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Rare American Gypsy Jewelry - Cuff Bracelet

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The Roma or Gypsies were in the Americas along with the very earliest settlers and have retained their traditions for a millennium. There are written records of the Portuguese moving Gypsies into South America and legends of them doing the same at what is now Port Royal, South Carolina, long before the English came.

Traditionally living a nomadic existence, most of the Roma converted their cash and holdings into gold jewelry, gold coins and gems which could be easily transported wherever they went. Additionally it was believed that the wearing gold jewelry acted as a protection against disease.

It is a delight to be able to offer a rare example of American Gypsy jewelry in the form of a cuff bracelet. The Three Graces uses the word rare because when a Roma dies all of the personal possessions (including jewelry) are buried with that individual. The exception is that one and only one ring of a deceased mother is given to her eldest daughter. Additionally, it is a violation of Gypsy principles to sell the possessions of the deceased; although recently it was stated that with financial hardship it is permitted to sell jewelry but only to non-Roma.

Visually striking in 14k rose gold, a scalloped border accentuates the form of this bracelet. Hand-engraved design elements of zig-zags, cross hatching and floral patterns adorn the surface. Framed with an applied engraved “good luck” horseshoe as a backdrop, the cuff is defined by a plaque featuring a centralized three-dimensional profile of a woman wearing a tiara and facing right. Around her neck is an engraved necklace punctuated by a faceted synthetic ruby in a closed back bezel set mount. Four applications of three-dimensional flowers highlight and dramatize the artistry of the bracelet.

Measures 1-3/4 inches (4.5 cm) at the widest. The inner circumference measures 6-3/4 inches (17.1 cm) and will fit almost any wrist. It weighs in at a substantial 54.7 grams. Hallmarked on the inside surface with 14k and “P14KP”. Good to excellent condition; light wear overall as commensurate with age and use; a tad amount of bending of the cuff. Dates to early 20th century and is American in origin. Exceptionally rare find.

Historical notes: The word ‘Gypsy’ is simply a shortened form of the word “Egyptian” because non-Roma believed that is where this group originated. Ancestors of Romani originated in India over 1,000 years ago, migrating west to Europe around the Middle Ages. The Rom arrived in the United States from Serbia, Russia and Austria-Hungary beginning in the 1880's, part of the larger wave of immigration from southern and eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

One area in which Roma have traditionally excelled is that of metalwork. They have been known as metalworkers from the beginning of their history. The art of the forge is an ancient one and the Roma seem to have originally learned this art while in India. and have been skilled at plating objects with tin or embossing and engraving jewelry. In Hungary and Romania, they have been gold washers, collecting gold deposits from river bottoms. The Roma have been experts in all forms of metalwork, whether as tinsmiths, coppersmiths or silversmiths. Today, the traditional art of metalworking has been transferred to jewelry design, metal container repair, automobile body repair, and welding.

Note: For an informative article on American Gypsy jewelry consult the Antiques Roadshow website and search for "Gypsy".

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