- Length: end to end, exactly 7.25 inches (184.15 mm/18.415 cm), not including the hanging safety chain that terminates at a spring ring
- Total Carat Weight: 112.22 CTW (breakdowns below)
- Precious Metal Weight: Estimated 12-16 dwt (professionally estimated by assessment without removing scarab components so as to preserve the piece’s integrity as-is)
- Precious Metal Material: 14k rose gold with very rich antique patina
- Dimensions: The bracelet measures 7.25 inches end to end when opened/unfastened, and 7 inches around when closed/fastened. Its scale causes it to fit more like a comfortable 6.75 inch bracelet. For context, the model’s wrist measures approximately 6 inches. The widest point of the bracelet measures about 1 inch at its centermost scarab. The safety chain measures about 1.5 inches in length.
- Weight: A truly exceptional 37.56 grams
- Markings: The male end of the clasp features two Egyptian hallmarks, one denoting 12-14k gold from the Cairo assay office, and the other believed to be the Arabic date mark for 1962-1964. The scarab mountings each show another foreign hallmark, every one very worn by time. These could either be the Latin date letter “M” mark, denoting 1936-1937, OR these could be another unidentifiable Arabic character. Though each of these marks are visible, they are not definitively discernable given their wear.
- Era: This bracelet is believed to be a historic assemblage of antique and vintage pieces, though perhaps was not originally conceived together as it exists today. Its story is extremely interesting, albeit a bit mysterious, so all prospective buyers must read the written description in full for the adequate explanation of this piece’s known epoch(s) and historical context. Beyond what our years of collecting, dealing, learning and refining our expertise enable us to determine, we cannot ascertain a more precise date range or history than provided without knowledge of the piece’s exact provenance.
- Buyer Notes: This bracelet is an astounding piece of wearable history, and is an ideal acquisition for the history lover, the Egyptophile, the spiritualist and jewelry collector alike. Its compositional story is a bit shrouded in enthralling mystery, yet it survives as an heirloom regardless. Prospective buyers, please be sure to read the entire description and view all photos prior to purchase, as the text and the images are all considered to be extensions of the bullet point specifics provided. Kindly regard the following condition notes: the box tab insert clasp is a bit sticky, but does open and close with a click (for utmost wearability, it may be worthwhile to have your preferred bench jeweler check this prior to assuming any wear); the apparent safety chain terminates at a base metal (possibly a gilt brass alloy) spring ring. Safety mechanisms such as this were historically used as a precautionary safety measure should the box tab insert fail or open. The spring ring may be left or replaced with a rose gold alternate in kind, and is used by affixing to the bracelet’s opposite end’s chain. Some scarab mountings may show ever so slight movement within their mounts if wiggled with the finger, and some elements may have been reattached or repaired over time, as is true of nearly all antique jewelry in circulation. Also to be expected, components show wear commensurate with age and affectionate use, including some dents and dings and wear to the settings and hallmarks. The hieroglyphic characters incised on the reverse of each scarab have not been translated. This piece is extremely rare, likely a custom fabricated jewel, and exists as a one-off on the market. As such, the bracelet should be handled as such by its next caretaker.
- Center Stone Type: Sold to the shop as Lava, though under extreme magnification, professional assessment and according to contextual research, could be an unglazed Faïence; both Lava and Faïence are non-clay ceramic-like compositions of earthen particles constituted, carved and finished for jewelry. Lava is made of ash and originates primarily in Italy, and Faïence of this kind is made of silica and originates primarily in Egypt. Please read the written description for an in-depth dive into these possible materialities.
- Center Stone Count: Seven (7)
- Center Stone Carat Weight: 15.06 ct; 12.98 ct; 18.12 ct; 18.54 ct; 19.37 ct; 12.33 ct; and 15.83 ct (professionally estimated as baseline carat weights by formula per the specific gravity of Lava; carat weights coordinate with the order of the corresponding dimensions below)
- Center Stone Dimensions: 17.01 x 12.78 mm; 17.40 x 12.2 mm; 18.15 x 13.50 mm; 19.55 x 14.20 mm; 19.91 x 13.10 mm; 17.90 x 11.70 mm; and 17.20 x 13.30 mm (measured within setting so as to preserve the piece’s overall, irreplaceable historic integrity)
- Center Stone Shape: Hand formed, carved and set scarab-shaped ‘cabochons’ with hieroglyphics to their reverse.
