Victorian cameo brooch/pendant, circa 1880


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Prosperity, pleasure, power, fertility and hedonism are all celebrated here in this large and splendid mid-Victorian cameo brooch/pendant set in 15-carat yellow gold from about 1880.

It depicts a maenad, a follower of the Greek god of wine, Dionysus – she would be called a bacchante by the Romans – carrying her thyrsus staff and a wine cup, symbolising the male and the female.

Maenads – the name means “raving ones” – would roam the mountains and forests, tossing their staffs in a dance of ecstatic, intoxicated frenzy. During these orgiastic rites and while possessed by their god they were said to have superhuman strength, including the ability to tear people or animals to shreds.

(The poet and prophet Orpheus might have survived a trip to Hades and helped Jason and the Argonauts evade the Sirens, but he met a grisly fate at the hands of maenads.)

When looking for signs of quality in a cameo like this with fully carved figures, examine the hands and feet – do they look natural and well articulated? Does any fabric flow and have a diaphanous appearance in parts? Are facial features clear and not blurred? Is there good depth, giving extra dimensionality?

The answers here are clearly yes.

The condition is excellent too, with no drying out – and no signs of cracks when held up to the light.

This is an imposing piece at just over 2 1/2 inches (6.4cm) tall. The richly coloured 15-carat yellow gold surround is decorated in the popular Etruscan Revival style of the mid to late 19th century.

The hinged bale at the top means it can be worn as a pendant as well as a brooch.


• Handmade in 15-carat yellow gold
• Set with large hand-carved shell
• Approximately 6.4cm (just over 2 1/2 inches) tall, 5.5cm (just over 2 inches) wide
• Weight is 2.4 grams
• In excellent antique condition
• Will come in a Karen Deakin gift box (my antique boxes are not for sale)

Please examine the photographs carefully – they form part of the description.

I’d be very happy to send more information and images. Layaway available.

I accept returns within 14 days if you’re not delighted with your purchase.

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