Italian women have always loved lavish display. Even for the poorest, a rich show of jewellery was all important. Italian goldsmiths were expert at making a little material go a very long way. Many pieces seem too large to wear comfortably, but they are usually made of very thin gold, and are much lighter than they appear. Even the largest pieces weigh only a few grams.
Huge pendants and earrings like this were worn throughout northern and central Italy in the first half of the 19th century. The design is based on older aristocratic jewellery, but the execution is uniquely Italian.
This earring was bought for £3 12s. (the pair) as part of the Castellani collection of Italian Peasant Jewellery at the International Exhibition, Paris, 1867.