A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across an unusual antique scrimshaw pie crimper that was carved in the shape of one of my favorite mythological creatures: a hippocamp. Half horse and half fish or sea-serpent, the hippocamp (or hippocampus) appears in Greek, Phoenician and Etruscan mythology, and Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, is often shown driving a chariot pulled by hippocampi. The gestural horsey/ fishy characteristics essential to the hippocamp are nearly impossible for an artist to resist, and they’ve been depicted in various forms—coins, mosaics, painting, sculpture—for centuries. You can scroll back through my Twitter feed for some examples, but definitely don’t [...]
Masquerade balls have a long, colorful history. They’re believed to have originated in the Carnival traditions of medieval Italy (Venice in particular), but the custom soon spread to other Catholic countries and eventually reached England and America in the 18th century. One of the most famous, the Bal des Ardents, or “Ball of the Burning Men,” was held in in Paris in 1393 by the then Queen of France, Isabeau of Bavaria. Six members of the nobility, including her husband King Charles VI, performed a dance while in costume as “savage men.” Unfortunately, their shaggy costumes were wildly flammable, and when the king’s drunken brother leaned a torch over [...]
Circa 1860, this beautiful gold fringe necklace is by Castellani. Using woven chain as a support structure, it features a fringe of tiny flowers and amphorae, with little lapis- and turquoise-colored details in enamel. It was inspired by the Hellenistic “Melos" necklace (c. 330-300 BC) that now resides in the British Museum. Alessandro Castellani (who I told you about in one of my very first columns) actually restored the Melos necklace in the 1860s or 1870s, and the museum bought it from him in 1872.
This 18k yellow gold “Scorpion” necklace, ca. 1978, was created by Italian designer Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co. The necklace, which is formed of interlocking segments, has a detachable tail, so that just the scorpion claws can be worn as a collar. It’s an iconic piece, and typical of the stripped-down, organic style of the designer. Peretti actually drew her inspiration for this piece from the scorpions living near her home in Catalonia, Spain, and the British Museum, which owns one of these necklaces in sterling silver, quotes her as saying “While working in Sant Martí Vell, I came across a lot of scorpions. The animals [...]
Collectors Weekly: Was some supposedly romantic or “sentimental” jewelry more about asserting control?
McLaughlin: Lover’s eye jewelry, which literally features a miniature painting of the eye of one’s lover, is generally interpreted as an outward display of love, but I’ve also read that it could be seen as said lover never letting the wearer out of his (or her) sight. There are so many possible interpretations, though…. Some eye jewelry features pearl tears, which suggests mourning, while other pieces surround the eye miniature with gemstones that may have been chosen for the symbolism attached to them. A frame of coral, traditionally a stone meant to ward off the evil eye, [...]
Next week, London jewelers Symbolic & Chase will be showcasing an historic pearl at the Masterpiece London art and antiques fair.
The pearl, which they believe was owned by Mary Tudor (daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon and Queen of England from 1553-1558), was put up for auction at Christie’s in 2004 by an anonymous family and bought by Symbolic & Chase for $282,090. Since then, the company has determined that this is the pearl depicted in various royal portraits of Mary Tudor, and not the famous “La Peregrina” pearl, which is probably best known for having been bought by Richard Burton as a [...]
This stunning choker features a central peacock-feather-inspired plaque of gold, enamel and rose-cut diamonds, supported by fourteen strands of pearls. It’s a close relative of this equally stunning piece in the Smithsonian, and was created by the one of the oldest jewelry houses in the world.
Mellerio dits Meller are currently into their fourteenth (!!!) generation as jewelers. Established in Paris in 1613, they moved to their current location on the rue de la Paix in 1815, and opened a branch in Madrid in 1850. They got their start when Jean-Marie Mellerio — a chimney sweep with good hearing — helped warn Marie de’ Medici of a [...]
It’s the most visually exhausting time of the year: auction season. These sales are so big and varied that it’s impossible to choose just one item to gape at, so I’ll show you a couple of pieces from each (and link to a bunch more). First up, we have the December 8th Jewelry, Watches, Objet de Vertu, Gemstones auction at Rago Arts and Auction Center in Lambertville, N.J. While there’s a pretty serious Tiffany & Co. emerald and diamond necklace leading the estimates, I’m way more taken with these little gold octopus earrings. Each one cradles a bronzey-gray Tahitian pearl in its little tentacles. [...]
This little spider is American, circa 1900. He’s made of gold and platinum, with diamond-accented legs, demantoid garnet eyes, and a body consisting of water opal (colorless, with an internal bluish or gold glow) and fire opal (variations of bright orange, yellow or red).
Spider cufflinks! Tiny, unnervingly realistic spiders of white gold and black star sapphire rest on beds of mother-of-pearl, set in 14k yellow gold.
This gold ring belonged to Sarah Elmira Royster Sheldon, the childhood sweetheart of Edgar Allan Poe. Although they were secretly engaged as teenagers, Sarah’s father cut their relationship short, objecting to their youth and Poe’s hardscrabble background. Both Sarah and Edgar married others, but the two met again 23 years later. They soon rekindled their relationship (both of their spouses had passed away by that point), and the pair became engaged sometime around September 1849. Edgar gave Sarah this ring (inscribed “Edgar”), but a wedding never took place, as he died mysteriously on October 7, 1849.
After Poe’s death, Sarah gave the ring to Edgar’s sister Rosalie. It has passed [...]