Magic of the past

Antique archaeological style gold necklace, circa 1875

A large, warmly glowing pendant is attached to a strong chain of woven gold. A woman dressed in long robes is depicted here, like a statue, on a golden plaque. Long pendants frame her portrait on the right and left, and a large glowing sphere of gold completes the design at the bottom. Further spheres divide the chain, creating a connection between the chain and the pendant. This necklace speaks the language of the so-called archaeological style of the late 19th century. In Italy, numerous pieces of jewellery were created in those years, which were related to the art of the Romans and the Etruscans. The still young nation was looking for lines of tradition and the civilizations of antiquity provided possibilities for identification. The woman depicted in elegant engravings may represent an Etruscan woman. On the surviving testimonies of this ancient culture, which lived in today's regions of Tuscany, Umbria and Latium, the women are usually depicted with headscarves and robes very similar to the ones here. Famous, for example, is the "Sarcofago degli Sposi", the sarcophagus of the couple from the 6th century BC, which is now kept in the Museo Nazionale di Villa Giulia - a museum that also houses the extensive estate of the Roman goldsmith dynasty of the Castellani, which was influential in the archaeological style.

Until the beginning of the 19th century, the forms of truly ancient jewellery were still unknown. Neither in the Renaissance nor in Classicism had excavations produced genuine jewellery of the ancients. The designs of these epochs had merely been approximations to an ideal that had to be derived from other contexts such as architecture. This changed abruptly with the discovery of genuine Etruscan jewelry beginning in the 1820s in Italy. Princess Alexandrine of Canino, for example, was known to enjoy wearing some original Etruscan jewelry found at her country estate near Rome, to the envy of her friends. But the number of pieces, which were all chance finds, remained small and only a fraction of the ladies could still own original, millennia-old Etruscan jewellery. Therefore, the goldsmiths of those years soon began to produce pieces of jewellery according to ancient forms that were now finally known. Especially Pio Castellani from Rome and his sons excelled in this field and designed jewellery which became a well-known trademark and a true fashion all over Europe from the middle of the century on. In Germany and Austria, corresponding pieces were created from the mid-1860s onwards. On the Castellani jewellery, see in detail Susan Weber Soros/Stefani Walker (eds.): Castallani and Italian Archaeological Jewelry, New Haven/London 2004.

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We want you to be 100% satisfied! That’s why we examine, describe and photograph all our jewellery with the utmost care.

If for any reason you are still not satisfied, contact us and we will find a mutual solution immediately. Regardless, you can return any item within 30 days and we will refund you the full purchase price.