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Home > Collections, Archives, and Exhibitions > Exhibitions > Jewelry at Historic New England > Themes > Wish You Were Here: Souvenir and Foreign Jewelry

Wish You Were Here: Souvenir and Foreign Jewelry

In 1738, the excavation of the lost city of Herculaneum began. The excavation of this site and the city of Pompeii, which began in 1748, revealed that a catastrophic volcanic eruption of nearby Vesuvius had preserved them almost exactly as they were on that terrible night in AD 79. Streets, buildings, household objects, and even the citizens were found as if they were frozen in time. Europeans had always been interested in the classical world. Roman and Greek antiquities and ruins heavily influenced their architecture and art for centuries. However, these discoveries not only gave artists new sources of the ancient past, but also inspired people to go and witness the unusual sites for themselves. Travel to Italy and later Greece increased dramatically and became an essential part of the refinement and education of accomplished Europeans and Americans. This tourism also sparked a market for souvenirs and mementos. Because it was small and easily transportable, jewelry was a favorite purchase of the grand tourist and served as both a reminder of exotic travel and conspicuous symbol of sophistication. These souvenirs also revitalized ancient art forms such as micromosaic and cameo carving, and increased demand for materials such as shells, coral, and hardstones. Souvenir jewelry from Italy became so popular that it was imported and sold by European and American retailers and even imitated by domestic jewelry makers.


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Souvenir and foreign jewelry in Historic New England’s collection shows that New Englanders were enthusiastic tourists, particularly in the nineteenth century when trans-Atlantic travel became less expensive, faster, and safer. The collection also shows that Italy was not their only destination. The popular historical novels by Sir Walter Scott and Lord Alfred Tennyson’s Arthurian poems along with Queen Victoria’s love affair with Scotland made travel to England, Ireland, France, and Switzerland fashionable. Also, after the opening of Japan by Commander Mathew C. Perry in the 1850's and the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 Americans were inspired and enabled to explore more exotic locales. Jewelry from these destinations, much like pieces from Italy, utilized indigenous materials and introduced local traditional art forms to foreign markets.

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Brooch
Probably Rome, Italy, c. 1850
Gold, Roman micromosaic, glass
H. 1 9/16, W. 1 7/8, D. 3/8 in.
Gift of Miss Elizabeth G. Norton
1933.279
Mary Wheelwright Codman (1792-1857)
Daniel Huntington (1816-1906)
United States, 1845
Oil on canvas
H. 44 ½, W. 36, D. 4 ¼ in.
Gift of John Codman, Jr., and Susan Clark
2005.20.2

The art of micromosaic is an ancient technique of making patterns or images by setting tiny pieces of colored glass or tesserae into stone or glass backgrounds. This brooch depicts St. Peter’s Basillica in Rome and was given to Historic New England by Elizabeth Gaskell Norton who was the daughter of the famous Harvard professor and art historian Charles Eliot Norton. Architecture was one of the most common designs used in micromosaics, which were considered appropriate for daytime jewelry and were fashionable from the 1840s until the 1870s. Mary Wheelwright Codman chose to wear a micromosaic brooch depicting ancient temple ruins in her portrait executed around 1845 by Daniel Huntington who studied with Charles Loring Elliot and Samuel F.B. Morse.

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Locket
Probably Italy, 1870-1890
Gold, micromosaic, miniature painting on ivory
H. 2, W. 1 3/16, D. 5/8 in.
Gift of the Stephen Phillips Memorial Charitable Trust for Historic Preservation
2006.44.85

In the 1830s, a trove of gold jewelry was unearthed from Etruscan tombs near Rome. Etruscan jewelry utilized metalworking techniques such as granulation and filigree and introduced new shapes to jewelry makers who eagerly copied them. This hinged locket not only employed the art of micromosaic but also copied an ancient jewelry form called a bulla, which was a hollow ornament or amulet usually worn around neck. The interior of this locket contains a miniature painting on ivory possibly of Joseph Peabody (1824-after 1880), the husband of Anna Perkins Pingree (1839-1911).

