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Carved Shell Cameo Pendant Earrings


Dating from the third quarter of the 19th century these carved shell cameo pendant earrings are set in 18K gold. Each is designed with a circular top depicting a winged cupid in three-quarter relief, flexibly suspending alternately a full profile three layer carving of Aphrodite with dove and roses under a star, or a veiled Athena in a circlet of laurel leaves, beneath olive blossoms and crescent moon, all bezel-set within foliate engraved 18K gold mounts. Exquisitely carved and light on the ear, these rare and unusual shell cameo earrings are intriguing and elegant jewels preserved from the imaginative Revival era.

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  • Curator's Notes

Item #: ER-20434
Country: Possibly England and Italy
Circa: 3rd or 4th quarter 19th century
Dimensions:  2.5” length x 0.875” width 
Materials: 4 carved shell cameos; 18K gold; boxed by Wilson & Gill

Cameo earrings depicting alternate egos or contrasting aspects of human nature belong to an intriguing tradition in revival jewelry. During the Classical and Archaeological Revival eras in the 19th century, favorite cameo pairings included these important Greek goddesses, as well as Othello and Iago, and Orpheus and Eurydice. In depicting Athena and Aphrodite as opposing and complementary figures, these jewels portray two aspects of femininity. Athena, the virgin goddess, and her symbolic owl, are associated with wisdom, erudition, justice and perspicacity, while Aphrodite with her dove represent the power of love and fertility. These earrings were retailed by Wilson & Gill, jewelers at 139-141 Regent Street, London, from 1902-1991, but appear to be of earlier manufacture. The cameos were likely carved in Naples, Italy, and may have been mounted in 18K gold and engraved there, or in London.