Find of the Month: Mythological Micro-Mosaic Belt Buckle
August 21, 2013
Though I am on the verge of a huge move, I could not resist buying just one last item off eBay! (It’s an addiction, I know!)
I’m a huge fan of Italian micro-mosaic jewelry. During the 19th century, artists in Italy used tiny pieces of Venetian glass to create little mosaics mounted on anything from earrings to snuff boxes. They were very popular souvenirs! Micro-mosaics developed in two general styles: that of Rome, which were made of tiny square tiles that formed a classical scene, and the style of Murano, which was more stylized (often floral) and involved multicolor tiles in a variety of shapes. The popularity of micro-mosaics even spread to Switzerland where they were also manufactured during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Micro-Mosaic Bracelet, circa 1860
Micro-Mosaic Mirror, circa 1890-1910
Assortment of Micro-Mosaic Brooches, circa 1900-1950
Sadly, as time wore on, the market became glutted with these little works of art, so quality suffered. Later pieces are often jagged and loosely-fitted with uneven glass. While even these cruder pieces have a certain charm, a good piece of micro-mosaic art should have an even surface with tightly-fitted tiles. Value-wise, scenic Roman works are the most expensive (since they are often earlier and of finer quality), but the Murano/Venetian pieces are colorful and fun!
Most of the pieces I encounter are later Murano pieces with gilded brass findings…which brings me to my Find of the Month:
The image is reversed because, well, it just looked better that way: left-to-right and lighting and all that.
Micro-Mosaic and Shell Cameo Buckle, circa 1900-30
This micro mosaic belt buckle was just too beautiful to miss and at only $11, I couldn’t resist it’s magical charm!
You can tell that even if this is a later piece, it is a good quality one since the tiles are flush across the surface and are fairly well set.
The skillfully carved cameo is a portrait of the Roman goddess Salacia, consort of Poseidon and the personification of the calm, sunlit sea. She is often depicted riding on a dolphin and crowned with seaweed, just like she is on my buckle. The details are amazing and my fiddly camera wouldn’t accurately capture her beauty, no matter how hard I tried!
I reversed the image again for this one. Lighting and all that jazz…
This buckle would probably have been worn on a velvet or satin sash. I can just imagine the lady wearing it gushing about her Italian holiday during a dinner party, showing off her flashy cameo buckle and likely a few other matching pieces.
The buckle is unflatteringly marked F.A.P. on the back, which, from what little information I could gather in ten minutes of googling, was a major studio or company in Italy that made many later micro-mosaic pieces.
Many buckles from this era were made in two pieces, but by the look of the hardware, this one appears to be made as a stand-alone. I’m very pleased to be the new owner of this wearable piece of art. It is my turn to wear it to dinner parties and boast about my non-existent Italian holidays!
Please forgive me if there are no new posts for the next month or so. I am moving to Fort Worth, Texas to be with my dear Christopher as he embarks on a new career! I’m packing everything up tomorrow, so no craft supplies, antiques, books, or computers for a few days.
Wish me luck! :)