- Center Stone Color: Cool off-white to cream with matte texture and natural wear and patina that has darkened some areas of some surfaces over time; these components are not glazed or finished, and are raw material forms that emphasize their organic origins without a reflective or high-shine finish.
A truly remarkable piece of history, this articulated bracelet features a scarab motif with symbols of luck and fortune imbued throughout. While it appears to be an Etruscan Revival relic hailing from the height of the Archeological Revivalism that surged in Europe and America during the mid Victorian period of the 1860s and 1870s, critical examination interesting clues reveal the piece’s history, make and true nature, all of which are equally notable even if not original to the 19th century.
This bracelet was sold to the shop under the classification that the scarabs that decorate it are made of Lava stone. However, microscopy shows that these seven creatures share significant similarities in striation and composition to Faïence. Faïence is the oldest known glazed ceramic, and has been produced in droves for 7,000 years in Egypt and Mesopotamia since around 5,000 BCE. It may be understood as the forerunner of glazed clay ceramics as we know them today, though Faïence itself is actually made of crushed sand and quartz, characterizing it as a non-clay siliceous ware. It can vary fairly widely in appearance, from high gloss turquoise and blue to matte cream and off white. Some versions of Faïence survive unglazed causing the silica particles to be even more evident even to the naked eye.
On the other hand, lava stone has a completely alternate history, as Lava jewelry rose to popularity after the ancient cities of Herculaneum, Stabiae and Pompeii were (re) discovered just before 1750. With the discovery of these sites came an influx of intrigue into the ancient aesthetics that remained intact on nearly every surface observed. Young adults and couples who were wealthy enough to excurse through famous historic Grand Tour locations, such as these cities, drove a new economic venture of souveniring.
The Grand Tour was sometimes a years-long trip to famed and educational sites, the pilgrimage of which was intended to enlighten and culturalize aristocratic tourists. Most centrally, Italy’s ancient scapes were traversed by Grand Tour goers, and Italian artisans smartly sought to capitalize on the country’s ‘edifying’ role; utilizing local volcanic ash, artisans constituted, dyed, cast and carved artistically rendered cameo components to sell to captivated travellers as souvenirs. Grand Tourists heavily invested in pieces with mythological scenes, arcane carnal stories and otherworldly symbolisms. Once purchased on the Tour, such components were shipped home to be set and assembled as desired, whether in jewelry to wear, gifts to give or in frames to display. Given this history, we can better understand the connection of the Grand Tour to the genesis of Lava jewelry’s popularity. Likewise, we can also infer Lava jewelry’s popularity relegated to a relatively specific window of time, between 1748 and the end of the Romantic Period around 1860.
While Lava pieces fell out of mainstream fashion by the 1860s, they continued to be produced through the 1870s or so, as cameos (of other materialities) were still very much en vogue. With the decline of Lava-made jewels in the 1860s grew a new demand for other archeologically-derived jewelry tastes, including revived themes of Egyptian elements and designs. When the Suez Canal was opened in 1869, the world was opened to Egyptian trade and one of a kind ancient Egyptian antiquities were bought, sold, looted and dispersed throughout the rest of the world. Mass numbers of authentic ancient Faïence amulets (mostly scarab pieces) were excavated, exported and set within jewelry by European and American manufacturers and consumers, propelling maximized interest in these archaic symbols along with loads of other ancient Egyptian motifs.
As such, Egyptian Revivalism in the arts, building arts, jewelry arts and aesthetics reached peak popularity by the 1870s. The scarab form was a jewelry favorite during this peak, and continues to be a highly sought after element today. Archeological and Egyptian revivalism remained especially prominent in jewelry by the 1880s through the 1910s, and began to trend once again in the 1920s and 1930s. Indeed, such styles were a primary influence on the geometricized organic patterns of the Art Deco movement, one which was strongly informed by the unearthing of the young warrior Pharaoh Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922.
The scarab’s meaning is expansive, and has roots in ancient Egyptian lore and faith. Scarabs symbolize the sun god Ra (also spelled Re), as a common perception of the god’s form was an amalgamation of his human form, his falcon form and his beetle form. By the Fourth Dynasty (though somewhat debated, circa 2575-2465 BCE, during the Bronze Age), pharaohs were seen and worshipped as manifestations of the sun god, and by the Fifth Dynasty (some sources place at circa 2465-2323, known as The Old Kingdom) entire religious followings were set up by the government to follow Ra. The scarab’s hieroglyph is called Kheper, and The Ra-Khepri developed as a representation of these leanings, as it is composed of a circular sun shape atop a scarab silhouette from which the beetle’s protibias appear to hold the sun. Common belief dictated that the scarab rolled the sun across the sky each day, divulging the Ra-Khepri’s interpretation and its deeply reverent elevation within the culture.
