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Georgian Carnelian Maltese Cross Pendant

Item 11796

The Maltese cross first appeared around the 1500s as the Cross of the Knights of St. John and was given to those who had demonstrated acts of “valour and rescue”. Around the later part of the 18th century, this symbol of heroism incited a fashion craze. What appears to be a rather odd coupling is in actually a testament to charitable works rendered by a woman who was viewed by British society as somewhat less than heroic.

That fallen angel was the glamorous Lady Emma Hamilton who was ensconced as the mistress of Admiral Horatio Nelson. The English were fascinated by this imbroglio and hungered for every salacious detail. Lady Hamilton was awarded the cross of the Knights of St John or the Maltese cross by Emperor Paul I of Russia for sending food and money to the starving people of the island of Malta. Consequently she became a Dame of the Order of Malta, frequently wore her decoration to society balls and events and thus began a fashion trend among the less “infamous” of the time.

Quite impressive in both craftsmanship and materials, translucent carnelian of a marvelous reddish-orange brown color has been cleaved into stark triangular segments and inserted into incised 9k rose gold sleeves in a similar configuration to form a wondrous Maltese cross pendant. At the center is a two compartment locket of engraved rose gold which holds a cream colored fabric. The locket can be opened by a jeweler to place your own memento within.

Measurements: 1-7/16 inches (3.6 cm) in both width and length not including the bale by 3/8 of an inch (0.9 cm) in depth. This antique pendant has a weight of 10.3 grams (6.6 dwt).

Condition: Excellent

Date & Origin: Circa 1810 - 1820 and is most likely English in origin.

Overall Scale: Medium