A summer, unforgotten

Large antique shell cameo with locket in gold, around 1870

History does not repeat itself - but there are nevertheless some commonalities that connect us with previous generations and that still exist today: One of these traditions is to bring home souvenirs from the trip to remind loved ones of the adventures and experiences, the places visited, and to keep one's own memory alive. The present brooch, a large leockte medallion with a finely worked shell cameo on the front, was created on such an occasion, in Italy, in the years around 1870. We see a dignified gentleman in profile, whose clothing and carefully coiffed hair attest to his at least middle-class status. The portrait was probably painted in the Bay of Naples, which was an obligatory stop on every educational trip through Italy. In the region at the foot of Mount Vesuvius, specialised artists produced portraits of travellers and carved them into shells. As souvenirs, these representations were given to loved ones back home. The cameo is set in gold in the taste of the 1860s to 1870s. For dating, see the pieces illustrated in David Bennet and Daniela Mascetti: Understanding Jewellery, Woodbridge 2010, pp. 168-175. Fine twisted cords are laid on the wide frame, forming ornaments from the realm of plants. On the reverse the brooch is designed as a large medallion. An elaborate ornament of hair is inlaid under a glass pane. Presumably this is the hair of the gentleman depicted, who wanted to be close to the wearer of the brooch in picture and hair. Even though his name has not been preserved: The memory of him and an unforgettable summer in Italy retains this wonderfully preserved brooch to this day.

For centuries, the possession of cameos and gems was the claim of almost all great collections of decorative arts and chambers of curiosities, from the Green Vault in Dresden and the treasury of Rudolf II to large private collections such as that of Baron von Stosch in later times. The 18th and 19th centuries produced numerous large imprint collections of antique seal stones and gems, which were able to represent the antique imagery of glyptic almost in its entirety, as they were also an expression of a humanistic education. However, the art of gem-cutting has survived to this day in Italy, especially in the Bay of Naples, where it has been handed down from generation to generation. Today the Scuola dei Cammei in Torre del Greco is the only large-scale training centre for gem-cutters in Italy. Of particular importance for the transmission of stone and shell carving north of the Alps have always been travellers to Italy, who brought home impressions and cut stones as well as engraved shells from their educational journeys to enjoy.

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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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