The History of Perpignan Garnet Jewelry

In the 1750s, the residents of Perpignan discovered garnet deposits near Estagel. For this reason, it is likely that the use of garnet increased in this region of France during that period. However, it is much more difficult to precisely date the earliest appearances of Perpignan garnet in Catalan jewelry. Some local jewelry masterpieces date back to the 1700s. As an iconic jewelry of the region, today there are only ten workshops that produce jewelry according to the traditional ancient specifications.

Composition and Style of Perpignan Garnet Jewelry

With garnets becoming scarce in the region, it is documented that they are imported from Burma to meet the growing demand for these exceptional jewels.

Garnet jewelry from Perpignan is recognizable by its specific cut, known as the “Perpignan cut,” and the way it is mounted. The terms “Grenat de Perpignan” and “Perpignan cut” are protected, thus becoming part of the exceptional heritage of the Roussillon region.

Since the 18th century, garnets have been cut in this manner or more commonly, in a rose-like fashion, similar to a diamond. It is one of the oldest gemstone cuts, presenting a conical shape. It consists of a wide flat base supporting a more or less rounded dome formed by the arrangement of triangular facets. This cut is well-suited to the closed setting technique used in this region. The garnet is placed between a setting (the wall) and a base, creating what is known as the “chaton.” To enhance the brilliance and luster of the garnet, a red-toned “paillon” (silver foil) is placed at the base of the chaton. This paillon serves to reflect light and enhance the stone’s colors.

Foiled stones settings were very common in the 19th and 20th centuries. Topazes and citrines from Brazil were commonly used in the creation of Catalan jewelry. The gems are cut with a brilliant or cushion cut (similar to Perpignan garnets, which are cut in a rose style without a culasse). A red foil is placed under the stone to give it a red and yellow reflection in the center. These types of jewelry were often crafted in the Puy en Velay region.

How much do Perpignan garnet jewelry cost?

The value of antique Perpignan garnet jewelry

The value of Catalan jewelry is determined by several criteria: age, rarity, garnet color, and condition.

Antique Perpignan garnet jewelry is rare due to its age and fragility. It is very challenging to find rings, bracelets, necklaces, or even earrings without chips, dents, and holes. The thin and hollow gold used in these pieces struggles to withstand the test of time.

The color of the foils beneath the garnets has sometimes not been well-preserved. Jewelry set with stones on foils is sensitive to water and moisture. If, for some reason, Catalan jewelry comes into contact with water, the red tint of the silver foil may fade, thus diminishing the cherished red/raspberry reflection.

Where to find antique Perpignan garnet jewelry?

Antique Catalan jewelry can be seen in museums. In 2023, in Grasse, the “Musée provençal du Costume et du bijou de la parfumerie Fragonard” dedicates an exhibition to the Catalan tradition of garnet jewelry. The permanent exhibition at the “Palais des Rois de Majorque” has been used to showcase fashion trends in the Roussillon region, also known as the Pyrénées-Orientales region. The Garnet Institute, which created this exhibition, and the jewelers of the “Confrérie Le Grenat de Perpignan” have contributed to bringing together private and public collections.

Broche barrette ancienne en grenats de Perpignan et or 18k, XIXe siècle

Authentic antique Catalan jewelry can also be found for sale in specialized jewelry galleries. Maison Mohs offers some of them for sale, including a drapery necklace, a flower ring, and a barrette brooch. All of these jewelry pieces date back to the 19th century.

The value of new or pre-owned Perpignan garnet jewelry

Dormeuses ornées de brésils sur paillon, XXe siècle

Jewelry from the late 20th century is easier to find because there are still workshops manufacturing them. As the craftsmanship is protected, some jewelers continue to create garnet jewelry.

The Garnet Institute of Perpignan refers to various jewelers from the Roussillon region, such as Calvet Jewelers, Bonafos Jewelers, and more.

Maison Mohs offers for sale some pre-owned Catalan jewelry, including a pair of sleeper earrings and a bracelet made of Brazilian stones (topazes/citrines from Brazil).

Bracelet du Roussillon serti de “brésils” sur de l’or 18 karats

You may also find our article “Where to buy antique jewelry in Paris?” interesting

Our category “Antique Rings” may also be of interest to you.