Micro-mosaic Earrings, 1800–1825
Unique micro-mosaic parures (suites of jewelry) were a popular souvenir among tourists traveling to Italy on the Grand Tour. These delicate baubles captured the bella vistas of Italy’s most famous sites. Designed for women, a parure traditionally consisted of a necklace with matching bracelets, earrings and a brooch or pin, although some also included accessories such as hair ornaments and tiaras.
The process of making micro-mosaic jewelry was extremely labor intensive, precise work. A craftsman would use tweezers to patiently arrange hundreds of colored tesserae, small pieces of glass or stone, on a pane of glass. The finest work can achieve up to 5,000 tesserae per square inch. Any gaps were filled with a colored wax and the piece was then carefully polished. It is estimated that there were between 150 to 200 workshops in Rome creating micro-mosaics by the middle of the nineteenth century.
The tesserae in this parure were mounted on gold filigree and ringed with a rich cobalt blue border. Its mosaics feature Italy’s famed ancient ruins, architecture, and pastoral scenes, including the Pantheon, the Coliseum, the Temple of Vesta, and St. Peter’s Basilica.
This object was
It is credited
Gift of Frederick Saal in honor of Dr. and Mrs. Joseph Saal.
Its dimensions are
H x W x D (on flat surface): 1 x 1.2 x 3.5 cm (3/8 x 1/2 x 1 3/8 in.)
Cite this object as
Micro-mosaic Earrings, 1800–1825; Italy; gold sheet and wire, glass mosaics; H x W x D (on flat surface): 1 x 1.2 x 3.5 cm (3/8 x 1/2 x 1 3/8 in.); Gift of Frederick Saal in honor of Dr. and Mrs. Joseph Saal; 1991-160-4-a,b
This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Excavating Design: 18th-century Drawings and Prints from the Permanent Collection.