Micro Mosaic Floral Earrings
By the late 1800s small earrings had replaced the larger ones which were popular from 1865 to 1870. The disc became the preferred shape and the micro mosaic one of its motifs.
The Italian artists often catered to the preferences of the wealthy tourist and the subject matter was aimed at that market. Here is an example of a pair of earrings decorated with a micro mosaic assembled laboriously by hand. Tiny tesserae (tiles) have been cut and placed in a pattern depicting a bouquet of peonies.
As the Victorians were renowned to adorn every surface imaginable with flowers and floral symbolism, it is not surprising that the peony imagery was chosen, as it is associated with a happy marriage, compassion and bashfulness. Just the perfect souvenir for one’s mother, wife or fiancée. The peonies are of the double flowered variety with the vibrant colors of medium pink, red and blush. The lush foliage is rendered in shades of deep green and tied together with a ribbon of cobalt blue. The image is placed into a black glass surround which is in turn set into a 12k yellow gold front with twisted 12k gold border and gold plated reverse.
Condition: Very good: later ear posts of 14k yellow gold with modern ear nuts; one tile has a slight tilt but is secure.
Measurements: 15/16 of an inch (2.4 cm) in length by 13/16 of an inch (2 cm) in width. This pair of antique earrings has a weight of 12.6 grams (8.1 dwt).
Date & Origin: Circa 1880 and is Italian in origin.
Historical Notes: The mosaic goes back about 4000 years ago when terracotta cones were pushed point first into a background to create a pattern or decoration. By the 4th century BCE the Greeks elevated this primitive technique into an art form that incorporated precise geometric patterns and detailed scenes which depicted human beings and animals. With the ever expanding Roman Empire, mosaics were soon incorporated into Roman culture.
Evolutionarily the micro mosaic developed in Rome, Italy between the 16th and 17th century. This technique truly took off in the 18th and 19th century as people began to travel the Continent. Italy in particular made the tour agenda because of its great artistic and cultural heritage. Micro mosaics were either set in jewelry or occasionally framed as a miniature painting and were highly prized for the intricacy, charming depictions and delicacy of work.
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