The production of coral jewellery was a major industry in the south of Italy from prehistoric times. Tourists loved to buy coral jewellery in fashionable shapes, but it was also very popular with Italian women, who valued it for its colour and amuletic qualities.
This necklace consists of 16 rows of barrel-shaped coral beads, gathered into two silver terminals with loops for ribbons. In the 19th century Italian women usually used silk ribbons to fasten their necklaces and pendants, but these ribbons were fragile and easily destroyed. The ones shown here are rare survivals, saved by the V&A's early interest in authenticity.
This necklace was bought as part of the Castellani collection of Italian Peasant Jewellery at the International Exhibition, Paris, 1867.