Messengers of Love from Rome

Large micromosaic necklace with medallion, Skinner & Co, London circa 1870

A special and rare luck for us antique jewellery dealers but also collectors is when the original box in which a piece was once sold has been preserved. As in the case of this necklace from the jewellery dealer Skinner & Co. from Old Bond Street in London. The necklace is crafted from 15-karat gold and presents a total of 12 round micromosaics on two knitted chains. At its centre is a large pendant in typical Victorian shapes. The mosaics each show a dove, while on the central pendant three doves fly around a flowering branch. Turtle doves, also known as lovebirds in Victorian England, were considered messengers of love and were often given as gifts of love in jewellery form. They were a pledge of adoring love and were supposed to assure the recipient of the everlasting affection of the giver, at the same time they were a promise of commitment. Besides this meaning, the dove was also an ancient Christian symbol. Especially in the years around 1870, the early Christian heritage of the city of Rome, where the mosaics were also created, experienced a renewed public interest. As a typical souvenir of a Grand Tour, mosaics like these were brought to England and only captured there. In the back of the central pendant, a compartment allows you to keep a picture or a lock of hair under glass. Excellently crafted and of unusually high quality, this necklace is a beautiful piece of jewellery that exemplifies the spirit of the Victorian age.

The origin of the art of micromosaic lies in Rome. Here, more precisely in the Vatican, a workshop for mosaics made of glass blocks existed since the 16th century. Initially, this was done to protect the altarpieces in St. Peter's Basilica in a permanent form against the candle soot, moisture and dirt that the many pilgrims brought into the church. Later, after this task was completed, further copies of paintings were made as well as landscape representations in painting size. The idea of using this ultimately antique technique also for jewellery and for the decoration of craft objects arose at the end of the 18th century. As part of the Grand Tour, countless travellers from northern Europe arrived in the city, creating a great demand for souvenirs. Not least to serve this market, a whole new art form emerged: micromosaics are small and portable, and were therefore particularly suited to being taken back home to the north. Since they also usually show the beauties of Rome or motifs from antiquity, their success as travel souvenirs is hardly surprising. The "invention" of the micromosaic is associated above all with Giacomo Raffaelli and Cesare Aguatti, who perfected this technique around 1775. They founded a tradition from which, until the end of the 19th century, mosaics were created with such a richness of detail and artistry that had never been achieved before or since. For even today, corresponding mosaics are produced in Rome, albeit in significantly lower quality. Cf. on the technique and history of micromosaics the relevant literature: Maria Grazia Branchetti: Mosaici minuti romani, Rome 2004, with many works by Giacomo Raffaelli, as well as Roberto Grieco/Arianna Gambino: Roman Mosaic. L'arte del micromosaico fra '700 e '800, Milan 2001.

We want you to be 100% satisfied! For that reason, we examine, describe and photograph all of our jewellery with the utmost care.

You can rely on our years of experience in the trade and our expertise as a professional art historians for reviews of the antique jewellery. As a member of various trader organisations and the British Society of Jewellery Historians, we remain committed to the highest possible degree of accuracy. In our descriptions, we always also indicate any signs of age and defects and never hide them in our photos – this saves you from any unpleasant surprises when your package arrives.

Should you for some reason not be satisfied, please don’t hesitate to contact us so that we can begin to find a solution together. In any case, you can return any article within 30 days and we will refund the full purchase price.


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.