For years people have bought souvenirs as reminders of their journeys. They are an echo of the places visited and of the sights seen. Collecting souvenirs was an important part of the overall travel experience for the 19th-century tourist. To be seen as a person of the world was a status symbol, and was important to members of “high society.” By the early 19th-century, Italy had become a popular destination for well-to-do Europeans and Americans. Unique micro-mosaic parures (suites of jewelry) made in Italy were a favorite souvenir for people to bring home at a time when cameras were not yet available. Micro-mosaics captured the bella vistas of Italy’s cities and county side, as well as the antiquities and artistic highlights of the Grand Tour.
Most often designed for women, a parure traditionally consisted of a necklace with matching bracelets, earrings and a brooch or pin, although some also included accessories like hair ornaments and tiaras. Italian micro-mosaic parures reflected the love many Europeans had of all things classical. The mosaics featured Italy’s famed ancient ruins, architecture, and pastoral scenes. This particular parure contains a necklace, a pair of earrings, two bracelets, a pendant/slide and two brooches. The pieces show different ancient ruins, including the Pantheon, the Coliseum, the Temple of Vesta, and St. Peter’s Basilica, which is officially named the Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano.
The process of making micro-mosaic jewelry was extremely labor intensive, precise work. They were made from hundreds of colored tesserae—the small glass or stone used to create a mosaic. A craftsman using tweezers delicately arranged the tesserae on a panel of glass. Any gaps were filled with a colored wax and the pieces were then carefully polished. The tesserae in this parure were mounted on gold filigree and ringed with a rich cobalt blue border, giving the jewelry an air of sophistication and elegance, which is exactly what the wearer wanted to project to the world.