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Unusual Gold, Ivory and Jadeite Brooch

This brooch has been the subject of ongoing debate. It is certainly 19thc…probably between 1860 and 1880….it is a pair of teeth, surrounded by a figure made of at least 20ct gold with Chinese hallmarks and set with a lovely piece of jadeite. In the 19th century gold was not abundant in China and was only used by the wealthiest families. In all of my research I have  been unable to find a similar Chinese gold ornament.


( 4.7cm wide 3.3cm high app. 1 7/8" wide 1 1/4" high )

In the second half of the 19thc several events joined to create a popular taste for exotica in the world of jewelry. There were ongoing archaeological expeditions in Greece, Italy and Egypt which were widely publicized in newspapers and magazines. Large collections of ancient treasure began to appear in museums in Rome, Paris and London. In 1851 in London the Great Exhibition of the Industry of all Nations took place.

The low cost of admission made the exhibits available to a broad public. Interest in Eastern styles and culture grew influencing the world of fashion and personal ornament. Materials new to the Western world came into use. Real scarab beetles, small birds and vulture claws were set in precious metals and dangled from women’s ears and men’s watch chains. The fad peaked in 1876 when Queen Victoria became the Empress of India and tiger claw jewelry came into vogue. Women wore tiger claw earrings set in gold and brooches set with two claws in gold….similar in many ways to this Chinese brooch with teeth.

Brooches are not a traditional Chinese form so it seems possible that this may be an earlier ornament adapted for the western market.

The teeth have proven difficult to identify. The jagged edges appear to be natural…there are no signs that they have been carved or altered, they have some staining and natural patina. It has been suggested that they are the teeth of a fish not a mammal. More research needed. The last debate is about the gold figure, some people see a frog…in my opinion the tentacles suggest an insect…still searching images… researching antique jewelry is definitely not an exact science…

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  1. Anonymous
    Posted November 20, 2007 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    I have seen a polynesian club with these same teeth. I beleive they are from a tiger shark which is specially adapted to biting through a sea turtle’s shell.

  2. T.G
    Posted November 21, 2007 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Thanks a lot…we will look into that!

  3. Helen B
    Posted November 29, 2007 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    I think it looks like some sort of a cricket. I love this brooch!

  4. Anonymous
    Posted February 16, 2008 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    It looks like some kind of cicada beetle. It’s a gorgeous brooch!

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