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17th Century Enamel Cameo Earrings


The age of the enamel… From the Renaissance well through the 17th century the use of decorative polychrome enamel was the gemstone of today. Surface decoration typically took the form of a complex and intricate black on white ground with lively hued coloration in the foreground. Often both the front and reverse of a jewel was meticulously patterned with enamels.

These earrings certainly began as buttons or another adornment for the human body. Some time ago they were converted to earrings. The backs are silver with 10k yellow gold ear wires. The edges of the rounded forms are pale teal blue followed by marigold yellow. Even the tulip makes an appearance as this was also the age of "tulipmania". A consummate artist applied tiny black dots scrolls upon the white background. Scalloped patterns of cobalt blue enamel create an arched frame around the cameos.

Typical of the period each earring is set with six (6) garnet cabochons. Please note that gemstones were rarely faceted; cabochons were the first polished gemstones to appear and that form was dominate until the 18th century. The garnets are set in closed backed with four sided rub over gold bezels and a top arch - the gold appears to be in a fashion spread like butter forming a seal over the gems.

At the center of each is a hard stone cameo. One certainly depicts Leda and the Swan - an ever popular motif for cameos of many generations. The other is possibly of the Greek god Hymen – always bearing a torch and on the ready to preside at weddings.

Exceptionally rare, fine examples of enamels such as these usually are only seen in museums and photographs in reference books. Very scarce.

Date: 1650.

+ Measurements, Condition & More

Measurements: 13/16 of an inch (2.1 cm) in length by 5/8 of an inch (1.7 cm) in width. Weight of 7.7 grams (4.9 dwt).

Condition: Good overall. Enamels are in very good condition with some minute chipping and surface irregularities visible with a loupe. One garnet with a tiny chip; a few have tiny surface wear. One cameo has been covered with resin and examination using magnification reveals there is a partial crack beneath but is stabilized completely by the clear resin atop. One button and its cameo now sit sideways. The backs and ear wires are modern.

Origin: European in origin.

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