AC Silver

Objects of Vertu

We all have objects that we cherish. These could be items that stir up memories, an expensive piece, or simply something we’ve collected that isn’t necessarily worth much. But certain collectable objects that have a specific title attached to them- ‘objects de vertu’. The question is… what does this mean, and what are these objects de vertu?

Objects of Vertu Definition

The term ‘Object de vertu’ derives from the French, objet and de, with the variant form of virtu, meaning virtuosity. It refers to an object of particular interest due to its history or workmanship. The word ‘vertu’ is intended to suggest rich materials and a higher standard of refined fracture and finish.

The term covers a wide range of exquisite pieces made from the 17th century to the 19th century. It is said the golden period was from about 1730 to 1830. This was a time when craftsmanship was highly prized. The skills involved in the craftsmanship coincided with the development of materials of great decorative potential, for example lacquer, porcelain, glass and enamel. It also happened to coincide with the rise of the merchant class, which, on the whole, seemed to appreciate small, pretty objects.

Objects de vertu, or objects of vertu are not worn on the person. Jewellery pieces therefore, would not fall into this category. Objects of vertu can include cigarette cases, golden lighters, minaudière, and other luxury items made from precious metals, and/ or gemstones. Although the items can be of a practical nature, often they were made to be purely decorative. Today, they are mainly collectors’ pieces, placed on a shelf for people to observe in admiration

Scottish silver inkwell

When we think of objects de vertu, we might think of objects characteristic of court art. An example which instantly springs to mind is the famous selection of Fabergé eggs, crafted by Peter Carl Fabergé. These eggs are made out of precious metals and gemstones, rather than day-to-day materials. If you’re not familiar with Fabergé eggs, please do have a quick google…they are well worth it, for the beauty alone!

Objects due Curiosité

A similar term that crops up is objects de curiosité or objects of curiosity. This is a term that often appeared in 18th and 19th century French sale catalogues. Objects of curiosity are usually silver items that incorporate organic elements such as nuts, coconuts, sea shell and ostrich eggs.

Here at AC Silver we have many objects that would fall under the term object de vertu…

We’d be intrigued to find out more about your own personal objects de vertu, so please do share in the comments below!

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