Classical Cannetille Silver Amethyst Tiara

Classical Cannetille Silver Amethyst Tiara

I love it when a piece gives me plenty to think about. I’ve been examining and researching this lovely headpiece ever since I got it. (I love it so much that I’ve been wearing it, much to the surprise of my new neighbour but without any reaction from my family who are no longer surprised by such things). I do hope I’ve made the correct assessment of this amazing tiara (with antiques there is rarely 100% certainly, especially when it’s one of a kind like this one).

Here are some related articles that I wrote previously you may find interesting:

Cannetille. Filigree. Amethyst.

To see more about this amazing piece, please click here.




This is a humorful cartoon from Punch magazine, 1849.  Chateline’s were not really used for children!

During Georgian and Victorian times, Chatelaines were considered an essential part of a married woman’s or head housekeeper’s outfit.  Since the medieval era, ladies who managed households very often wore one.  They were only known as chatelaines after 1830, before that they were known as an  ‘equipage’.

19th century ladies wearing ‘chatelaines’.
1787 print from ‘Le Magain’.  This lady is wearing two chatelaines.

Essentially, chatelaines were a decorative metal belt accessory which was worn at the waist, usually hung from a chain, from which household tools and practical items were hung.  These items, called accessoires, nearly always included keys and could also be such things as a watch, household seal, a scent bottle, a coin purse, a pencil, a locket, a notebook, a pair of scissors, a pincushion, thimble or a sewing needle and thread etc. These accessoires were held in containers called nécessaires or, sometimes, étui.


Vienna, c 1760
Gold, enamel Chateline
V&A Museum

ChatelaineVienna, c. 1760

Gold, enamel chatelaines

V&A Museum


c 1850, London.
Cut steel Chatelaine
V&A Museum

The chatelaine signified the lady’s status as manager of the household and signaled to the servants, if there were any, who was in charge. The word ‘chatelaine’ literally means in French ‘mistress of the castle’.  But it wasn’t always women who wore then, men did also, with appropriately masculine tools such as knifes and watches attached. Chatelaines could be made from gold, pinchbeck, silver or silver plate, gilt, copper, stamped metal or cut-steel.  Some could be very elaborate with much cannetille, applique and repouse work.  Mid 18th century models were often ornately embossed with Rococo scroll work.  Sometimes,  they had mother of pearl or agate panels. Enameled chatelaines, like this one, were less common.


England, 1765-1775
Chatelaine with painted enamel on copper, with gilt-metal mounts and attachments
V&A Museum

Their role as either ornament or for practical use changed with the years. Towards the late Victorian era they were often worn more for decorative reasons or were even adapted for evening wear, with a place to keep dance cards and a fan.  They were even considered a normal part of ‘formal’ wear.  The general trend throughout the Victorian era was for chatelaines to become smaller.  The Art Journal reported the following in 1883: ‘…the long and inconvenient châtelaine, with it’s noisy toys, has shrunk to the dimensions of a watch-chain and swivel, worn at the lady’s waist so as to show outside her dress…’ Chatelaines were still worn as late as the Edwardian era.  However,  they became to be seen as increasingly old-fashioned and cumbersome until their use finally died out altogether.


c.1875, England
Chatelaine, Iron embossed and chased
V&A Museum
You can already see the move towards a smaller style

What I find interesting about the chatelaine is how an item that was once so ubiquitous and so much part of the culture could be all but entirely forgotten in the modern day.  If someone from the Georgian or Victorian era knew that the chatelaine was no longer worn, it would almost be as strange to them as if we traveled into the future and found that the bracelet was no longer worn.  It seems as though the decline of the chatelaine is tied in with the movement towards a more youthful and less responsible culture as well as a more streamlined silhouette. Perhaps the desire to be respected, to be seen as a ‘matron’ and someone in charge of a household was replaced with the desire to be seen as carefree, unencumbered and young.  Regardless of the genuine reasons for the end of the chatelaine, they are still fascinating historic and artistic objects that are considered very collectible.


London, c. 1755-1756
Chatelaine, gold cast embossed and chased.
V&A Museum

19th century advertisement for chatelaines.

