Ball, Black & Co. American

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 706

This pair of earrings is part of a demi-parure that also includes a pair of studs and a brooch. All elements have a gold scalloped base chased with a foliate border, as well as coral cylinders mounted at the center beneath cast and chased clusters of berries and leaves. The suite retains its original leather case, which is lined in pale green satin and velvet, and is marked in gold letters with the name and address of New York City jewelers Ball, Black & Co. The screwback fasteners hooked to the top of each earring are later additions.

Believed by classical civilizations to possess therapeutic and apotropaic powers and used as ornament since ancient times, coral was a staple of jewelry design in Victorian America. Coral is an organic gem, the skeleton of tiny marine animals called 'polyps.' During the mid-nineteenth century, when this demi-parure was fabricated, coral was mainly harvested from the Mediterranean waters surrounding Naples. American jewelers like Ball, Black & Co. imported Neapolitan coral and set the gems in mountings of their own design. The articulated, pointed pendants suspended from the brooch and earrings speak to the mid-nineteenth century trend of 'archaeological' style jewelry. [1]

[1] Martha Gandy Fales, “Jewelry in America” (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Antique Collectors' Club, 1995), 237-238.

Earrings, Ball, Black & Co. (American, New York, 1851–1874), Gold and coral, American

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