"Psyche's Lyre"

Antique 14K & Carved Shell Psyche Cameo Pendant

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  • Regular price $925.00

 A cameo is a form of glyptography, or bas-relief carving, most often cut into glass, hard-stones, and shells. Artworks were crafted to create two layers on one piece of material, the top of which protruded from its background, creating a multi-dimensional artwork. These detailed reliefs were often used to adorn pieces of jewelry, including brooches, necklaces, bracelets and rings. The earliest cameos took inspiration from prehistoric petroglyphs, which documented important religious and symbolic iconography onto rock faces.

Despite its popularity in previous periods, the most well-known era for cameo collection was the 19th century, inspired by royal cameo collectors Queen Victoria and Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Shelled cameos, which depicted these natural and humanistic scenes onto deep-sea shells, became quite popular under Queen Victoria’s reign. Similarly, Napoleon himself founded a Parisian apprentice school to foster the talents of young cameo carvers. 

The story of Cupid and Psyche's forbidden love, always a crowd pleaser, was a popular theme for jewelers. Cupid falls in love with the beautiful mortal woman, Psyche. After many trials (including being turned into a butterfly), Psyche earns the right to become a goddess and live with her beloved. The ancient novel Metamorphoses, written in the 2nd century CE by Roman author Apuleius devotes four of its 11 books to the story of Cupid and Psyche. Mentioned therein is an invisible lyre that Cupid plays for his bride before she realizes his identity.

Found while antiquing in Great Britian, this wonderful unset cameo depicts Psyche with a lyre, while a butterfly wing can be seen at her shoulder. Although of undetermined age, the style is notably similar to a Roman sculpture form the 4th century CE. We have added a 14 karat yellow gold bale crafted from an antique stickpin, creating a ethereal, mythical pendant!

Details (approximate)

Dimensions: 1.75"

Weight: 10.06 grams

Materials: Gold, carved shell cameo

Metal: 14K yellow gold bale

Marks: None

Condition: Excellent Antique condition commensurate with age and wear