Friday, July 01, 2005


As I've mentioned before, one of the connections I keep an eye on to see what's going on in the modern world of rosaries is eBay. I've found it particularly interesting to check the German eBay every couple of weeks, since what's available for sale there tends to be different from what we see on the U.S. eBay site.

It's rather later than the time period I'm generally interested in, but for those whose interests are in the 18th and 19th centuries, there's a small but steady stream of silver filigree rosaries on the market which are sometimes referred to as the "Biedermeyer" style.

Biedermeyer rosary

The Biedermeyer period is roughly 1815-1848 (although loosely as late as 1870) and describes an artistic style popular especially in Germany and Austria after the defeat of Napoleon.

While it's described as "essentially Empire [style] shorn of its ormolu mounts, excessive gilding and aggressive self-importance," it doesn't necessarily look very "plain" to us today. These rosaries tend to be rather ornate by modern standards.

Red detail

These rosaries are strung on cord (rather than chain linked) and are characterized by silver filigree beads -- sometimes all the beads, sometimes just the marker beads. They usually have two filigree crosses, one equal-armed "credo cross" and a terminal cross. The terminal cross is usually set with a painted porcelain crucifix, with varying designs on the reverse side.


The filigree can vary quite a bit in quality. Some of it is intricate and well crafted, but more often it looks machine-made, composed of stamped-out pierced metal pieces rather than actually made from silver wire.

Filigree credo

You'll also see detached bits and pieces of these rosaries for sale separately, especially the crosses. After you've seen a few whole rosaries, the pieces are readily recognizable. Unfortunately they look to me as though they'd be difficult to clean and polish with all the silver detailing, which has usually become tarnished.

Complete rosaries in this style tend to sell for around $100 and up -- and a good one can easily run twice that.