Maltese cross brooch, tortoiseshell, decorated with gold cannetille work, turquoises and a pearl, western Europe, about 1825
Maltese cross brooch, tortoiseshell, decorated with gold cannetille work, turquoises and a pearl. May have been used as a pendant.
The Maltese cross is the symbol of an order of Christian warriors known as the Knights Hospitaller or Knights of Malta. A gold Maltese cross was presented to Lady Hamilton, wife of the English Minister to Naples, by the Emperor of Russia. This encouraged a vogue for the Maltese cross and it remained popular in the 1830s and 1840s. The colourful and flamboyant jewellery of the 1820s and 1830s could be set with up to a dozen different stones within a rich gold and coloured gold framework. Special manufacturing techniques and decorative effects were used to achieve an expensive finish using smaller amounts of gold. Although lightly made, this opulent jewellery looked heavier than earlier Neo-classical work. The highly ornate filigree work of spirals (cannetille) and granules (grainti) added an appealing relief texture, but it was more popular on mainland Europe than in England, where clients preferred more substantial areas of plain gold.
Bequeathed by Rosemary Eve Lawrence
Location: Jewellery, room 91, case 16, shelf C, box 9