The Victoria & Albert Museum
While this piece looks like a traditional stomacher, it’s actually meant to act as a pendant. Made in Piedmont Italy, the piece shows the ingenuity of the early Nineteenth Century Italian jeweler.
Since most Italian women loved the beauty of heavy gold jewelry, Italian jewelers found ways to make their wares look substantial while keeping the cost relatively modest. This piece looks quite heavy, but it’s actually made from a thin sheet of hold. The stones are a bit of trickery as well. While they look like whole gems, they are, in reality a very thin sliver of garnet which has been set into a piece of transparent glass which serves to spread the color and add sparkle. This sort of stone is called a “doublet.”
By this point in fashion history, the stomacher favored by the European aristocracy during the eighteenth century, had fallen out of use except in the royal courts. Softer fabric stomachers with embroidery were adorning that triangle-shaped section (below the bust and pointing over the stomach) on the bodices of ladies’ gowns. However, the shape of a stomacher was still considered quite fashionable and the silhouette found its way into pendants like this one. These were traditionally worn, suspended from velvet or silk ribbons.
This jewel was purchased by the Italian jewelry firm of Castellani to add to their collection of Italian Peasant Jewelry which was displayed at the 1867 International Exhibition in Paris. The pendant is made up of five sections and ends in a stylized cross.