Sea beans, also known as driftseeds, are produced by tropical members of the pea family native to Asia, Africa, Australia, and South America. These resilient little "beans" can float along for years in rivers and oceans before landing on a near or distant shore - frequently retaining the capacity to germinate. These pretty, glossy seeds are a symbol of longevity, endurance, and fertility, and are widely believed to bring good luck. Part of the luck attributed to them by 18th and 19th century Europeans might have something to do with their relative rareness and exoticism (you would have been lucky to come across them at all in the Northern hemisphere). This c. 1860 scent bottle is made from an exquisitely carved sea bean with gold fittings. This lovely vessel would have been used in a similar manner to a vinaigrette - the wealthy person's answer to foul odors, fainting spells, and headaches. The stopper features a safety chain, and the interior is stuffed with cotton which would have been scented with perfume. Hangs on a new 18" 14k gold chain.
VICTORIAN (1837 - 1901)
The Western world was thoroughly transformed during Queen Victoria’s epically long reign. New technology, urbanization, and industrialization created a middle class flush with disposable income, and for the first time, jewelry was mass-produced to sell to everyone.
The Victorians were avid consumers and novelty-seekers, especially when it came to fashion, and numerous fads came and went throughout the 19th century. In jewelry, whatever fashion choices Queen V. made reverberated throughout the kingdom. The Romantic period reflected the queen’s legendary love for her husband, Albert. Jewelry from this period featured joyful designs like flowers, hearts, and birds, all which often had symbolic meaning. The queen’s betrothal ring was made in the shape of a snake, which stood for love, fidelity, and eternity. The exuberant tone shifted after Prince Albert passed away in 1861, marking the beginning of the Grand Period. Black jewelry became de rigeur as the Queen and her subjects entered “mourning,” which at the time represented not just an emotional state, as we conceive of it today, but a specific manner of conduct and dress. She wore the color black for the remainder of her life, and we see lots of black onyx, enamel, jet, and gutta percha in the jewelry from this time. Finally, during the late Victorian period, which transitioned along with a rapidly changing world into the “Aesthetic Movemement”, there was a return to organic and whimsical motifs: serpents, crescent moons, animals, and Japonaisserie designed for the more liberated “Gibson Girl”.
During the second half of the 19th century, America entered the global jewelry market, with Tiffany and Co. leading the way. Lapidaries continued to perfect their techniques, and the old European cut emerged toward the end of the Victorian period. The discovery of rich diamond mines in South Africa made the colorless stones more accessible than ever before.