A selection of interesting historical flowers of silver and gold

Find inspiration in the following selection of historical flowers made from precious metals.

Bunga Mas (14–20th century)

The Bunga emas dan perak (“golden and silver flowers”, Bunga Mas for short) were a special symbol of respect. The Malaysian sultans governing the northern states of the Malaysian Peninsula (Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu and Patani, etc.) would commission them every three years (along with other valuable objects) and send them to the king of Siam (modern Thailand). The pictured reproduction comes from the gallery of the National Museum in Kuala Lumpur (Muzium Negra).

The flower is 1.5 meters tall and was made from gold or gilded silver. Additional Bunga Mas can be found in Thailand.

Bunga Mas (Muzium Negara, Kuala Lumpur)
Photo: Wikipedia

Golden roses commissioned by the Catholic Church (11th century - present)

Every year, the catholic pope gifts golden roses to various public figures, states, churches, and military personnel as a blessing. Today, the papal rose tends to be awarded to places, rather than people. The rose is blessed on the fourth Sunday of the Lent, also known as the Rose Sunday).

The golden rose symbolises Christ’s resurrection, drawing from the Holy Bible. The tradition’s origins can’t be traced back to the exact date, but it was likely established in the 11th century under Pope Leo IV.

Golden rose by Giuseppe and Pietro Paolo Spagna in 1818/19 (Hofburg Imperial Palace, Vienna). Photo: Wikipedia

Edelsteinstrauss (18. century)

Although the Edelsteinstrauss (diamond bouquet) doesn’t consist of precious metals, rather silks, diamonds, and other minerals, it can hardly be omitted from this selection. The bouquet was commissioned by the Empress Maria Theresa (1717–1780) as a gift for her husband, the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I (1708–1765). Francis I had many hobbies, including geology and minerals, which is likely what gave his wife the idea to have the gift made. The bouquet is a fascinating collection of minerals.

It consists of 61 different flowers and 12 insect species, contains over 2000 diamonds and more than 700 gemstones (including emeralds, sapphires, rubies, topaz, spinels, amethysts, opals, and different kinds of agates and pearls). The leaves are made of silk. The bouquet is placed in a crystal vase, weighs 2.8 kg, is roughly 50 cm tall and 26cm wide.

It was finished in Vienna in 1760 and can be seen in the Natural History Museum in Vienna. Its beauty lies mostly in the endless supply of new details to admire.

Edelsteinstrauß (Natural History Museum, Vienna)
Photo: Wikipedia

Minoan golden flowers (2300–2100 BCE)

These golden objects—individual leaves, a floral pendant, and a hair slide forged to be the shape of a flower—come from 2300–2100 BCE. They were discovered by the U.S. archaeologist Richard Seagar on the island of Mochlos (Crete). The Minoan civilisation and later the ancient Greeks culture viewed flowers and leaves as symbols of new life and celebration (Shane Conolly, Anna Pavord: Flower: Exploring the World in Bloom). These forged golden flowers were found in the tombs of the settlement’s wealthy occupants. They’re a part of the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

A Minoan golden flower (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Photo: Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Flowers by Peter Carl Fabergé (1846–1920)

Although Fabergé, a supplier to the Russian tsarist court, made his name primarily by manufacturing enamelled Easter eggs, his flowers (created by applying methods common in enamelling, goldsmithing, forging, and the working of many different materials) deserve recognition as well.

At the height of its fame, the house of Fabergé employed over five hundred workers and some of the best designers, stonemasons, goldsmiths, and miniaturists of the time. Faberge’s work emphasised perfection and originality. It became especially popular among the Russian tsar family and aristocracy, known for its love of flowers.

Fabergé began making his hyper realistic enamelled flowers in the 1890s. During the process a design would be drafted, gemstones set, golden stems added, and finally everything would be assembled together. The flowers would then be placed in vases carved from a single piece of mountain crystal to create the illusion of water. Fabergé appreciated Chinese and Japanese flowers, but his true passion were meadow flowers. He used such materials as chalcedony, agate, aquamarine, jasper, nephrite, rhodonite, obsidian, rubies, sapphires, diamonds, and gold. The colours of the flowers are also quite remarkable.

According to available information, only ca 80 of the flowers and fruits Fabergé made have survived. They’re rarely sold. The most recent auction prices ranged in the hundreds of thousands GBP.

Peter Carl Fabergé–violets (enamel, silver gilding, nephrite, diamonds, crystal). Dimensions: 9.9 x 3.7 cm (3 7/8 x 1 7/16 in). Currently exhibited: Decorative Art and Design
Courtesy of Wikimedia