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Brooch and Earrings
Possibly Italy, 1850-1870
Gold, marble, chalcedony, malachite
Brooch: H. 1 5/16, W. 1 5/8, D. 5/16 in.
Earrings: L. 1 ½, W. 15/16, D. 3/8 in.
Gift of Miss Mary Eustis
1940.129 a-c

Florentine mosaics were another popular form of mosaic jewelry. The technique, believed to have originated in Florence, Italy, uses pieces of hardstones such as marble, malachite, and chalcedony, instead of glass. Flowers were the most common design utilized in Florentine mosaics, which were fashionable from 1850 to 1870, when Americans were fascinated by the symbolism of flowers.

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Cameo Set
Diego D’Estrada
Rome, Italy, 1855-1865
Gold, shell
Bracelet: W. 2 1/8, D. ¾, L. 7 ¾ in.
Brooch: H. 2 ¼, W. 2 1/8, D. ½ in.
Earrings: L. 1 1/8, W. 13/16, D. 5/8 in.
Case: H. 2, L. 9 ½, D. 6 in.
Gift of Miss Ellen F. Mason
1930.177-179
Inscription: “DIEGO D' ESTRADA / Fabricant de Beaux Arts / Rome Rue Condotti 32 / 9149149”
Sarah Ellen Frances Mason (1818-1865)
Levitsky
Paris, France, c. 1860
Carte de Visite
Gift of Miss Clara B. Winthrop

Cameos ranged from simple brooches to elaborate sets, such as this one bought in Rome by Sarah Ellen Mason (1818-1865). Sarah was the wife of the wealthy Bostonian Robert Means Mason (1810-1879). She was a severe asthmatic and was encouraged by her doctors to travel to improve her health. As a result, the Masons spent many years abroad. Their extensive travels included a trip to England in 1847 and an extended stay on the continent between the years 1859 and 1865. Tragically, Mrs. Mason succumbed to her ailments in the French town of Dieppe on September 27, 1865.

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Brooch
John A. Greenough
Boston, Massachusetts, 1849
Gold, shell
Gift of Mrs. J. Le Roy White
1920.730
Brooch
John A. Greenough
Boston, Massachusetts, 1848
Limestone, gold
H. 1 3/8, W. 1 ¼, D. 3/8 in.
Bequest of Florence Archibald
1988.139
Inscription: “J.A.G., Boston”

In the mid-nineteenth century, Boston supported a number of professional cameo carvers, including John A. Greenough, the brother of the famous American sculptor Horatio Greenough, best known for his controversial statue, dated 1840, of a seated George Washington clad in a classical toga. Many of these carvers were trained sculptors who sold portrait cameos to support themselves. The shell cameo on the right is a bust portrait of Harrison Gray Otis who died in 1848. This brooch was most likely commissioned from Greenough posthumously as a memorial to Otis, a prominent lawyer who had served as third mayor of Boston. The lava cameo of an unidentified man illustrates that Greenough was a proficient cameo carver in multiple mediums.

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Bracelet
United States or Europe, 1860-1880
Limestone, gold
L. 6, W. 1 in.
Gift of Miss Frances G. Curtis
1922.207

Lava cameo became popular after the eruption of Vesuvius in 1832. The myth was that these cameos were carved from the lava stones of the volcano; however, most lava jewelry is actually made of limestone. This bracelet is from a collection of jewelry originally owned by Miss Harriet Booth Loring (1844-1921). Harriet was the daughter of Judge Edward Greely Loring (1802-1890). In 1858, Judge Loring was removed from the Massachusetts bench over the unpopular decision to enforce the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 in which he ordered the return of escaped slaves Thomas Sims and Anthony Burns to their southern owners.

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Brooch and Earrings
Florence, Italy, c. 1862
Coral, gold
Brooch: H. 1 ¾, W. 2 5/8, D. 1 in.
Earrings: L. 1 3/16, W. ¾ in.
Gift of Miss Alice A. Stevens
1927.495-496 a,b

Coral jewelry enjoyed its height of popularity between the years 1840 and 1870, but continued to be imported to America in large quantities until the late 1880s. Naples, Italy, was the center of the coral trade. Most coral was carved in Italy and then exported un-mounted to the rest of Europe and America where retailers and jewelers would turn it into a variety of jewelry forms. Coral came in an array of colors ranging from dark red to pale pink. Red was the most common color and pink was the rarest and most expensive. A revival of the Rococo aesthetic and an interest in naturalism in the mid-nineteenth century also contributed to the popularity of coral, which could be carved into realistic shapes. According to the donor, this set was bought in Florence, Italy, in 1862 for her mother, Mrs. Samuel Stevens.

