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Victorian Fashionistas and their Etruscan-style Jewelry

Today's young fashionistas who avidly follow every fashion trend and the styles of celebrities and pop stars are not a new phenomenon. There were fashionistas all through history.

Victorian era fashionistas were lampooned in this Punch cartoon entitled "A young lady on the High Classical School of Ornament", published in 1859.

They were wealthy English tourists on their Grand Tour who stampeded to the Italian master jeweler Castellani's workshop, buying all the Etruscan reproduction jewelry they could get their hands on.

These designs were based on jewelry found in various ancient Etruscan and Greek archaeological sites which were being excavated around that time.

Castellani himself faithfully copied Etruscan designs. Despite his best efforts, he never discovered the lost Etruscan technique of granulation - attaching tiny gold grains onto gold pieces without soldering.

It wasn't until the 20th century that the mystery was solved - the grains had to be stuck on with copper carbonate, water and fish glue. When heated, the copper carbonate fused with the gold thus creating a solder-less bind.

The gold beads in the detail of an Etruscan necklace on the right show a powdery texture made by those tiny gold grains - the hallmark of the Etruscan jewelers' skill.

References
Castellani and Italian Archaeological Jewelry
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Kenneth Snowman (1990). The Master Jewelers. Harry N Abrams. Inc.
Clare Phillips (2000). Jewels and Jewelry. Watson Guptill Publications.
Hugh Tait. Jewelry (1991). 7000 Years. Harry N Abrams. Inc
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