Greetings from Etruria

Gilt medallion pendant with porcelain painting, around 1870

The technical and scientific development of Europe in the 19th century had made historical science the leading discipline of the time. New excavations in Italy opened up hitherto unknown epochs of European history, and especially the early period of cultures experienced a hitherto unknown interest. In Italy, the Etruscans in particular were rediscovered and their arts and crafts became known beyond the country's borders. Beyond the narrow confines of the university, the citizens of the European states also became enthusiastic about the new discoveries and sought to own jewellery, furniture and custhandic crafts in these exciting new forms. In Rome, the Castellani firm became particularly famous in this context: Fortunato Pio Castellani and his sons explored the Etruscans and were soon offering first-class jewellery for the crowned heads of the continent, adopting the formal language of these early inhabitants of the Italic peninsula. But in Germany, too, their work, which quickly became known under the term "archaeological style", was received with interest and fused with the forms of their own history. The medallion here is designed in this style. Typical ornaments of this style are applied twisted wires and round, set spheres, so-called granulation. Here the large frame is used to present a porcelain painting. It shows a lady in rural costume. It could be an inhabitant of the Campagna, from the countryside surrounding Rome, to which the travellers of the 19th century liked to make excursions (Tischbein's painting "Goethe in the Campagna", today in the Städel in Frankfurt / Main, is famous). On the back, the piece of jewellery made of gold-plated tombac offers the possibility of inserting a personal souvenir, a small letter, a lock of hair, for example, which reminds the wearer of the giver. The piece thus becomes a double souvenir: of a stay in Rome some 150 years ago and your own personal attachment. Cf. with similar designs Brigitte Marquardt. Jewellery. Realism and Historicism. 1850-1895. Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Munich 1998, p. 237f.

A rather forgotten chapter in the history of jewellery today are the many substitute materials that were used over the centuries for expensive precious metals or precious stones. Already in the past there was a great demand for costume jewellery, with which the noble materials could often be deceptively imitated. For not every lady could afford real jewellery, or sometimes even wanted to, in order to be able to follow the rapidly changing fashions. The names of these inventions are legion, perhaps you have heard of Tombak or Alpacca, German silver or Argentan? In the 19th century, gold was often replaced by brass, alloys of copper and zinc. The London watchmaker Christopher Pinchbeck (ca. 1670 - November 18, 1732) invented a special alloy named after him, whose color was particularly close to gold and from then on became especially popular in England. In Germany, a similar material is known under the name "Tombak".

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.