Here is some 18th century verse about Chatelaines by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu:

Behold this equipage by MATHERS wrought
With fifty guineas (a great pen’orth!) bought!
See on the tooth-pick MARS and CUPID strive,
And both the struggling figures seem to liue.
Upon the bottom see the Queen’s bright face;
A myrtle foliage round the thimble case;
JOVE, JOVE himself does on the scissars shine,
The metal and the workmanship divine

In 1938, there was a brief attempt to bring back the Chatelaine as a brooch.
Sources / further reading:

The Major Jewelry Motifs of the Georgian Era

There were many popular motifs during the Georgian era (1714-1837) , many of which were traditional from prior to the Georgian era and also continued to be popular through subsequent eras and are still worn today. However, there were certain jewelry motifs during the Georgian era which were particularly recurring. It may be that I have missed one or more, in which case I will be returning to this post to update. Also, as I find representative pictures for more of the common motifs, I will add them.

Here are some of the major motifs:


With the new interest in astronomy, these cosmic themed motifs became popular.

An early 19th century diamond locket brooch

An early 19th century diamond locket brooch
Of old brilliant-cut diamond starburst design, the central locket compartment enclosing a later fishing fly, circa 1820  Christie’s Sale 5642


(included flowers, acorns, wheat, birds, fruit, leaves and feathers)

Naturalistic jewellery, decorated with realistic flowers, fruit, leaves, plants or feathers, appeared in the early 19th century along with the ‘Romantic’ movement. Particular meaning was often attached to specific plants.

A Georgian topaz brooch

A Georgian topaz flower brooch (note the ribbon)
 circa 1820,
Christie’s Sale 5383
Jewels at South Kensington
7 October 2008


Paris, France c. 1820-1840
V&A Museum
The brooch has rose, forget-me-not, oakleaf and acorn motifs. The rose motif presumably symbolises love while the oak would represent strength and longevity. These and the forget-me-nots may relate to the strand of hair in a locket in the back and it is possible that the brooch was intended as a wedding gift. The brooch is in the tradition of European romantic jewellery of the first half of the nineteenth century.


Bows, garlands, ribbons and scrolls were a regularly repeated motif.
This example below with the three drop gems is called a ‘girandole’
which was very popular in the Georgian era.
Bodice ornament and pair of earrings

Girandole bow bodice ornament and pair of earrings set with topazes,backed with foil, and sapphires. All the stones are set in gold.
Circa 1760, France
V&A Museum


There is a great deal of surviving mourning jewelry from the era.  Many of the motifs were urns, Neo-classical plinths and obelisks, weeping willows, angels, cherubs, names and dates of the dead and portraits of the dead.  Often these motifs were incorporated into locks and medallions.  Hair work was often incorporated in a variety of forms. ‘Memento Mori’ means ‘remember you will die’ in Latin and people of the era would wear skulls and coffins to remind themselves.


c. 1775-1800
V&A England
Gold set with seed pearls, watercolour on ivory and hair


Motifs used in love tokens included cupids, doves, the ‘altar of love’, butterflies, romantic messages, initials and names.

Also the ‘crowned heart’ was popular, signifying a lover’s rule over the heart.


V& A Italy
ca. 1810-20 (made)
Shell and gold bracelet with cupids, doves and the altar of love


France, ca. 1810
Butterfly bracelet, gold set with hardstone mosaic panels
V&A museum


Brooch with bow and dove motif
Portugal ca. 1750
Pastes (glass) set in silver openwork
V&A Museum



Gold, Turquoise and diamond cross ca. 1830 England, Britain
V&A Museum


Sentimental message were also conveyed using the initial letter of each stone in the design. This is referred to as ‘acrostic’. This particular pendant below has the stones of Lapis Lazuli, glass in imitation of Opal, Vermeil ( the old name for garnet ) and Emerald which spell LOVE.


V&A Museum  England, Britain
Date: ca. 1830
Materials and Techniques:
Gold with lapis lazuli, glass in imitation of opal, garnet, emerald and gold

GIARDINETTI (‘Little Garden’)

‘Giardinetti’ (from the Italian, meaning ‘little garden’) was another popular theme. A giardinetti piece had tiny flowers arranged in a vase, pot or basket, usually made from precious stones. Also stylized flowers without vases or pots or baskets were often seen.


c. 1730-60
Materials and Techniques:
Gold and silver set with rubies and diamonds
V&A Museum


Popular neo-classical motifs included arrows, quivers, lyres, Greek keys, laurel leaves, eagles, Greek arches, the phoenix and scenes and characters from Roman and Greek mythology


Hands, singular or clasped, were another recurring motif.

