Frightening Finery: Antique Jewelry for Halloween
The spooky season is well underway, and that spookiest of nights - Halloween - is fast approaching. What better way to get you in the mood than with some spine-tinglingly eerie antique jewelry? From creepy crawlies and spooky skulls to scary stories of cursed diamonds...
An antique rose and yellow gold spider on a green-gold chain.
Some more fantastically freaky pairings of antique jewelry from @pinkpirahnah via Instagram.
Some of these are modern pieces, but we couldn't resist sharing them. The gold ghost is by Albert Lipten.
Creepy Crawlies & Other Alarming Animals
Eye of newt, and toe of frog, Wool of bat, and tongue of dog, Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting, Lizard's leg, and owlet's wing... What are your ingredients for the Halloween spirit? Here are ours...
A stunning late Victorian English brooch modeled in 18-carat gold. A cat playing with a mouse and a fly caught in a spider’s web. - Antique Animal Jewelry.
A collection of antique beasties. An Edwardian stickpin fly of 15ct old, the body set with an emerald and large natural pearl, the winds set with pearls and tiny rose-cut diamonds; an Edwardian insect 15ct bar brooch made from a large turquoise for the body, 5 pearls across the wings, and red paste eyes; an antique 9ct spider brooch with demantoid garnet eyes; a late Victorian 9ct snake brooch set with a turquoise cabochon stone. - All from @the_old_cut via Instagram.
A stunning and unusual Victorian Giuliano brooch modeled as a spider on its web. The two body segments are set with different cabochon gemstones: the head/thorax with a ruby and a citrine, and the abdomen with a star sapphire. It's crafted in 15k gold and silver, c.1900.
From Butter Lane Antiques.
Large spider brooch encrusted with tiny prong-set faceted paste stones of three colors: red, green, and white, made in Czechoslovakia, early 1900s. - From @ccfinds.treasures via Instagram.
A stunning pair of Victorian garnet spiders straddling hexagons.
A Victorian-era, c.1880, hand-punched silver spider brooch. - From @bloomsbury_antiques via Instagram.
19th-20th century gold brooch in the form of a spider with an embossed and engraved gold body and legs of wires in gold tubing engraved with a zigzag pattern and carrying a gold nugget.
A Victorian gold and peridot spider brooch
Edwardian 18ct gold and paste spiders: a pair of front fastening earrings and a ring to match.
A delightful pair of 19th-century hairpins in gold filigree, each set with a large cabochon amethystine quartz representing a spider with long antennae formed by spiral wire supporting a pearl.
A stunning French intaglio signet ring, fully hallmarked for 18ct gold, Birmingham and 1909 with WGS makers marks. The intaglio reads 'Seule mais occupee' 🕸, meaning 'alone but occupied/busy', with a spider resting upon a web. - From @ishyantiques via Instagram.
An antique pendant featuring a spider and fly on a web under glass.
Antique Animal Jewelry.
The body of this Victorian-era antique 14K gold brooch is embellished with a cabochon-cut, bi-color, pink-green tourmaline, and a half pearl. The silver and engraved gold wings are set with old rose-cut diamonds, the eyes with cabochon-cut rubies, c.1890. - From Romanov Russia.
A pair of rare Georgian riveted bright cut steel bug brooches, C. 1820's.
A Victorian blue tiger's eye, diamond, and ruby bug brooch in silver on gold.
A Victorian emerald and diamond fly scatter-pin brooch, each pin in the form of a fly, set with an emerald-cut emerald and old-cut diamond cluster body, with an emerald-set middle body, old-cut diamond-set wigs, and cabochon ruby eyes, connected with a gold trace-chain, suspended by a gold safety pin set with a rectangular-cut emerald, c.1880
A Victorian bug/insect brooch handcrafted in silver with fine detailing, with a large oval Tigers Eye for the body, a cabochon black banded agate head, and ruby eyes. Each wing is set with a double row of natural seed pearls and each leg is adorned with its own seed pearl.
Labradorite, ruby, and diamond antique beetle ring (converted from a stickpin).
For more antique bugs, see our blog on Victorian Jewelry: A Bug Obsession...
Two gorgeous little matching antique golden mice, carrying pearls.
Antique Animal Jewelry.
Late Victorian 15k gold mouse charm pendant hand-chased with realistic fur and features, c.1900.
From Butter Lane Antiques.
A Victorian Essex Crystal rat/mouse pendant. - Antique Animal Jewelry.
