This unusual coral piece is a "fob"—a decorative pendant that would hang from a gentleman's watch chain. This fob is a cameo of sorts, a big cat (probably a cougar) is carved in high relief and measures just over 1" in depth with gold fittings and a bloodstone slab. Cameos were at the height of their popularity in the late 1800s, and we see them carved from all kinds of materials—onyx, shell, lava, even dyed glass (typically they are neoclassical in style, we've never seen one like this before!). Coral is particularly special and collectible thanks to its colorful and volatile history. The Gauls used coral to decorate their weapons, and the Romans hung branches of coral around their children's necks to protect them from danger and used it to cure sterility. In the 16th and 17th centuries, various imperialist republics fought to control the market on coral; in the 18th century, Spain and France vied for possession of the coral fisheries; finally, in the 19th century, the trade came home to Italy, the historical ruler of the industry. This c. 1850 piece was likely made in Italy, possibly as a souvenir from the Grand Tour.
14k gold fittings (tests), coral, bloodstone, new 14k gold chain
1" length including the bale, 3/4" at the widest point, 1" depth, 18" chain
1837 — 1901
please note:Terms of Sale
Antiques can be returned unworn and in original condition within 10 days of delivery for an exchange or refund minus the cost of shipping. Once a piece has been altered, including ring re-sizing, it is FINAL SALE.
Coral jewelry has been worn as an amulet of protection against ailments and danger since ancient Rome.