The hand motif has long symbolized a multitude of things, including affection, loyalty, solidarity, family and love.


c. 1800-50
Gold gimmel fede ring with three pivoted hoops, joined by a small pin. V&A Museum


Symbolizing eternal love


c. 1800-30
Gold ring set with rubies
This ring may once have been owned by George IV (1762-1830). He may be wearing it in a portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence in the Wallace Collection (559).
V&A Museum


Popular from the late 1700s, Lovers’ eyes were miniatures, normally watercolour on ivory.  They depicted the eye or eyes of a loved one or family member. They were worn as bracelets, brooches, pendants or rings. Miniature portraits were also popular. Miniature portraits were often worn as brooches or  inside lockets.

Eye miniature00.jpg

File:George Engleheart - Portrait of Unknown Woman - circa 1780 - Victoria & Albert Museum.jpg

George Engleheart – Portrait of Unknown Woman – circa 1780 – Victoria & Albert Museum


An archaeological revival gold head ornament, by Castellani

Archaeological revival gold head ornament, by Castellani
Christie’s Sale 6968

Between the years of 1800 to 1889, there were a number of important archaeological findings which greatly influenced jewelry design. These included Egyptian, Etruscan, Greek (Hellenistic) and Roman.

Sources / further reading: (please also look at my list of sources you will find in the drop down menu at the top of this page);id=3;


Cameo can be defined as a method of carving which creates a raised or positive design (as opposed to intaglio which is the opposite).   Cameos can be done in stone, gemstone, amber, coral, ivory, bone, lava, glass or shell.  Very early cameos (before 1800) were nearly always done in stone, particularly banded agate (also referred to as ‘hardstone’) which creates the contrast in colors between the raised part of the design and the background.  Other stones used in cameo are cornelian, malachite, jet, sardonyx and onyx. Black Helmet and Queen’s Conches are the kinds of shells traditionally used for cameo. Italy has long been associated with cameo.

A carved shell cameo brooch, the large cameo depicting the winged figure Nyx carring her two sleeping children.
The gold frame with Greek key pattern border.
Woolley & Wallis Salisbury Salesrooms, Lot 1278

Castellani Cameo of Medusa, c.1870.  Sapphire.

Trustees of the British Museum.

When discussing antique and period jewelry, the term cameo normally implies that there is a contrast in color between the relief portion of the design and the background; however the term cameo is also used to describe this style of carving even when the raised portion and the background are the same color.

Cameo carving is an ancient technique which has experienced many revivals throughout the ages.  A new interest in cameo came about in the early 1800s, inspired by all the archeological discoveries.  Around 1805, the Pope of the time opened up a new cameo school in Rome and Napoleon I had initiated a ‘Prix de Rome’ to encourage cameo.  By the year 1850, cameo had reached a new height of popularity and people flocked to have their portraits, or those of a loved one, carved as a cameo.  The best cameo artisans came from Italy and when the Victorians went on their Grand Tour, they often brought back these treasures much to the delight of their friends and families back home.  Italian cameo artists, often struggling sculptors, soon moved across Europe to open up small businesses to supply the demand. Cameo work was painstaking and slow.  A stone cameo could take many months; shell cameos were faster to produce and therefore were less expensive.

Neoclassical themes, particularly busts and figures, were very much in style and many cameos of the Victorian era have this motif.


Christie’s Sale 7853
Jewels – The London Sale
9 June 2010
London, King Street
A VICTORIAN MOONSTONE AND DIAMOND CAMEO BROOCH, circa 1890.  Cupid with bow and arrow.


Christie’s Sale 2390
Rare Jewels and Objets d’Art: A Superb Collection
21 October 2009
New York, Rockefeller Plaza
Centering upon a carved agate cameo depicting a Greek figure, within a white and red enamel and gold foliate surround, enhanced at the cardinal points with an old mine-cut diamond and scrolled white enamel detail, suspending pearl drops, mounted in gold, circa 1870

Cameo; carnelian breccia; the 'Flora of Pistrucci'; part of head of Flora to right in high relief, wearing wreath of roses, poppies and marguerites(?); stone ground at back; what remains of lowest stratum is cut very thin; roses in a red stratum.
Fragment of Flora of Pistrucci, early 19th century, Benedetto Pistrucci, The British Museum.
Carved from cornelian.
This cameo is famous for the controversy surrounding it (click on image above to read more on the British Museum site).

Sotheby’s (Magnificent Jewels [N08843] )

Gold and Hardstone Cameo, Tommaso Saulini, Circa 1860

Scenic cameos, depicted more than one figure and background details were also popular. Motifs included ‘The Three Graces’ and other classical maidens, often in gardens.