An antique gold rat/mouse stickpin with a diamond - From @franziska_vintage_jewels via Instagram.
Antique mouse jewelry, including a large silver mouse that opens, a smaller gold mouse, a mouse whistle with a little rodent scuttling along the top of it, and a mouse bracelet. From @pinkpirahnah via Instagram.
Amphibians & Reptiles
Eye of newt, and toe of frog...Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting, Lizard's leg...
A Georgian rose-gold and diamond-set frog ring c.1800s. - Via Pinterest.
An extremely rare Victorian lizard/salamander bracelet, c.1860. Made from 15-carat gold and set with emeralds and diamonds. - Antique Animal Jewelry.
Snakes in antique jewelry aren't traditionally 'scary', as they were often used in love jewelry to symbolize eternity. We have therefore tried to pick out only the most fearsome-looking, Halloweeny snakes.
A very large antique tortoiseshell, paste, and turquoise snake brooch.
Slithering snakes - #1: Charming high carat Victorian emerald snake ring. #2: Gorgeous and rare mid-19th-century Russian snake ring with french import marks. #3: Victorian snake ring, c.1900, with a beautiful rose-cut diamond crown. Created in 18-carat gold. #4: An 18-carat antique snake ring with a brilliant-cut diamond in an open-backed setting with 2 little diamond eyes. #5: An antique gold snake bracelet set with gorgeous red gemstones. - Antique Animal Jewelry.
An early Victorian mourning snake brooch inscribed, ‘In memory of my dear mother born 21st June 1769, died Aug 16th 1843' - with her initials in diamonds, 'AE', beneath the crown and a wonderful pair of curling snakes in black crosshatched enamel. Look at those teeth! c.1840. - Antique Animal Jewelry.
An antique French 18-carat snake locket in gold, the snake reaching for a diamond.
Black enamel and gemstone encrusted antique snake earrings.
Antique Animal Jewelry.
An ouroboros snake pendant encrusted in gemstones with black enamel crosshatching.
Antique Animal Jewelry.
An antique chatelaine snake pendant with a silver and gold snake entwined around a shield, a cherubic head, and with a kneeling cherubic figure on top. Antique Animal Jewelry.
A stunning Victorian gold brooch/pendant with a massive central amethyst rock and four turquoise-set snakes guarding it. - Antique Animal Jewelry.
19th century Victorian 15ct gold double snake bracelet, made up of two entwined snakes each beautifully set with demantoid garnet eyes and a pear-shaped ruby to the head. A diamond is set centrally between the two snakes. The green eyes give the snakes a fearsome glint. - From JeremySilverthorne via Etsy.
Snakes curled around crosses. Left: A large, French 19th-century 18-carat brooch with a snake coiled around a black enamel and rose-cut diamond cross. Right: A gold snake with gemstone eyes wrapped around a black enamel cross. - Antique Animal Jewelry.
A Victorian snake bracelet with a blue enameled snake biting a gold gauntlet, set with rose-cut diamonds. Antique Animal Jewelry.
Antique Victorian snake jewelry for Halloween - From @pinkpirahnah via Instagram.
Bats & Owls
Wool of bat...and owlet's wing...
Brooches depicting figures riding bats. Left: A 19th-century cast and chased gold brooch of a naked female with a winged cupid riding on a bat, possibly a representation of 'Night'. - © The Trustees of the British Museum. Right: A cameo brooch with gold scrollwork depicting a naked youth - Ariel - with a large feather, on the back of a flying bat. Taken from Shakespeare's The Tempest (Act 5, Scene 1), and resembling a painting by Joseph Severn in the V&A, c.1840. - ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
Antique Victorian Vulcanite mourning locket with a carved bat, which opens.
A rare Victorian bat pin, c.1880, crafted in 18kt yellow gold topped with sterling silver. Its outstretched wings are encrusted with sparkling old rose-cut diamonds, in between veins of yellow gold. The creature's body is portrayed by a natural pearl, and additional rose-cut diamonds adorn its face, where two vibrant red rubies dot each eye. - From A. Brandt + Son.
Art Nouveau gold and diamond bat brooch, c.1900. - From @macklowegallery via Instagram.
A Victorian silver owl propelling pencil pendant with glass eyes.
Victorian silver Albert chain 16” long and a substantial silver and paste owl with onyx eyes.
An impressively soul-piercing pair of Georgian owl-shaped shoe buckles set with black spot paste and painted eyes. - From @thedyslexicdealer via Instagram.
