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tiara / parure / necklace / ear-ring / brooch / bracelet

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    2003,1201.1.a-g

  • Description

    Set or parure of carved conch shell jewellery, comprising tiara (a), bracelet (b), necklace (c), brooch (d) and earrings (e-f), in the original dark red leather case (g) with blue silk lining to the lid and blue velvet for the base. Carved with marine motifs incorporating sea-horses, dolphins, mermaids and scallop shells. The larger elements are riveted to a gold wire frame, from which the smaller elements are suspended.

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  • Date

    • 1850-1870
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Length: 348 millimetres (case)
    • Width: 260 millimetres (case)
    • Weight: 1354 grammes (case)
  • Curator's comments

    Technically, this is a tour de force: each piece in this set is made up of multiple elements, cut from thin sections to achieve an almost translucent effect and then riveted to a gold framework, invisible from the front. Much of the work is undercut or hollowed out with remarkable delicacy. The giant, or Queen, conch shell (Strombus gigas) was imported from the West Indies and occurs as distinct pink and white layers. Because the layers are relatively thin, and the strong colour occurs mainly on the lip of the shell, multiple pieces were often built up to create a high relief cameo effect. The parure is not marked, but there is no doubt that it was carved and mounted in Naples, the centre of the shell and coral carving industry. Shell work was widely exported to England. If not acquired on a visit to Italy, the parure may have been purchased from one of the importers of Neapolitan jewellery in London such as the Bond Street firm of Robert Phillips, who exhibited work from Naples at the London International Exhibition of 1862. The parure is included in a list of family heirlooms made by the vendor's father in 1952 as belonging to Marie Caroline Queen of Naples ( ie. early 19th century, so this cannot be correct).
    See article in BM Magazine, June 2004.

    A very similar parure is owned by Sheffield museums, but with no provenance.
    See also C. Gere & J. Rudoe, 'Jewellery in the Age of Queen Victoria: A Mirror to the World', London, British Museum, 2010, fig. 201, p.243.

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  • Location

    On display: G47/dc8

  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited:
    2012 Mar-Jul, Abu Dhabi, Manarat Al Saadiyat, Treasures of the World’s Cultures

  • Condition

    Perfect

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    2003

  • Acquisition notes

    According to the vendor the set has been in his family since the 19th century.

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number

    2003,1201.1.a-g

Set or parure of carved coral jewellery, comprising tiaira (a), bracelet (b), necklace (c), brooch (d) and earrings (e-f), in the poriginal dark red leather case with blue silk lining to the lid and blue velvet for the base.

Set or parure of carved coral jewellery, comprising tiaira (a), bracelet (b), necklace (c), brooch (d) and earrings (e-f), in the poriginal dark red leather case with blue silk lining to the lid and blue velvet for the base.

Image description

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Object reference number: MCT21664

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