Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Object of the Day: An Antique Essex Crystal Stickpin

Popular in Victorian and Edwardian jewelry—particularly gentlemen’s jewelry—were unusually intricate designs in Essex Crystal. Essex Crystal refers to a clear rock crystal which has been polished to a cabochon on the top, and, from the flat reverse side carved in intaglio style to produce an image. This reverse carved image is then filled with gold and mother-of-pearl to give them picture a three dimensional effect. Sometimes, the carving was painted or enameled in polychrome to produce scenes of unrivaled brilliance and depth.

This Mid-Victorian stickpin features an Essex Crystal centerpiece set in while gold frame of delicate laurel leaves. The crystal has been carved with a stag’s head between whose antlers is nestled (rather inconveniently for the stag) a bulls-eye. Worn by a gentleman at a hunting party, this whimsically elegant piece of jewelry spoke both of quiet dignity and the spirit of the adventurous English gentleman. Images of stags were a favorite of Victorian society. Paintings, jewelry and even textiles often featured a stag motif, reminding those participating in “the season” that for all of their elegance, England was (and is) a beautiful, natural land.

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