With doggy eyes

Fabulous gold pin with Essex Crystal of a Border Terrier, England circa 1890

The English are sometimes prone to idiosyncrasies that usually make them seem endearing in the eyes of mainland Europeans. Some things are developed into true passions: for example, there is hardly a people who so excessively plant gardens, lay carpeting in bathrooms or love funny-looking dogs. A very special beloved little fellow of English origin we see here before us on a pin of the 1890s. At its tip, a so-called "Essex Crystal" captures the viewer's gaze. The depiction is cut into a rock crystal from behind in the manner of an intaglio and is then painted. We see in the circular cabochon the head of a small Border Terrier with hanging ears. The dog with grey mottled fur looks at us with a wonderful doggy look, somewhat grim and skeptically endearing. It can be assumed that a somewhat eccentric lady or gentleman had his darling portrayed in this rare medium so that he could always be carried close to him! The master craftsman has succeeded in capturing the physiognomy and the attentive character of the animal. The depiction is also backed with a gold plate to further enhance the three-dimensional effect of the three-dimensional cuts. Precise details of the fur can be seen and the deep cut even reveals a real shadow play of the figure in the crystal. The Essex crystal is set in high karat gold, the design language of the setting and its details allow us to date the piece to the 1890s. The pin is perfectly crafted and has survived the passage of time superbly in its original box.

The exact origins of the Essex Crystal are unknown; however, corresponding pieces of jewellery can be observed for the first time since the middle of the 19th century in England. Preference was given to the depiction of dogs, cats, horses and hunting motifs. The craftsmanship required to achieve the lifelike realism of the images was enormous. The small portrait miniatures were created using a series of techniques and steps. First, a clear rock crystal or piece of glass is cut into a cabochon, with a domed front and a flat back. Then the motif is cut into the back as a negative shape or intaglio to achieve the desired three-dimensional tromp l'loeil effect. The resulting image is now painstakingly hand-painted, reproducing even the smallest details with admirable fidelity to nature. Finally, the depiction is provided with a thin background, e.g. of mother-of-pearl, and the crystal is then set into a piece of jewellery.

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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.

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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.

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