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Home > Auctions > 25th May 2021 > Italian Gold Mounted 'Pietra Dura' Floral Brooch Locket

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LOT 0435

GBP (£) 600 - 800
EUR (€) 700 - 930
USD ($) 850 - 1,130

Opening Bid
£540 (EUR 629; USD 763) (+bp*)

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Italian Gold Mounted 'Pietra Dura' Floral Brooch Locket

Early-mid 19th century AD

A superbly made Grand Tour Pietra Dura brooch locket of rectangular form, the gold frame with 'fan' ornaments to top and bottom, with scrolls around and rosette below, granule detailing; the central main element being a wonderful quality cut and inlaid jet or black marble hardstone floral bouquet panel depicting a white rose, blue forget-me-nots and pink-tinged white bindweed flowers and buds, with foliage, all from tiny pieces of coloured hardstones including turquoises and agates, each piece delicately outlined in an extremely fine gold cell; the reverse of the piece serving as a locket with rectangular bevelled glass cover and fitted with a pin for wearing as a brooch, also with a hook to the top for suspension as a pendant; presented in a later jeweller's red leather box for 'Lowe and Sons' of Chester. 5.22 grams, 22.78mm overall, 18.21mm internal diameter (approximate size British P, USA 7 1/2, Europe 16.23, Japan 15) (1"). Very fine condition. Rare and desirable in this quality and condition.

Property of a Harwich, UK, lady; previously with an Aldeburgh, Suffolk, UK, gentleman; formerly with an Aldeburgh lady, part of her old jewellery collection since the early 1960s.

See Tait, H., 7000 Years of Jewellery, British Museum, 2006, no.557, for an oval Pietra Dura floral brooch pendant.

Although, being of antique Italian manufacture, the piece bears no hallmark, a surface X-Ray Fluorescence test suggests the composition of the frame to be approximately 86.6% gold, 11.6% copper and 1.1% silver, together with traces of other elements; this would equate to a gold content of between 18 (75%) and 22 (91.7%) carat.
The term Pietra Dura translates as 'Hard Stone' and is used for these small panels of hardstone into which are set carefully cut and shaped semi-precious coloured hardstone pieces to form pictures, often of a floral character. They were brought back to England as expensive purchases from Grand Tour travels, along with Italian intaglio and cameo gemstones of the same period. The choice of flowers depicted is often associated with 'the language of flowers', frequently having a romantic theme; here are shown a rose for loyalty, forget-me-nots for memories and bindweed for the ties of love. These early pieces are of exceptionally fine quality; others from the later 19th century are typically much cruder and simpler in style. A very similar, more elaborate example, possibly from the same workshop and in a 14 carat gold frame, was recently offered for retail sale; a picture of this is included for comparison.