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Victorian micromosaic pendant with compartment in the back

This square-shaped 18K yellow gold Victorian pendant from 1860 depicts a mosaic butterfly with wings of blue, green and yellow to red glass inlay work on a white background. While the corners of the square have gold oval ornaments with granules, the borders consist of an alignment of white flowers surrounded with blue, red and white triangular smalti filati pieces crafted from a stretched glass thread. With similar mosaic patterns in the two dangling pears and the central swinging circle topping a lozenge, this jewel suspending from a filigree surmount couldn't be a more innocent disguise for the safeguarding of your secrets in its hidden compartment on the back.

Antique jewelry object group: pendant

Condition: excellent condition
  -  (more info on our condition scale)

Country of origin: Although it does not carry any legible control marks we believe this to be of French or Italian origin.

Style: Victorian - Victorian decorative arts refers to the style of decorative arts during the Victorian era. The Victorian era is known for its eclectic revival and interpretation of historic styles and the introduction of cross-cultural influences from the middle east and Asia in furniture, fittings, and Interior decoration. Victorian design is widely viewed as having indulged in a regrettable excess of ornament. The Arts and Crafts movement, the aesthetic movement, Anglo-Japanese style, and Art Nouveau style have their beginnings in the late Victorian era.
  -  See also: Victorian or more info on styles

Style specifics: The Grand Victorian Period - Experts divide the reign of Queen Victoria, also called The Victorian era (1837-1901) into three periods of about twenty years each; The Romantic Victorian Period (1837 - 1860), The Grand Victorian Period (1860 - 1880), and the Late or Aesthetic Victorian Period (1880 – 1901).

We consider this to be of the Grand Victorian Period.

This second Victorian period is famous for its ostentatious pieces set with pearls and diamonds (from South Africa). From ca. 1850 wealthy English had reported about jewelry from India and Japan, which heavily inspired the jewelers of this period. This period also corresponds with the death of Queen Victoria's husband King Albert making mourning jewelry (set with heavy dark stones) the type of jewelry specific for this period.

Period: ca. 1860
  -  (events and facts in 1860)

Source of inspiration: Mother Nature

Theme: butterfly

Material: 18K yellow gold
  -  (more info on precious metals)

Technique: This jewel features a filigree decoration, which is in fact thin gold wire twisted into refined motifs, in this case elegant little balls. You can also notice the use of granulation on this piece. Granulation is a technique where the goldsmith uses very small balls (granules) of metal, which are not soldered to the piece but welded. Both techniques demand very high skills and precision from the maker.

A decorative object or architectural element made from relatively uniformly sized pieces of hard substances fitted together and embedded in a matrix of some adhesive or bonding substance that eventually hardens to hold the pieces in place. The word derives from the Greek word for the Muses, implying it is a form of artistic expression.
SMALTI FILATI: Filati means “thread” in Italian. Smalti filati literally means thread tesserae. The opaque enamel is heated and pulled out to make long thin strands shaped similar to spaghetti or linguini. These are then broken into shorter pieces called tesserae. These originated about mid 18th century at the Vatican Mosaic Workshops.
Smalti - Flat rectilinear tesserae made by pouring molten opaque colored enamel onto a steel slab, allowing it to cool, and then cutting it into small flat or cubed pieces called tesserae. The smalti are composed of silica, an alkaline substance such as soda or potash, lead, metal oxide coloring agents, and tin oxide for opacity. Opaque tesserae were desirable to avoid a shiny reflective surface when using mosaics as copies of paintings in St. Peter’s Basilica. Smalti means “enamels”(smalto means enamel) in Italian, but used in English as a singular term, enamel. We say micromosaics are made of enamel, not “enamels.”
Support - The supportive backing for the mosaic, its material depending on the size of the art work. In small pieces such as jewelry, the backing was made of a metal such as a copper tray with a rim, or of glass, goldstone, or small plaques of marble, which were hollowed out to the proper depth to hold the mosaic. For larger scale pictures, the weight necessitated use of slate or marble, similarly hollowed out, or iron surrounded by a rim.

Extra information: Butterflies - According to the "Butterflies" chapter in Kwaidan (a book by Lafcadio Hearn that features several Japanese ghost stories and a brief study on insects) a butterfly is seen as the personification of a person's soul; whether they be living, dying, or already dead. One Japanese superstition says that if a butterfly enters your guestroom and perches behind the bamboo screen, the person whom you most love is coming to see you.
The Russian word for "butterfly" (bábochka) also means "bow tie". It is a diminutive of "baba" or "babka" (= "woman, grandmother, cake", whence also "babushka" = "grandmother".
The Ancient Greek word for "butterfly" is psyche, which primarily means "soul" or "mind".
In Chinese culture two butterflies flying together are a symbol of love. Also a famous Chinese folk story called Butterfly Lovers. The Taoist philosopher Zhuangzi once had a dream of being a butterfly flying without care about humanity, however when he woke up and realised it was just a dream, he thought to himself "Was I before a man who dreamt about being a butterfly, or am I now a butterfly who dreams about being a man?"
In some old cultures, butterflies also symbolize rebirth into a new life after being inside a cocoon for a period of time.
The idiom "butterflies in the stomach" is used to describe a state of nervousness and some people say that when a butterfly lands on you it means good luck.

Hallmarks: Illegible remains.
  -  (more info on hallmarks)

Dimensions: height 6.25 cm (2.46 inch)

Weight: 8.90 gram (5.72 dwt)

Reference Nº: 11209-0017

Copyright photography: Adin, fine antique jewelry

See also our:
jewelry with insects, micro mosaic & pietra dura jewelry, jewelry with filigree & granules, yellow gold jewelry, latest acquisitions,
antique jewelry, estate jewelry, vintage jewelry or modern jewelry

Jewelry with birthstones (or month stones) for:
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August - September - October - November or December.

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What is antique jewelry? - What is estate jewelry? - What is vintage jewelry?

Victorian micromosaic pendant with compartment in the back
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