Iron Cross thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Jewellery, Rooms 91, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery

Iron Cross

1813 (designed)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Cast-iron jewellery was an inexpensive but fashionable novelty for consumers in Europe and America from around 1800 to 1860. Developed in Germany in 1806–7 and often worn during mourning, it became the symbol of Prussian patriotism and resistance to Napoleon I. Women donated gold jewellery to their country in exchange for iron inscribed ‘I gave gold for iron’.

Early Berlin ironwork was Neo-classical in style using motifs such as acanthus, palmettes and cameos. After 1815 designs were inspired by Gothic art and architecture and by nature. The jewellery quickly gained an international profile. Demand peaked in the 1830s, when Berlin alone had 27 foundries and manufacture spread to France and Austria.

Karl Friedrich Schinkel, the designer of this piece, had an enormous influence on the success of cast-iron jewellery in Prussia. This iron cross was meant to evoke the insignia of a medieval German order. It could be awarded to anyone who distinguished themselves in battle, regardless of social status. This was a revolutionary approach to the award of honours and was consistent with the hope for a more egalitarian regime under Frederick William III (1770–1840).


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Cast iron
Brief Description
Cast iron, Berlin, ca.1813, the original designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel.
Physical Description
Iron Cross, with a medallion head of Frederick William III of Prussia on the obverse. The reverse inscribed 'Unvergeslich 1813' (unforgettable). Voided Maltese cross with oval medaalion on the intersection of the limbs.
Dimensions
  • Height: 3.5cm
  • Width: 3.1cm
  • Depth: 0.2cm
Marks and Inscriptions
'Unvergeslich 1813' (Inscribed on the reverse)
Credit line
Given by Mr A. Woodhouse
Object history
The original Iron Cross was designed by K.F. Schinkel, 1813; this one is a variant, perhaps worn by loyal female supporters of the Prussian War of Liberation.
Subjects depicted
Summary
Cast-iron jewellery was an inexpensive but fashionable novelty for consumers in Europe and America from around 1800 to 1860. Developed in Germany in 1806–7 and often worn during mourning, it became the symbol of Prussian patriotism and resistance to Napoleon I. Women donated gold jewellery to their country in exchange for iron inscribed ‘I gave gold for iron’.



Early Berlin ironwork was Neo-classical in style using motifs such as acanthus, palmettes and cameos. After 1815 designs were inspired by Gothic art and architecture and by nature. The jewellery quickly gained an international profile. Demand peaked in the 1830s, when Berlin alone had 27 foundries and manufacture spread to France and Austria.



Karl Friedrich Schinkel, the designer of this piece, had an enormous influence on the success of cast-iron jewellery in Prussia. This iron cross was meant to evoke the insignia of a medieval German order. It could be awarded to anyone who distinguished themselves in battle, regardless of social status. This was a revolutionary approach to the award of honours and was consistent with the hope for a more egalitarian regime under Frederick William III (1770–1840).
Collection
Accession Number
M.278-1928

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record createdAugust 9, 2005
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