retire in 1876.
Lucien would go on to bring the firm to new heights, and would enjoy a period of great success. Also inspired by past eras he would bring in his own renaissance and Japanese inspired jewels. Lucien would win multiple awards for his work, and would rank alongside names such as Boucheron and Massin.
Falize passed away in September of 1892 from a stroke, and wold leave the business to Lucien. Lucien’s son, Andre, would join the firm and would take on various partnerships. They found great early success with commissions from the royal families of Serbia, and Romania. Andre was fiercely loyal to his fathers style, but as times and tastes changed he struggled to adapt. The firm began its decline after the Art Nouveau movement, and after moving multiple times the firm would die with Andre in 1936.
The Next Chapter...
Usually Falize would sign these very thin pieces with a plaque on the side, as there was no place for them to be stamped. However, as I mentioned before this piece is unmarked. Further research and consultation will be needed before I am able to say for certain this piece was crafted by Falize. However the prospect I find is very exciting!
The intricate wire work along side the careful and delicate tones of enamel are what I love most about this piece, and all of Falize’s designs. Even if this piece remains anonymous, it will still be very dear to me.
So I encourage you all to keep your eyes open, and to listen to your gut. You never know what, or when you may find something!