Dating to c.1650-1700 for the cameo and c.1920 for the matte 14k gold brooch setting, this jewel boasts a rare coral cameo from the Trapani workshops!
Measuring 1 1/2" x 1 1/4" x 11 mm thick, this outstanding cameo is hand-carved from the finest Sicilian coral in history! This deep red coral is simply breathtaking, and is characteristic of the quality of coral used by the Trapani masters. The workshops in Trapani, Italy became famous for their devotional carved coral jewels from the middle of the 15th century, and for nearly 300 years was the finest workshop of it's kind in Europe! The Trapani-based production of jewellery and coral items was at its height between the late 16th century and the mid 18th century, when the Sicilian coasts abounded in coral banks. In fact, a guild of specialized craftsmen formed specifically in Trapani in 1628 as the "Arte dei Corallri."
The real boom in Trapani coral was c.1700, when the demands of jewelry and coral ornaments were required from every corner of the globe by kings, princes, cardinals, and popes. These jewels enriched the collections of the Doria, the Counts of Schoenborn in Pommersfelden, the Principles of Ligne, and the King of Spain, among others! These masterpieces in miniature included precious jewels, liturgical and domestic objects such as chalices, characters in cribs, and just good luck charms. The "coral crash" in Trapani occurred around 1800, during which the procurement of raw materials became increasingly rare.
This cameo is a fabulous example of the Trapani workshop, and likely began its 320+ year old history as a plaque inserted into a chalice or small cabinet. The cameo depicts a biblical patriarch, and is carved with the sensitivity and skill for which the Trapani masters were famous. Carved in amazingly high relief, the elderly patriarch looks up to Heaven, his drilled and lidded eyes looking skywards, head slightly tilted, as if in supplication. His facial features, hair, and beard are carved in the finest detail, and he wears a classical robe. This gentleman is not so much carved as he is sculpted! Considering that this cameo measures just 1 1/4" x 7/8" x 11 mm tall, the details are nothing short of phenomenal!
Best of all, this cameo has survived into the 21st-century in 100% intact condition, without chips, visible wear, or losses! I attribute the outstanding state of preservation to the fact that it was set in the 14k brooch you see here c.1920, so the surface has seen very little handling. As with a great deal of 17th-century coral, there are a few natural inclusions to the coral which take the form of small holes or crevices; the artist carved around these inclusions, and they are not signs of wear or damage. The unisex, matte gold frame with it's original locking pin clasp suits this cameo perfectly! The setting is unmarked, but tests to 14k gold.
Best of all, whomever had this jewel set into the 14k gold brooch you see here has given this important cameo a new lease on life! It is now suitable for wear by a 21st-century lady or gentleman, and what a history! This jewel lights up anything you choose to wear it with, form a lapel to a sweater, and the image is second-to-none! This brooch weighs 12.13 grams.
If you collect the ULTIMATE in early coral jewelry, this Trapani treasure belongs in your collection! It would also make a stellar gift for any lady or gentleman fond of the finest carved coral in history, and will be shipped in a gift box. Do not miss this incredible rarity; I do not ever expect to find another, up to 90-day layaway is available, and USPS Priority mail shipping is FREE!
References: Antonio Daneu, "L’arte trapanese del corallo, Banco di Sicilia," Fondazione Ignazio Mormino: Palermo, 1964; "Coralli, talismani sacri e profani," (Exhibition catalogue); "L’arte del corallo in Sicilia," Museo Regionale Pepoli: Trapani, 1986, p. 232.
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