Weighted by symbolic and spiritual power, the scarab developed as a talisman of fortune, prosperity and protection. It was thought to embody religious growth, bring personal development, encourage soul-level betterment, and praise the very gift of existence. These little ornaments were used in devout prayers and songs, and even strung on bandages that wrapped mummies’ chests, as they were believed to commence the sacred rebirth of new life. In suit, these insects are connected to the notion of the transformative nature of new beginnings, and the blessing of each new day.
Circling back to the specifics of the present bracelet, all of this history assists us as we seek to understand the piece’s record: at first glance, it seems that the hallmarks appear to predate the formal hallmarking regulation of Egyptian precious metal objects which began around 1916/17, and is typically recognized by a series of three marks. The bracelet’s male clasp component exhibits only two Egyptian hallmarks, both of which are encased in depressed square cartouches. One of these tells us that the gold frame was made in Cairo, Egypt and is between 12 and 14 karat gold purity, which is 500 to 585 fineness. The other symbol is an Arabic letter for “sh” which was used to signify a date of 1962-1964.
Further examination reveals that the individual scarab mountings are each stamped with another hallmark, found on one scallop prong on one end of each setting. These are all the same on all seven settings, though every one is much more worn by time than the marks found on the clasp’s tongue, which is inherently protected being enclosed. The matching worn marks are difficult to nail down due to their wear, though if they are the Latin letter “M”, then they are dated to 1936-1937. Conversely, they may not be the letter “M” at all, and could very well be another Arabic hallmark signifying some other attribute altogether-- these marks are simply too worn to know for certain without the express consultation of an Egyptian antiquities and jewelry expert.
Even more interesting are the scarabs themselves, as they’re production is most extraordinary. Each of the seven scarabs has what seems to be a ‘pilot’ hole partially drilled within both north and south ends. In true Faïence scarab components, a drill hole can typically be found all the way through, so that the beetles may be strung and worn however one wished. Yet here, we see that these holes provide only the illusion of a bead disposition, and cannot actually be used at all. Moreover, we can recall the comparison of Faïence and Lava jewelry as we consider these scarabs. It must be noted that Lava is almost always seen as considerably smooth and quite finely finished even if their carvings are rather amateur or crude in skill. While Faïence pieces were likely similar in finish originally, their ancient status renders the vast majority of surviving Faïence wares as comparatively craggy from thousands of years of time and handling.
Even though the scarabs were sold to us as ‘Lava’, they appear far more like Faïence, yet whatever their composition, they are believed to be very well made reproductions rather than ancient originals. Per the hallmarking, the gold frame of the bracelet is presumed to date to the early 1960s, while the scalloped/bezel settings that house the scarabs may date about thirty years prior. This means that the scarabs, themselves, could also date to the late Art Deco period, but could also date to the Mid Century years when Victorian Revival (and all of its embedded Archeological Revivalisms) was making a full comeback in fashion, and tons of Victorian “inspired” and Victorian “style” jewels were mass-made. Considering Lava was primarily produced in Italy and Faïence was primarily produced in Egypt, and granting that the gold hallmarking confirms that the bracelet is from Cairo, it seems logical that the scarabs may not actually be Lava, but more likely unglazed Faïence-- or extremely well made Faïence reproductions, even boasting hieroglyphic characters to their open backs.
Keeping all of this in mind, the shop’s very best understanding is that this bracelet is a historic assemblage of antique and vintage pieces, though perhaps was not originally conceived together as it exists today. Regardless of its mysterious past, this bracelet exudes ancient charm and symbolic splendor with pride and beauty. It is a wonderful collector’s item, with no other comparables like it on the open market at the time of research and listing, making it a one of a kind edition. In harmonious execution, this piece’s design is an accomplished display of historic socio-cultural trends and hearkens to history that spans many periods and many peoples and their rooted spiritual beliefs. It is a rarity in a multitude of ways, and is as rich in character as it is in context.
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