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Flower in Hand: Victorian Enamel & Gold Earrings

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One of the more popular motifs of the Victorian era was a representation of the hand of a lady. Brooches of vulcanite, pressed horn, mother-of-pearl, ivory and jet, among other materials, often depicted this symbol by itself or else holding an object and/or flowers. Less frequently encountered are pendants and earrings.

Here we have a pair of 18k yellow gold earrings in the form of a hand cum cuff. All finely detailed with basse-taille enameling, the surface is textured. The hand is rendered gently clasping between thumb and finger a dangle of a leaf and “flower” motif—the “flower” being a natural baroque pearl. Later date ear wires of 18k yellow gold have been added.

For a pair of earrings with a similar theme, please see page 92 of “Victorian Jewellery” by Margaret Flower.

+ Measurements, Condition & More

Condition: Very good; later gold ear wires.

Measurements: 1-5/8 inches (3.2 cm) in length including ear wire and 1-1/4 inches (3.2 cm) without by 3/8 inches (1 cm) at the widest. This pair of antique earrings has a weight of 7 grams (4.5 dwt).

Date & Origin: Circa 1860 – 1870 and is mostly English in origin.

Note: Basse-taille enameling is a technique that was developed in Italy between the 11th and 13th century. It became especially popular in Europe during the Gothic and Renaissance periods as well as throughout the later Victorian revival period. A metal surface, usually of gold or silver, is carved, chased or engraved in low relief and then covered with transparent enamels. This gives wonderful variations in depths of color in the enamel and allows the metal base to show through and create a marvelous interplay of shadow and light. American-made jewelry ornamented with this technique almost always uses opaque black in place of transparent enamel.

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