Pick of the Week – Volume 52

Joden Girl

Baubles and Bling with Unbelievable Pricing

It’s hard to remember what I did before Google was available at the tips of my fingers.  Working with antique jewelry and writing blogs often involves quite a bit of research…  and hopefully a bit of discovery.  I love that “a-ha moment” when a mystery becomes just a bit more clear.  Sometimes it’s finally revealing a particular maker’s mark or perhaps ferreting out a little piece of obscure symbolism.  Today, it was a small insight into the identity of this exceptional carving.

This demi-parure consists of an ornately carved pendant and matching earrings from the Victorian era.  Dubbed “lava cameos”, these incredible pieces were more likely sculpted from tuff or volcanic breccia.  I first wrote about this Grand Tour souvenir over four years ago in a blog titled “Out of the Ashes“.  Then, I speculated that this could have been an early piece of mourning jewelry due to the urns dangling from each face.  But today, I read that many lava carvings depicted mythological gods…  which led me to Google.  Within just a few keystrokes, a lightbulb turned on – this must be Dionysus!  

The Greek god of the grape harvest, wine-making and fertility, Dionysus wears an elaborate grapevine headdress.  What I originally thought were cremation urns are actually wine casks or amphora.  The subject has been chiseled to absolute perfection, even now, the precision is stellar.  The detail is so fine exhibiting little to no damage.  Each curl, nose, leaf and grape is intact.  Remarkable, really.

These unusual jewels were result of ingenuity.  1700 years after Mount Vesuvius erupted and covered Pompeii in ash and lava, the city was uncovered and became a celebrated stop for travelers.  Artisans utilized the material available to create trinkets and souvenirs.  A lava cameo pinned to your chest showed that you were a well-traveled person with good taste and culture. 

While the matte muddy color of the rock is not particularly alluring, it is representative of the area from which it hails.  In addition, because this particular media did not lend itself easily to intricate carving – examples like this are exceedingly rare and truly showcased the skill of the artist.  This suite has been featured on our site for $14,400.00.  Now, as a Pick of the Week, this phenomenal carving of Dionysus can be yours for just $10,300.00.  Click over to our site now.

“You can go to a museum and look, or come to us and touch.”

Written by Carrie Martin

Photos by Dana Jerpe and Shelly Isacco

Out of the Ashes

Joden Girl

Baubles, Bling, and Tuff Things

Nearly 2000 years ago, the city of Pompeii was destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius – burying it under twenty feet of volcanic ash.  The city was uncovered in 1748, and quickly became a popular stop on the Grand Tour of Europe (a “rite of passage”  for upper class young men and women that served as a liberal education).   Travelers were exposed to the cultural legacy of the Renaissance.  Most returned home with trunks overflowing with books, artwork, and small cultural artifacts like statues, paperweights, and jewelry. 

In the area around Pompeii, craftsmen utilized the lava rock, also known as tuff, and carved cameos from it.  Myriads of faces decorated rings, earrings, bracelets, and necklaces.  These lava trinkets became a sign of wealth, showing that the wearer was well-traveled and possessed discerning taste. 

This necklace and earring suite is an outstanding example of these works.  I am in awe of the intricacy of the carving…  from the individual strands of hair to the veins in the grape leaves.  Just think, this was sculpted using only a handheld tool called a graver or a burin.   Even after 200 years of technological development, the most highly skilled bench jewelers could not come close to this level of skill.  It’s exceptional and extremely rare.

The serene face, the grapevine headdress, and the urns – each of these elements play at symbolism.  Grapes often suggest bounty and abundance, and occasionally fertility while leaves stand for truth.  The hanging urns are a strong indicator that this was a very early piece of mourning jewelry.  When you begin to study each detail – the exquisite carving, the near perfect condition, and the abundance of symbolism, suddenly $12,800.00 sounds like real value. 

This suite is available exclusively at Joden Jewelers.  Go to our site and look, them come to us and touch. 

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Written by Carrie Martin

Photos by Shelly Isacco

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