From Dusk till Dawn

Charming antique earrings with conch cameos in gold, around 1860

Cameos from the second half of the 19th century are in a class of their own and still inspire today with their often outstanding quality. In contrast to the stone carvings of earlier eras, which were often kept in cabinets and could only be viewed by a few, cameos were now intended to be worn visibly and admired. Above all, the finesse of the craftsmanship of the cut was appreciated and readily displayed. The pair of cameo earrings here, dating from around 1860, is a particularly fine example of this genre of jewellery. They present two oval cameos, each with two young ladies, in an elaborate gold-forged frame with leaves and acorns: One awake, the other asleep - both beautiful in dreams. They are allegories of day and night, the goddesses Eos and Nyx. Classical antiquity already knew these personifications of the dawn and the dark night. As a pair of opposites, they have always inspired artists and remained the subject of the visual arts. The two cameos are carved from conch shell. Conch is the name for the large fencer snail (Strombus Gigas), whose habitat is the crystal-clear, tropical sea areas of the Caribbean. The shells of the snails are characterized by a wonderful pale pink color and are particularly suitable for cutting high-quality gems. This unusual pair was created around 1860, just a few years after conch shells were first introduced to Europe and made into jewelry. They are thus an early example of this new, highly prized and precious material, which quickly became widespread, especially for gem jewellery, cf. also David Bennett/Daniela Mascetti: Understanding Jewellery, London 2010, p. 122 and p. 148f.

For centuries, the possession of antique cameos and gems was an aspiration of almost all great collections, 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 sealstones and gems, which were able to represent the antique imagery of glyptic almost in its entirety. Due to the great travels undertaken by young nobles and wealthy citizens during this period, the use of gems and cameos changed in the early 19th century and they were now increasingly used in 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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