Essex crystal pieces are made from a piece of rock crystal, polished by hand repeatedly to create a domed cabochon with a flat base or back. A design is drawn on the flat side and is delicately hand-carved into the crystal, and then painted in reverse by a masterful maker. This is quite unlike normal intaglio, which is painted on the front, as everything has to be done in reverse and from the back. Painting directly into the carved inside of the dome gives the paintings an incredible three-dimensional or '‘trompe l’oeil' effect. Finally, the piece would be sealed with a backing, with early examples being backed onto gold foil, and later examples in mother of pearl and gold. The process involved in producing the pieces was extremely labor intensive and required a very high level of skill.
To understand the story of the Essex Crystal, the first thing to know is that miniature portrait pieces, particularly miniature enamels, were very popular in the Victorian era. Queen Victoria herself was actually so enamored with the style that she appointed herself a royal enameler in 1839. His name was William Essex. When in the mid-19th century reverse intaglio crystals began to appear on the market in Britain, the most famous and most skilled known miniature painter around was William Essex. It was his name that was on everyone's lips and it was assumed that these pieces, requiring such exquisite talent, could only have been created by such a celebrated miniature enamellist as Essex. This rumor was fed by the fact that one of Essex's students, William Bishop Ford, was known for creating enameled pieces set in jewelry with depictions of a fox head, which was a popular motif in Essex crystal jewelry. The name stuck, and the pieces became known as Essex crystal pieces, as they still are today - despite their having nothing at all to do with William Essex.
This wonderful ring was converted from a cufflink, and is a fantastic example of the reverse intaglio technique! A finely carved and painted horse head peers from under the dome of the crystal cabochon, creating a 3D effect so lifelike, it seems as if the chestnut creature is ready to leap from within the confines of the ring! Originally made for the gentleman who enjoyed the sport of horse racing, it has a magical quality, perfect for anyone in "the horsey set"!
Man o' War was the star equine athlete of the early 1900s, giving thoroughbred racing a much-needed boost when no one was paying much attention to the sport. Born March 29, 1917, the chestnut horse only competed for two years in 1919 and 1920, but he won 20 of his 21 races, bringing international attention to Kentucky breeders and making the U.S. the center of the racing world. Due to the popularity of the horse, souvenirs were made with his likeness, a possible origin of this piece.
Converted from a cufflink and mounted on an antique 8 karat gold band, this ring boasts a beautiful hand painted miniature portrait of a horse in profile. A wonderful and unusual ring, all bets will be on every time you wear it!
Be sure to check out our other marvelous reverse intaglio conversion rings: "Camptown Races" and "The Fabulous Mr. Fox"
Size (can be resized): 9 & 9.25
Weight: 4.08 & 4.34 grams
Materials: Gold, hand painted reverse intaglio cameo
Metal: 14K& 8K yellow gold
Condition: Very good antique condition