Riker Brothers (American, active 18921926)
Yellow gold, plique–à–jour enamel, diamonds, pearl, ruby; Overall Diam. 1 in. (2.5 cm)
Purchase, Susan and Jon Rotenstreich Gift, 2001 (2001.331)
One of the most unusual methods of enameling popular during the late nineteenth century was a technique called plique-à-jour. In plique-à-jour, transparent enamels are set within a pierced metal framework resembling stained glass. With no backing on the finished product, the panels of enamel allow light to shine through. Popular in France, this extremely fragile technique was employed rarely by American jewelers. Tiffany & Company and Marcus & Company occasionally used plique-à-jour to accent a piece of jewelry, and the Newark firm of Riker Brothers developed a method by which it could be essentially mass-produced.
This small gold watch pin incorporates plique-à-jour enameling behind an openwork frame featuring a heron standing amid lily pads and intertwined reeds. The lily pads are ornamented with two diamonds and a single pearl, and the heron's eye is set with a tiny ruby. The backplate, which is riveted to the front section, depicts a brilliant sunset in yellow, green, blue, and red plique-à-jour enamel. Riker Brothers, successors to several firms founded by William Riker (18221898), was one of several successful jewelry manufacturers in nineteenth-century Newark, New Jersey, and one of the very few to utilize plique-à-jour in addition to retailing a full line of gold and platinum jewelry.