Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Treasures of the British Museum I

Cross pendant. Gold with a closed back and set with a central pearl surmounted by a garnet and an emerald, flanked by hessonite garnets, a sapphire, and a zircon with a ruby, a chrysoberyl cat's eye, an amethyst and a zircon below. Date 1800 (circa)

Gimmel-ring; gold; enamelled; bezel, set with ruby and emerald, in form of quatrefoil flower with pendant leaves decorated with blue, black and white scrolls; inner faces of bezel decorated with scrolls; shoulders moulded in form of scrolls; inscription on inner surfaces revealed when ring opened. Date 16thC, Germany.
Pendant in the form of an animal head. Made of wood and covered with turquoise and malachite mosaic held in place with pine resin adhesive. The eyes are made from pyrite and white and yellow striped conch (Strombus) shell. The open mouth is encrusted with gemstones (garnet, beryl, emerald, spinel, zircon) and lined with sharks teeth. The pearls, gemstones and teeth are all held in place with beeswax. Culture/period Mixtec; Aztec


Two-colour gold comb-mount in the form of a leafy twig surmounted by a bird, with a ruby eye and ring in its beak, on a trembler spring. The branch is set with gemstones whose initials spell 'dearest', ie. diamond, emerald, amethyst, ruby, emerald, sapphire and turquoise. There is a hair compartment in the reverse of the bird. Date 1830 (circa) England.
Intaglio of rock crystal: massive, oval, convex on one side, flat on the other. On the flat surface is engraved the Crucifixion between the Virgin and St John; Christ has the cruciferous nimbus and wears a loin-cloth, his head is inclined; cross is plain, without titulus, serpent coiled round its foot; Virgin and St John stand bending forward, raising their mantles to their faces in attitudes of grief; above cross are two medallions containing busts of the sun and moon holding torches, former radiate and wearing chlamys, latter as female figure in mantle with head surmounted by crescent; in modern metal mount; each side of crystal with cylindrical drill-hole. Culture/period : Carolingian Date 846-869 (?)

Gold memento-mori fede-ring. This large ring, either intended as a thumb-ring or to be worn over a glove on the finger, is made of gold, enamelled and set with gemstones. The bezel is in the form of a book, placed horizontally, the upper cover being set with four table-cut gemstones in plain gold collets: a diamond (lower right), a ruby (upper right), an emerald (lower left) and a sapphire, or blue spinel (upper left); in high relief between the gemstones, in the centre, is a white-enamelled skull with a green-enamelled toad above and another below, and two snakes issuing from the skull to left and right. Date 1526-1575