Present and past

Spectacular gold necklace in archaeological style with carnelian scarabs, 1870s

Guardian of life, symbolic animal of the sun, embodiment of the sun god: The ancient Egyptians had an almost boundless veneration for the scarab. This went so far that almost every Egyptian wore a small scarab made of stone or clay around his neck as a lucky amulet. This necklace brings this ancient belief into the present in spectacular form. The intricately detailed handcrafted piece made of high-carat gold presents no less than 16 carnelian scarabs. The individual beetle sculptures are set in gold and stretched between two chains of golden spheres. Fine golden bars separate the beetles from one another, lending the design a rhythmic austerity. Countless small amphorae of gold, adorned with a golden flower, are attached to the necklace as additional decoration. On the clasp we see finely engraved spearmen on horseback. The view of the back of the work is also surprising. Each of the scarabs, probably created at the same time as the necklace, is also engraved on its reverse side and here shows fighters, athletes, heroes and animals in the style of Greco-Roman gems. In this way, the necklace protects its wearer in two ways. Until the beginning of the 19th century, the forms of truly antique jewellery were still unknown. Neither in the Renaissance nor in Classicism had excavations produced genuine jewellery from antiquity. The designs of these epochs were merely approximations of an ideal that had to be derived from other contexts, such as architecture or Pompeian mural painting. This changed abruptly with the discovery of genuine Etruscan jewellery in Italy from the 1820s onwards. Princess Alexandrine of Canino, for example, was known to enjoy wearing some original Etruscan jewellery found on 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. The necklace presented here is a work of the 1870s. Its design does not strictly follow a specific period of the past, but mixes elements of Egyptian art with references to Roman antiquity to form a coherent whole. His formal language and very high-quality workmanship make it seem certain that the unsigned necklace originated in the circle of the Castellani in Rome or their students such as Carlo Giuliano in London. In 1871, for example, Alessandro Castellani exhibited a parure of carnelian scarabs in gold settings at the International Exhibition in London, which referred to Etruscan models in the Campana collection; corresponding works are now kept in the Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia in Rome. On Archaeological Style jewellery, see David Bennet and Daniela Mascetti: Understanding Jewellery, Woodbridge 2010, pp. 134-145, and at length Charlotte Gere/Judy Rudoe: Jewellery in the Age of Queen Victoria, London 2010, pp. 376-436. On Castellani jewellery with scarabs, see Elizabeth Simpson: "A Perfect Imitation of the Ancient Work." Ancient Jewelry and Castellani Adaptations, in Susan Weber Soros/Stefani Walker (eds.): Castallani and Italian Archaeological Jewelry, New Haven/London 2004, pp. 200-226, and Susan Weber Soros: "Under the Great Canopies of Civilization." Castellani Jewelry and Metalwork at International Exhibitions in the same volume, pp. 228-283. On the supposedly ancient scarab colliers, especially Gertrud Platz-Horster/Hans-Ulrich Tietz: Etruscan Scarab Colliers. With an excursus on granulation among the Etruscans, in: Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen, 35 (1993), pp. 8-45.

In jewellery design, some motifs, styles and themes have such a lasting influence that jewellers and goldsmiths continue to revisit them centuries or even millennia later. This is particularly true of the revival of ancient Egyptian motifs in the so-called Egyptian Revival. Each epoch, each century rediscovered the Nile and the realm of the Pharaohs for itself. In antiquity, Rome was already adorned with obelisks and statues from Alexandria. Through Napoleon's campaign in 1798, art objects in unprecedented detail once again reached France and Europe. New research deciphered the hieroglyphs and the first scientific excavations began to uncover the secrets of the tombs of the pharaohs. In the middle of the 19th century, the enthusiasm for Egypt reached a new peak. The reason for the media interest was the construction of the Suez Canal by an Egyptian-French joint stock company. The new transport route - before it had even been opened in 1869 - quickly developed into a real political issue. The British Empire and the Empire of France were hostile to each other. Influence and power in Africa and Arabia were at stake. Egypt was on everyone's lips and was praised as a source of wealth, a place of exotic culture and seductive secrets. The last significant surge of influence came in the Art Deco era, when in 1922 the spectacular treasures from the tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamen thrilled the astonished world public. Jewels of every price range from those years tell of the enthusiasm for ancient Egypt, from simple glass necklaces with scarabs and depictions of mummies to diamond-cut hieroglyphs from the house of Cartier.

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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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