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The production of coral jewellery was a major industry in the south of Italy from prehistoric times. Tourists loved to buy coral jewellery in fashionable shapes, but it was also very popular with Italian women, who valued it for its colour and amuletic qualities. Coral branches were often left in a natural state for amulets, but beads for necklaces and crosses were always shaped. The faceting on the arms of this cross is typical of 19th century Italian work.
Women throughout Catholic Europe commonly wore Christian symbols, such as the cross and rosary, as jewellery. The use of coral for this cross would have added to its protective value for its original owner.
This cross comes from Sicily, where Trapani was as important a centre as Naples for the manufacture of coral jewellery in the 19th century. It was bought as part of the Castellani collection of Italian Peasant Jewellery at the International Exhibition, Paris, 1867.
Pendant cross made from four faceted cylinders of coral, linked and capped by gold mounts.
Place of Origin
Materials and Techniques
Length: 7.2 cm, Width: 5.2 cm, Depth: 0.8 cm
Coral cross with gold mounts, Sicily (Italy), 1800-1867.
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
'Italian Jewellery as worn by the Peasants of Italy', Arundel Society, London, 1868, Plate 11
Jewellery; Metalwork; Christianity