Skulls, Skeletons & Coffins
The Torre Abbey Jewel, a Memento Mori pendant in the form of a skeleton in a coffin. Gold, enameled in white and black, with the remains of opaque pale blue, white, yellow, translucent green, and dark blue enamel on the upper scrollwork. Along each side of the coffin is the inscription, ''THRONGH. THE. RESVRRECTION. OF CHRISTE. WE. BE. ALL. SANCTIFIED.' c.1540-1550.
Enameled gold memento mori pendant in the form of a coffin, with crossbones on the suspension chains and a skull and crossbones pendant. The coffin opens to reveal an enameled skeleton, the initials I.C.S. above its head and the inscription 'HIE. LIEG. ICH. VND. WARTH. AVF. DIH', meaning 'Here I lie and wait for you'. c.1660. - ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London
An antique 19th-century Austro-Hungarian enameled coffin locket with skull and crossbones.
A mourning pendant in the shape of a miniature coffin. The obverse set with a weave of brown hair under crystal, surmounted by the details of the deceased: 'GB aged 34 died Aug. 15 1785'. The heart-wrenching inscription in sepia on a white enamel ground surrounding it reads: 'Twas the last pang that took him from my breast'. To reverse is a weave of grey hair surmounted by the details of the deceased: 'MDW aged 83 died Nov 30 1838'. The surrounding inscription also on a white enamel ground reads: 'Tho lost to sight to memory dear.' - From Rowan and Rowan.
Antique Georgian-era wooden coffins and Vesta cases. The ring box at the end is to show scale.
A really quite disturbing carved elephant ivory Memento Mori pendant/bead, pierced vertically so that it can be suspended from chaplets or rosaries (strings of beads to assist those praying or saying the long sequences of religious recitations). Formed of four figures placed back to back. One represents a young with the words 'AMOR M(un)DI' (Love of the World). At his back is the same person dying, his figure emaciated, with the words 'VADO MORI' (I am going to die). The third figure appears to be a devil, or imp with bulging eyes and lolling tongue, the stomach filled with a hideous head. This figure has locked arms with the dying figure as if to pull him away; underneath on a scroll is 'SEQUERE ME' (Follow me). The fourth is a skeleton (Death) holding an hourglass and reaching across to grab the chest of the figure with his left hand; underneath is 'EGO SUM' (I am). A snail and snakes crawl over the skull. Northern France/South Netherlands, c.1520-1530. - ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
Another ivory Memento Mori pendant, Flanders, c.1500. On one side is a well-dressed young woman in her prime. Yet the Latin inscription around her veiled head reads, 'HEELAS ME FAUTIL MORIR', which translates as, ‘Alas I must die’. On the other side of the pendant is her rotting skeleton, infested with frogs, slugs, worms, and salamanders, accompanied by the Latin 'ECCE FINEM', (Here is the end').
Memento Mori slide c.1660-1680 in high carat gold, with a black and white enamel depiction of a skull and crossbones device surrounded by other symbols of mortality and immortality. An hourglass and an oil lamp symbolize the passage of time, serpents entwined around staffs and the pillars of Hercules represent unbreakable bonds. To the reverse are the initials 'MM' for memento mori, Herculean knots representing further unbreakable bonds, and a forget-me-not within an ouroboros symbolizes eternity.
From Rowan and Rowan.
An enameled gold ring, the bezel in the form of a skull and cross-bones in a border of rubies with an enameled rosette behind, two marks 'CC' and 'AL[?]' in a monogram. Europe, c.1550-75.
A Georgian skull ring - From Diamonds. The Collection Of Benjamin Zucker by Diana Scarisbrick.
A German 17th-century scent case in the form of a skull, made of silver, with a lid. The letters probably correspond to the scents held in each section of the case. - ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
A tiny enameled 17th-century gold pendant that hinges open to reveal a miniature scene of the baptism of Christ - © Trustees of the Wernher Foundation.
A gold mourning slide with an enameled skeleton on a coffin inscribed 'I Rest' with two angels supporting a cartouche with the initials 'MT' embroidered in gold thread on a background of hair and foil, under rock crystal. Made in England, c.1700. - ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
A large Victorian sterling silver snake locket, on a wonderful Victorian fancy chain with two bolts to hang extra charms from. The pendant/locket is filled with tiny mother of pearl skulls.