Cameo carved on Cassis madagascariensis by Ascione manufacture, 1925, Neaples, Coral and Cameo Jewellery Museum Ascione

By the time 1860 came around, another popular motif was ‘Rebecca at the Well’ which is from a biblical story. Taking different forms, it always comprised a girl, a bridge and a cottage. Other motifs were naturalistic and included flowers and leaves. Commemorative cameos of special events such as weddings were also popular.

William Tassie, who invented glass paste in the 1760s, began to create molds of cameos and reproduce them in glass.  He had an enormous collection of impressions of antique cameos and many credit him with being a key participant in the Neo-Classical revival. These imitation cameos were known as ‘Tassies’ and were popular and inexpensive.  This production continued as a family business well into the 1800s.

Detail from a ‘Tassie’ cameo

Wedgwood bought many of these molds from William Tassie. Wedgwood produced and still produces jasperware plaques in blue and white which are in the style of cameo and are also often referred to as cameo.  In fact, many people will think of these as being the archetype of cameo. However, these are not true cameo as they are made from molds.  There were quite inexpensive in their day; they are nowadays considered collectible.

Woolley & Wallis, Salisbury Salerooms, Lot 171

A Wedgwood Jasperware cameo brooch late 18th / early 19th century, probably after a design by John Flaxman.

Cameo was also loved by the artisans and designers of the Art Nouveau movement and continued in the Art Deco era.

Brooch/pendant, carved opal, demantoid garnet, diamonds, 18k yg, platinum, c. 1890, a circ carved opal depicting a sea nymph, rising/setting sun with circ-cut diamond center, and ocean waves, with grad oe diamond border above and demantoid-set yg foliate wreath border surmounted by two stylized fish below, three hidden pendant loops, sgd "Marcus & Co."
Brooch/pendant with carved opal, demantoid garnet, diamonds, 18k yellow gold, and platinum, c. 1890.
A carved opal depicting a sea nymph with ocean waves by Marcus & Co.
Cameo Brooch, Carved Shell, Art Nouveau era, Maker unknown.
The W.H.Stark House
Spring Trend – Cameos

Lady Agnew of Lochnaw, painted by John Sargent in 1892.

She is wearing a red and gold cameo pendant.

With the advent of Industrialization, many ‘cameos’ could be produced with molds, with dyed agate layers and later with ultrasonic machine carving. (In my opinion, this is why many people today don’t admire cameo or think of them as desirable, they are associating them with the mass-produced, machine made or mold made variety). Cameo continues to be produced and loved today to one degree or another.  However, the artistry, technique and popularity of cameo that was experienced in earlier eras, particularly in the pre-industrial Georgian and the early and mid Victorian era, (as well as by a few eminent Art Nouveau artists),  has not been seen since.

Dating and Valuing Cameos

There are many clues to look for when dating and valuing cameos and these are just a few below. Having, evaluating cameos is challenging as so many have been remounted and also many cameo artists were really good at copying older styles.  Some experts devote their careers to appraising cameos and it requires great skill.   I will come back and add more to this list as I learn more.

Style: If the cameo features a long Roman nose, the chances are it is from before 1850 and if it has a more pert nose, it is likely to be afterwards.  Up-swept hair suggests late Victorian; short hair would imply 20th century.

Materials: If it is made from lava, it is almost certainly Victorian.  Shells are also not likely to be from before 1800 (shell is translucent when held to the light). If it is jet, it is likely to be mid-Victorian and later.

Mounting: If the mounting is made of pinchbeck, it will probably be from between the mid-1700s to mid-1800s. If it is gold electroplated it will be from after 1840.  If it is 9k, will be from after 1854.  Silver implies it is from the 1880s, but certainly not necessarily so.  A safety clasp implies it is from the 20th century. (But take into consideration that it might well have been remounted).

Value: Scenic cameos are often considered to be more valuable than simple portraits. Stone is considered more valuable than shell.  Obviously, ivory, coral and gemstones are the most valuable. Of course, the mounting is important.  Most important of all though is the fineness of the carving; fine detail, flowing lines and grace show skill.  Less skilled cameos with be harsher with jagged lines and with less details.

Authenticity / method of creation:  Things to watch out for are whether or not it is mold made / where it is actually two pieces glued together / laser cut (in which case it is modern) (all of these are best examined with jeweler’s loop).  Ultrasonic machine made cameos will have no undercutting and a satin surface texture. There will be absolutely no variation between them and many others of the same design. Dyed agate will show very strong color contrast between the layers.