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Brooch and Earrings in Original Case
Crosby & Morse
Boston, Massachusetts, 1864-1874
Gold
Brooch: H. 1 7/8, W. 1 9/16, D. ¼ in.
Earrings: L. 2 5/8, W. 5/8, D. 3/8 in.
Gift of Miss Hope Gray
1940.486 a-c
Inscription: “CROSBY & MORSE / 240 WASH ST / BOSTON”

The proliferation of archeological style jewelry in the second half of the nineteenth century was helped by the work of the Castellani firm of Rome. Castellani not only made jewelry inspired by ancient Roman, Greek, and Etruscan examples, but also exact copies of extant ancient jewelry. Alesandro Castellani, son of the firm’s founder, marketed this style by showing the firm’s reproductions alongside his collection of ancient jewelry at exhibitions in the 1860s and 1870s. In 1876, he brought his collection to the United States where he exhibited it at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia as well as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. As a result, many American jewelry makers began to produce their own versions of this new style. This set, made by the Boston jewelry firm Crosby & Morse, was clearly influenced by Castellani’s work and includes Etruscan gold work elements like twisted wire decoration and granulation. It also features classic antique shapes like vase-shaped drops and round bulla ornaments.

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Brooch
Ireland, 1850-1880
Bogwood
H. 1 7/8, W. 2 5/16, D. 5/16 in.
Gift of Miss Mary E. Beeler
1933.1618

This brooch is made of bogwood, a fossilized oak found in peat bogs prevalent in Ireland. Bogwood jewelry enjoyed popularity in the United States in the 1850s and 1860s. It was used for souvenir jewelry and because of its deep brown color was also considered appropriate for mourning jewelry. Traditional Celtic symbols were common designs in bogwood jewelry as were Irish shamrocks and castles.

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Brooch
Probably Scotland, 1850-1880
Silver, montrose agate
H. 1 1/8, W. 1 15/16, D. 7/8 in.
Gift of Miss S. Alice Chase
1932.657

In 1848, Queen Victoria purchased the estate, Balmoral, and made it the Scottish home for the royal family. Victoria was fascinated with Scottish culture and often dressed her children as well as herself in traditional tartans. Her love affair with and promotion of Scotland, as well as an interest in medieval romanticism in the mid nineteenth century made it a fashionable tourist destination. One of the most popular souvenirs from Scotland was Scottish agate or Scottish pebble jewelry. This jewelry was made from a variety of agates, a type of quartz, and granite that was commonly found in the rugged stone-filled Scottish landscape. Souvenir jewelry utilized traditional Scottish motifs such as the Cross of St. Andrew, clan symbols, serpents, hearts, swords and the endless knot, which is the design of this engraved silver brooch set with montrose agate.

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Brooch
United States or Europe, 1895-1910
Silver, coral
H. 1 9/16, W. 1 5/8, D. 9/16 in.
Bequest of Dorothy S. F. M. Codman
1969.1897

Plaid brooches are a traditional Scottish jewelry form that are used to secure tartans and kilts. These brooches were often made of silver and set with agates or granite. This brooch, however, is embellished with coral cabochons. Like Italian souvenir jewelry, Scottish inspired jewelry became an international business with its increased popularity and was either imported or produced domestically by American jewelry retailers and manufacturers.

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Earrings
Switzerland, 1860-1870
Enamel, gold
L. 2 5/8, W. 11/16 in.
Gift of Mr. George D. Latimer
1927.876 a,b

Switzerland was another destination for Americans. Although, enameled watches were the most popular souvenir, Swiss jewelers also created other forms of enameled jewelry painted with peasant girls and landscapes. These earrings were originally worn by Charlotte (Webster) Seaver (1813-1887). Charlotte married Charles Seaver (1797-1835) in 1833. The scenes on these drop earrings are unidentified and possibly imaginary, but Lake Geneva and the Alps were often featured on Swiss enameled jewelry.