A late-18th century disturbing French finger-ring in gold with a slender hoop expanding to open-work triple-branched shoulders. The bezel displays an enameled skull. Fear not, though, as this piece is actually a romantic (if morbid) offering, with a secret inscription below the hinge that reads, 'Je ne la crains que dans ton coeur', meaning 'I only fear death in your heart'. - © The Trustees of the British Museum.
A 19th-century mourning ring of gold with a slender hoop and a bezel in the form of a skull with eyes of red enamel. There is an engraved letter at the base of the skull.
An early 19th-century English Memento Mori stock pin, the head made from enameled gold and a baroque pearl, forming a skull. - ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
The battery-operated skull stickpin, enameled gold with diamond eyes, French, c.1867. Designed by Gustave Trouvé and signed PICARD for A.-G. Cadet-Picard. The jewel contains electric terminals so that, when connected to a battery concealed in the wearer's pocket, the eyes roll and the jaws snap. ©Victoria & Albert Museum.
Cursed Jewels: Diamonds are not Forever
Cursed gems might sound like something out of a pirate movie or Harry Potter, but the following famous diamonds do have some seriously spooky stories behind them. Decide for yourself if you think they're cursed or not...
The Hope Diamond - A Hopeless Story
The Hope Diamond starts out its story in the hands of French merchant traveler, Jean Baptiste Tavernier, though quite how it got there is blurry, with some believing he stole it from the eye of a Hindu idol - giving it its curse. In 1668, the diamond was sold to King Louis XIV of France who had it re-cut, revealing an impressive blue color, earning it the name of 'Blue Diamond of the Crown' or the 'French Blue'. This is where the trouble began. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were caught trying to flee the city during the French Revolution with the diamond in their possession. Shortly afterward, they were beheaded. In the looting that followed, the diamond was stolen.
Of its subsequent owners: King George IV of England got into considerable debt and had to sell it, Princess de Lamballe was beaten to death by a mob, Jacques Colet committed suicide, Lord Francis Hope (of the Hope family who gave it its name 'The Hope Diamond') found himself suddenly bankrupt after inheriting the gem and had to sell it, Surbaya was stabbed to death by her royal lover who gifted her the stone, and Simon Montharides died in a carriage crash along with his entire family.
Its penultimate owner, Mrs. Evalyn McLean, ignored the curse, claiming that anything unlucky for others was often lucky for her. She bought the diamond from Cartier in 1911 and then ensued a life of tragedy. Her 9-year-old son was killed in a car accident, her husband divorced her and went insane, and her daughter committed suicide. Mrs. McLean herself became a morphine addict. Her jewelry collection was purchased by Harry Winston, who donated the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian Institution.
The Black Orlov Diamond - A Story to Make you Jump
Also known as the 'Eye of Brahma Diamond', this gem is not one to fall for, despite being an extremely impressive stone and the 7th largest black diamond in the world.
Black Orlov Diamond - Image: London Museum of Natural History
Another diamond that was supposedly stolen from the eye of a Hindu statue, the monk who stole it was believed to have been murdered. The gem was then brought to the US by diamond dealer J.W. Paris, who jumped to his death shortly afterward from a skyscraper in New York. The next owners were two Russian princesses, Nadia Vyegin-Orlov and Leonila Galitsine-Bariatinsky, who both committed suicide (months apart) by jumping to their deaths from buildings in Rome. In an apparently successful attempt to break the curse, a jeweler cut the gem into three different pieces.
The Koh-i-Nûr Diamond - A Killer of Kings
With a name meaning 'Mountain of light', this 186 1⁄16 carats diamond is one of the most valuable gemstones in existence and is believed to carry a curse causing any man who wears it to lose their throne.
On the left is a replica of the Koh-i-Nûr set in an armlet, as it would have been delivered to Queen Victoria by the President of the Board of Control at the East India Company in 1850. On the right is the Koh-i-Nûr in its final resting place in the crown of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in the front cross.
An ancient diamond passed from ruler to ruler throughout conflicts in the Mughal Empire, every male ruler to own it has been deposed, invaded, defeated in battle, taken ill, overthrown in a coup, assassinated, and in a few special cases: blinded by his own son, and had his bald head coated with molten gold after being dethroned. However, since it fell into the hands of Queen Victoria during the colonization of India, it has been passed from woman to woman without trouble. It is now part of the British crown jewels.
To wrap up, here are some more spooky and gothic pieces from Antique Animal Jewelry...