Suite Of Micro-mosaic Jewelry (Italy), 1800–25
Gold, glass mosaics. Gift of Frederick Saal in honor of Dr. and Mrs. Joseph Saal. 1991-160-1/8
What is this?
Suite of jewelry with gold filigree mounts around micromosaic oval scenes of Rome in cobalt blue borders; comprising a necklace centered by a view of St Peter's, with various ruins, and the Colisseum, and Pantheon; a pair of gold bracelets each with one arch view, a pair of earrings, and a pair of brooches.
Why is this in our collection?
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 has been included in the following exhibitions: