The dark chestnut brown American Saddle Horse in this old Victorian die-cut has the sweetest, most sensitive expression with its large, soft eyes and pricked ears. Mounted on a glowing ruby red background under a glass dome fully 1/2-inch thick in the center, it seems to be floating. The detail is incredible: you can even see the white star on its forehead.
Two original holes and no D-ring scars confirm this piece originally was made as jewelry, and we found an identical example on page 235 of "Bridle Rosettes: Two Centuries of Equine Adornment" by E. Helene Sage. The author states that these pins were inspired by the similar pieces being made as working decorations for horse and pony bridles.
CONDITION is lovely with crystal clear glass showing off the fine transfer below. A replacement pin with strong safety catch is firmly soldered just below the original two holes. There are NO cracks, chips, flakes or cloudiness in the glass. The brass backing is attached as firmly as ever. The only issue we can find is there are a sprinkling of tiny spots on the horse where the transfer is worn. These are hard to see unless you tilt it in bright light and look -- they will show silvery.
BACKGROUND: Bridle rosettes (or bridle buttons) have a long utilitarian and decorative history. Their purpose is to be slipped onto the browband of a horse or pony bridle using the D rings, then pushed back against the cheek straps to help hold them in place on the animal's head. They probably have been used for nearly as long as the bridles they have decorated. As horse riding and driving changed in the mid-1900s from essential transportation to an enjoyable pastime, bridle rosette production decreased dramatically. Over the years many of them have been converted into costume jewelry by removing the D ring from the back and adding a pin.
According to legend, superstitious people In ancient Egypt reportedly designed them as protection for their horses, with the rosettes supposedly attracting the eye of evil spirits. We could not verify this theory anywhere but it is interesting. Plain metal was used for utilitarian pieces and a favorite decoration was an initial. By the Victorian period, the glass dome would cover fancy and colorful diecuts and transfers that were so popular then for business cards and calling cards.
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