Other: if it is signed it is probably from after the mid-1800s. However, it doesn’t mean that if it isn’t signed it is older than the mid-1800s.

Sources / further reading:


Cannetille is considered to be related to filigree or to be a kind of filigree.  It differs from filigree in as much as cannetille is three dimensional and filigree is flat.  Specifically, cannetille is created with curled, twisted, spiraled, scrolled, beehived or coiled wire.  It can also have tendrils and repoussé (places of raised metal). Like filigree, it can either have a backing or be open work. Cannetille is usually gold, although not necessarily.

Cannetille appeared to emerge in England and France in the 1820s and continue in popularity into the 1830s. Some say it was inspired by the Portuguese, others by India, others say it appeared to emerge independently in France, then spread to England.  Regardless of origin, cannetille flourished in the period of peace and artistic expression after the Napoleonic wars. The word ‘cannetille’ is also used to describe a type of French embroidery method which has a similar appearance and technique and is created using gold thread. It appears that this is where cannetille jewelry might well have found its inspiration.

File:French - Cannetille Ware Bracelet - Walters 572332.jpg

French Cannetille Ware Bracelet, circa 1830 – 1839, Walters Art Museum

After the Napoleonic wars gold was very expensive and in short supply. Cannetille jewelry could be created to give the appearance of a much larger piece using less metal. The styles of cannetille jewelry seemed to be nostalgic and reminiscent of many European folk styles which are still made and worn today.  By the 1820s and 1830s cannetille jewelry was being worn all over Europe, reaching a height in 1830. Brooches and parures were the most popular.  When bracelets were worn, they would be worn one on each wrist, as had been the style for centuries.

Starting in 1830, Castellini of Rome led an Etruscan and Greek revival in the world of jewelry.  Many revival pieces also incorporated cannetille.

Greek revival hair ornament with cameo and cannetille. Apollo on his chariot. circa 1830.

An early 19th century portrait miniature and gold bracelet

Christie’s Sale 5414, The Sunday Sale, 28 September 2008, London, South Kensington
An early 19th century portrait miniature and gold bracelet
The central oval painted ivory portrait miniature depicting a young girl, to a three colour gold border with flowerhead and cannetille detail and mesh bracelet with cannetille terminals, circa 1830

Cannetille is very time consuming to create and requires great patience from the jeweler.  Of course, all Georgian jewelry was made entirely by hand.  There are two main methods for creating cannetille: Thread cannetille and plate cannetille.  Thread cannetille is when the piece is made entirely from gold threads and has other decorative elements soldered on to it.  Thread cannetille is particularly lightweight.  Plate cannetille is made from a thin plate, usually open work,  and then has decorative elements soldered on to it. Larger pieces tend to be made from plate cannetille.


Pair of gold and gem set pendent earrings, Circa 1825, composite – Photo Sotheby’s
 Fine cannetille work with circular-cut and pear-shaped foiled back garnets and cabochon turquoises.

Cannetille in the Georgian era was often set with gems such as pink topaz, citrine, chyrsoberyl, garnet, turquoise aquamarine, amethyst, glass and paste. Glass and paste were considered just as high status as gems and would be set along side them even on the most expensive pieces. Gems in the Georgian era were foiled.

A late 19th century Etruscan revival necklace
Christie’s Sale 5641, Jewels at South Kensington, 14 April 2010, London, South Kensington
Late 19th century Cannetille Etruscan Revival Necklace
Citrine and gold cannetille brooch, c.1820-1830.  V&A Museum. Previously belonging to Jane Morris, wife of William Morris.


Cannetille continued into the Victorian era although dwindling in popularity by the end of the mid-Victorian era.  Even though there are some cannetille Art Deco pieces, cannetille never returned to the popularity it experienced in the Georgian era. There are some very convincing cannetille reproductions masquerading as much older than they are so caution is advised when purchasing.  In the Victorian era, cannetille style jewelry was sometimes made in molds by the English; if you exam it very closely with or without a loupe you can generally see that it is made all from one piece of cast metal rather than many fine soldered pieces.  Mold made pieces are obviously not as valuable although they can still be desirable.

Sources / further reading:

Castellani and Giuliano: Revivalist Jewellers of the Nineteenth Century. Exhibition catalogue. London: Wartski, 1984.