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from the archive
Grand TourLava Hand with Branches of CoralNecklace

The Grand Tour was an essential undertaking for any English man of means beginning in the 1700s, but it wasn't until the early 1800s with the invention of steam-powered transportation that it became a pursuit open to anyone, including women. The tour typically began in Dover, England and though there was no specified order of countries to visit, most travelers went to Spain, France, Germany, and Switzerland before the culmination of the trip in Italy. Throughout the tour one was supposed to acquire knowledge of language, politics, sport and art and become a generally more well-rounded person of privilege. And on the way, they shopped for souvenirs, often in jewelry form. 

Lava from Mt. Vesuvius provided Italian jewelry-carvers a plentiful medium to create cameos and miniatures like this clasping hand. Coral has been popular in jewelry in the Italian region since the Roman era (the ancient Romans believed wearing it could cure sterility!) These clues tell us that most likely, this pendant was a souvenir purchased on someone's Italian leg of the Grand Tour in the mid-1800s.


  • Materials

    Lava, coral, 18k gold endcap, new 14k gold chain.

  • Age

    c. 1840

  • Custom Label

    Very good.

  • Size

    Charm is 2.5" long, chain is 18"

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