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Tiger claw necklace

Necklace: tiger claws, gold, Mumbai (Bombay), India, 1874

Visiting tourists from Massachusetts purchased this tiger claw parure, or jewelry set, in Bombay (today called Mumbai), India, as a gift for Cambridge poet Georgina Lowell Putnam (1836-1922) in 1874. Claw jewelry reached fad popularity in the late 1870s. Originally made in India from hunting trophies, claw jewelry was soon offered by shops in India, England, and the United States for sale as tourist souvenirs and exotic ornaments.


Mourning ring

Double mourning ring: gold, enamel, crystal, paper, 1766

This double gold ring was made to commemorate the death of Zephaniah and Hannah Leonard, who died on the same day in 1766. Under the coffin-shaped crystals are tiny paper skeletons. Eighteenth-century wills often provided sums to make rings like this to distribute among friends and family of the deceased. This ring descended in the family for seven generations, always going to the eldest daughter of the eldest son.



Brooch: tortoiseshell, ambrotype, glass, ivory

When Lawrence Rhoades, the man who appears in the ambrotype (an early type of photographic process) on this brooch, returned to Rhode Island after the Civil War, he made this piece for his wife Ann. His daughter Ella noted that her father was a bookkeeper and had no formal jeweler’s training but he worked frequently with silver and shell, making a number of pieces for her mother. Ann’s brooch continues a long tradition of portrait miniatures, using the latest technology and popular materials to create a homemade version of a love token.



Ring: silver, crystal, Parenti Jewelers, Boston, c. 1950

It was not until the late nineteenth to twentieth century that women could pursue significant opportunities in the traditionally restricted fields of jewelry design and production. In Massachusetts Italian-born sisters Delfina Parenti and Zoe Parenti Borghi led the way, operating jewelry galleries in Boston, Osterville, and Gloucester where they designed and sold their wares. A 1941 Vogue article featured the “Misses Parenti,” emphasizing their love of aquamarines, moonstones, and silver work in both antique and contemporary styles. The Parenti sisters maintained their Boston gallery until 1973.

Sample Exhibition Labels