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Brooch in Original Case
Child & Child
London, England, 1890-1901
Silver, enamel
H. 1 3/8, W. 2 ½, D. 3/8 in.
Bequest of Susan B. Norton
1990.1383 a,b
Inscription:
Brooch: Stamped with a sunflower
Case: “BY ROYAL WARRANT TO / H.R.H. / THE / PRINCESS OF WALES / H.R.H. / THE PRINCE CHRISTIAN / JEWELLERS. / 35 ALFRED PLACE / WEST / CHILD & CHILD / LONDON / S.W. / GOLD AND SILVERSMITHS”

2006_44_31_new.jpg Brooch / Pendant
Probably England, late 19th century
Gold, platinum, diamonds
H. 2, W. 1 ½, D. 7/8 in.
Gift of the Stephen Phillips Memorial Charitable Trust for Historic Preservation
2006.44.31 a,b

Souvenir jewelry was not limited to inexpensive baubles made of local materials. Many wealthy Americans tourists patronized high-end foreign jewelry makers and retailers and brought home some dazzling examples of fine jewelry. A member of the Norton family purchased this butterfly brooch in London from the Arts and Crafts jewelry firm Child & Child, which specialized in enamelwork. The firm was also a jeweler to the Princess of Wales, Alexandra, and Prince Christian of Denmark who was married to a daughter of Queen Victoria. Anna Perkins (Pingree) Peabody and her husband Joseph traveled throughout Europe and purchased this dazzling Beaux-Arts style brooch/pendant containing seventy-six pear and round cut diamonds totaling fourteen karats.

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Tiger Claw Jewelry Set
Bombay, India, c. 1875
Gold, tiger claws
Necklace: L. 19 ¼, W. 1 ¾, D. 3/8 in
Bracelet: L. 8 ½, W. 1 ½, D. 3/8 in
Brooch: H. 1 ½, W. 3, D. ¼ in
Earrings: L. 2 ¼, W. 7/8 in.
Gift of Miss M. Louise Dewey
1928.147-150

In the late-nineteenth century Britain’s extensive empire reached almost every continent. Their colonization efforts and control of the seas made travel to many destinations in Southeast Asia, Africa, and India possible. Many well-to-do Europeans and Americans traveled to these locales to hunt exotic wildlife. Trophies from these expeditions, like tiger claws, were made into jewelry and were particularly popular in the 1870s and 1880s. Trophy jewelry was also sold domestically by high-end jewelry retailers and manufacturers, such as Tiffany & Co. According to the donor, this set was bought in Bombay, India, and was given to Miss Georgina Lowell Putnam of Boston in 1875.

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Earrings
Russia, 1890-1918
Silver
L. 1 ¼, W. 7/8, D. 5/16 in.
Bequest of Dorothy S. F. M. Codman
1969.3036.1-2
Inscription:
Front: "KABA? Z"
Maker’s mark: "FK" in Cyrillic
Hallmark: Town assay mark and "84"

These earrings are from the Caucasus region in central Asia, which today consists of the countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. The front of each earring is enameled with the word Caucasus in Cyrillic and the reverse is marked with Russian hallmarks for silver and an unidentified maker’s mark. The earrings were possibly purchased by a member of the Codman family during their extensive travels abroad.

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Necklace
Probably Hawaii, 1870-1925
Abalone, shell, glass
L. 17 5/16 in.
Gift of the Stephen Phillips Memorial Charitable Trust for Historic Preservation
2006.44.335

This necklace is part of a collection of souvenir jewelry from Asia and the South Pacific that was purchased by Margaret (Duncan) Phillips during her extensive world travels. The necklace was most likely purchased when she lived in Hawaii in the early 1870s or when she traveled there with her son in the 1920s. Margaret and her sister Rebecca visited Hawaii in 1870 for Rebecca’s health. It was there that she met Stephen Henry Phillips (1823-1897) who was Attorney General as well as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Finance for the Hawaiian government from 1866 to 1873.

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Wish You Were Here: Souvenir and Foreign Jewelry