18th century Portuguese topaz earrings
A rare form of Portuguese Imperial topaz earrings, circa 1780. The Portuguese colony of Brazil was the source of many precious gemstones, such as topaz, chrysoberyl and aquamarine. These vibrantly coloured gems cast their spell, inspiring a distinctive national jewellery of richness and charm which reached an apogee in the late 18th century. Inspired by the rainbow of coloured gems, jewellers set them close is solid silver mounts, enlivening gems of one colour by foiling them in different shades. These earrings are silver set with foiled golden Imperial topaz in closed back settings. They have their original reverse ear fittings with wig loops. The purpose of the wig loop was to attach the earrings to a cord tied around the back of the head. The earrings measure one inch by one inch. They sit well on the ear and do not fall forward when worn and are as dazzling in sunlight as they would have been in candlelight. For an almost identical pair see Plate 28 in Scarisbrick’s Jewels of Portugal.