Granulation (grainti) is when a jeweler takes very tiny beads (either a high carat gold or a silver alloy as other metals are not suitable) and through a fusing heat process attaches them to a metal of the same type, with no apparent visible solder. Granulation can form truly beautiful designs, lines and texture which give an exotic and magical flavor to a piece.
Known since ancient times, this process was revived by Castellini in the early 19th century along with the Etruscan and other archeological revivals, which I will discuss at length in a future post. Throughout the 19th century and into the 20th century, there are many fine examples of granulation used in fine jewelry. However, it was particularly popular in the years 1860 until the 1880s. According to the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Victorians never quite mastered the precise art of granulation to the same degree as some ancient cultures, but their works were none the less truly astonishing.
Gold pendant earrings, early 19th century, applied with gold granulation
Victoria and Albert Museum, earrings, gold with granulation, Italy c. 1870, maker unknown.
Gold ram’s head bracelet with filigree and granulation, c.1860-1870
Possibly made by Pasquale Novissimo
Sources / further reading:
Simpson, Elizabeth. ‘A Perfect Imitation of the Ancient Work: Ancient Jewellery and Castellani Adaptations’ In Castellani and Italian Archaeological Jewelery, ed. Stefanie Walker Susan Weber Soros, 200-226. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004