Fashion loves coral as much now as when the Victorians went mad for it in the mid-19th century. Edwardians adored it, too, so antique coral jewels are hard to date - especially earrings, since it's so easy to change their fasteners. The drops on these earrings are probably Victorian, with their original hooks replaced by screw backs when ear piercing went out of style in the early 20th century.
Regardless of precise dating, these are assuredly antique and absolutely stunning - a giardinetto (little garden) design featuring flower baskets of gilt filigree, filled with spezzati (branch coral) wired together into bouquets. The coral is of a salmon-pink shade that will flatter any complexion and, given its great age, we can be certain the color is natural, not dyed. Total length from the earlobe is 1.5 inches.
Provenance of these charmers is an East Coast estate, but they almost certainly originated in Italy. The area around Naples was the world's leading source of coral until Mediterranean reefs played out and visitors from around the world collected the jewelry made by its talented craftsmen. By the time when these earrings were produced, filigree was no longer formed of individual wires, but an immense amount of handwork was still involved. Die-struck silhouettes were flat and solid, even after a filigree pattern was stamped on. Every element had to be meticulously pierced out, contoured and given definition by a skilled artisan.
Time's patina is evident on the ornate metalwork, but losses of gilding are hard to notice without magnification, as are the minor imperfections you'd expect after so long. There may be a few old repairs to the dainty chains, or perhaps they're bits of grunge. In deference to the purists among us, we haven't attempted to clean the earrings. How far to go with that process should be left up to the next owner.
If you're interested in an antique branch coral necklace or bracelet, too, please run a quick search for "coral" here and you'll be led to our other pieces. We can work out special pricing, if you want more than one.
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