A very fine Victorian operculum shell bracelet circa 1880. The large operculum cabochons are set in an ornate border of silver and linked with silver beads. The shells are open backed. The silver is unmarked, but tests as sterling grade with gilding to the finish. There is a silver safety chain and original secure box-clasp. Each of the shell cabochons is large, beautifully matched and with a deep green centre and burnt sienna surrounding it.
In the Victorian period operculum jewellery in the form of bracelets and necklaces was wildly popular and of the examples I’ve seen, this is the finest in terms of colour and the quality of the setting.
The operculum shell is a special type of snail’s shell of a certain group of freshwater or marine snails. The operculum is located across the opening of the shell, so that when the snail retracts its body inside, this “trapdoor” closes as a protective barrier. The appearance of opercula can vary depending on the species of snail but the type used in jewellery is shaped like a cabochon and the species whose operculum is most widely used is the turban snail Turbo petholatus. Because of their eye-like appearance these are sometimes called “cat’s eye”, “evil eye” or more recently “Shiva’s eye”
Dimensions : the bracelet length is 17.5cm or 6 7/8 inch (without the clasp); the width in full is just over 1 inch; the operculum width is 7/8 inch ; weight is 65.5 grams. Condition is superb with no damage to the operculum shells and fine patina to the gilded silver setting.
A superb original Victorian operculum bracelet set in silver ~ an extraordinary piece of history.