18k Victorian Turquoise & Shell Cherub Cameo Necklace

A truly lovely and sweet 19th c Victorian antique necklace, featuring a superbly well-carved shell cameo of a cherub angel (or cupid) with feathered wings set in a pendant of 18k gold. Most interestingly, both sides of the pendant appears be to decorated with infinity symbols pavé-set in tiny Persian turquoise cabochons. The back of the pendant has a later added 14k brooch pin (which we can also remove at your request). The accompanying vintage 14k gold flat curb chain is included!

The way I see it, everyone needs a guardian angel … This necklace would make a wonderful present for a loved one. The turquoise-set infinity symbols, along with Cupid being the god of love, conveys an overall message of eternal affection. The cameo itself is sensitively carved with a great deal of naturalism and neoclassical restraint.

The delicate light pink and white tones of the cameo shell material suggest it was sourced from the queen conch rather than the helmet shell (which tend to be rather big and brownish, with a noticeable crust). The practice of carving cameos out of shells and setting them to jewelry became popularized starting around 1805 in Italy. Late 18th century excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum fueled a renewed interest in classical antiquity, and Italy became a staple destination in the ‘Grand Tour’ taken by aristocratic young adults as a rite of passage. The increased tourism generated a good market for cameos, which were an art form closely associated with the ancient classical world. Italian craftsman took up carving cameos out of shell because the material was similar to the agates used by ancient cameo carvers in its layering of colors, but was softer and thus easier to work with. Empress Joséphine helped to set a new fashionable standard of wearing cameos set in precious golds and gems, while Queen Victoria later solidified this trend.

Description

Date: c. 1850-70s, mid-Victorian era

Materials: solid 18k gold (pendant / brooch), 14k gold (chain), queen conch shell, Persian turquoise

Weight: 6 grams

Dimension of pendant / brooch: 23.7 x 30 mm

Length of chain: 15 in (I can add an extension chain to the clasp; please let me know what length you’ll require!)

Condition: Excellent antique condition, with some minor age-related darkening to some of the pavé-set turquoise. The brooch pin appears to be added later, and as a result there’s some old solder surrounding the pin mechanism.