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Victorian 18ct Gold & Reverse Intaglio Rock Crystal Brooch of a Horse’s Head



A very finely executed reverse intaglio crystal of an Arabian horse with a white blaze, small pointed ears and such an alert look in his face. The art of reverse crystal intaglio is incredible. The crystal was sourced in Brazil and Madagascar. A well-formed cabochon is the key to a beautifully made reverse intaglio and the tedious process of hand polishing it to perfection had to be completed before the design work could begin. A watercolour with the image was painted on the underside of the cabochon and an oil and diamond dust mixture was used along with up to 250 scribing tools to carve the design into the interior of the crystal “…the deeper the carving the more pronounced trompe l’oeil effect.” Once the carving was established the painting process began using very fine brushes and paint work in reverse to create highly detailed images, so that when viewed through the top, the image appears three-dimensional. Finally, the back was sealed in order to preserve the painted areas. The technique originated in Belgium c.1860 and is attributed to an artist named Emile Marius Pradier. In England Thomas Cook made crystals for Lambeth & Co. Mr. Cook was succeeded by his apprentice, Thomas Bean. Bean’s son and grandson carried on the tradition of reverse crystal intaglios.
Reverse crystal intaglios were set as stickpins, buttons and studs, mounted on tie pins, cuff links, lockets, pendants and brooches. This relatively secret process, with its techniques passed through family members, kept it exclusive and expectations of quality were very high. They remained in fashion until poorly made glass and plastic imitations flooded the market c. 1920.
This example is really fine quality, and mounted in an 18ct gold.

Written by Olly Gerrish
Date & OriginVictorian (1839-1901), English
MeasurementsDiameter 22 mm
Condition Very Good
HallmarksUnmarked, tested to 18ct gold

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