Webster's Dictionary defines a "masterpiece" as "a work done with extraordinary skill or artistic achievement." I have been fortunate enough lately to acquire several jewels which meet this criteria, and I am proud to present the "Masterpiece collection" for the consideration of my Ruby Lane clientele!
Dating to c.1870, this reverse-carved and painted intaglio jewel is one of the finest I have ever laid eyes on in reference books or out, and is a custom-made example with a fabulous image of an armorial leopard! These jewels are often mistakenly referred to as "Essex crystals," when intaglio jewels of this sort were wrongfully attributed to William Essex, an artist well known for his miniature enamel work. Although he had no connection to the reverse intaglio process, many people commonly refer to these jewels as "Essex" crystals today.
Measuring 3 1/2" for the length of the pin and a grand 25 mm in diameter x 11 mm thick for the crystal, this carved rock crystal intaglio pin has all of the "bells and whistles!" Its mint condition, exquisite quality, and rare subject all combine to qualify it for Masterpiece status! The earliest examples of these crystals appeared c.1860, when Thomas Cooke began making crystals for Lambeth and Company in England. The earliest backgrounds for these crystals were gold foil, followed by mother-of-pearl, the latter of which was used into the early 20th century. The majority of "Essex" crystal jewelry feature dogs, horses, and sporting motifs; this is the one and only armorial example I have ever seen in my 25+ years as a collector, dealer, and scholar of antique jewelry, and the ONLY one I have seen with a leopard!
As one can see by the photos, I have tried to capture the exquisite three-dimensionality of this jewel. The leopard is deeply carved, and the image is backed by gold foil, indicating a date of 1860-1875. The leopard faces forward, and is painted in shades of black, white, gold, brown, and red. His brow is furrowed, and he bears his teeth in a fierce manner. This crystal is so masterfully carved that you can see the fur of this big cat under 10x magnification! The leopard wears a gold crown as a collar, which is decorated with red and green "gems." At the base of the leopard's shoulders, a stripe of blue and white complete the armorial. SIMPLY FABULOUS!
Perhaps best of all, this jewel is in magnificent, all-original condition, with no chips or paint loss! The crystal is bezeled in 15k gold (unmarked but tested), which is yellow with a hint of rose. The crystal is backed with 15k rose-gold, and the pin stem also tests as 15k. The pin came in with the c.1916 "Tite Grip" gold-filled safety finding which, of course, is a later addition, but holds the pin securely. This jewel weighs in at 12.55 grams.
Simply the BEST Victorian reverse-carved and painted crystal you will ever hope to find, this big cat was certainly custom-commissioned by a gentleman of great wealth, very likely an aristocrat who wished to display his family armorial proudly on his lapel. It is a joy to examine and a delight to wear, and lights up any jacket lapel or sweater! If you collect the NE PLUS ULTRA in reverse-carved crystals or Victorian Big Cat-motif jewelry, this Masterpiece belongs in your collection! Being a cat lover as well as an antique jewelry lover, it is very hard for me to part with this rarity; let my loss be your gain! It would also make a stellar gift for any lady or gentleman fond of armorial- or feline-related fine Victorian jewelry, and will be shipped in a gift box suitable for storing or giving. Do not miss this once-in-a-lifetime jewel; it is priced for instant sale, up to 90-day layaway is available, and USPS Priority mail shipping is FREE!
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