When we think of souvenirs, we bring home with us to fondly remember trips, we think of postcards, t-shirts, etc. Back in the day (17th-19th century to be exact), souvenirs were worn as micromosaics. If mosaic art comes to mind when you hear micromosaics, you aren’t far off.
Micromosaics were pieces of oval or circular pieces of art made from tesserae, often being worn in the form of brooches or charms. Originating in Rome and reaching peak popularity during the 19th century, one of the most common methods of creating micromosaic jewelry was melting glass and pulling the glass into thin rods or threads. From there, the glass was cut into tiny pieces and then assembled into artworks that consisted of landscapes, animals, and florals to name a few. The base consisted of either metal or marble, and cement was used as adhesive.
Upper-class Europeans would often travel around Europe and take home micromosaic jewelry that depicted imagery from their travels. Extremely wealthy tourists would even commission their own mosaics to be worn. Different subjects were more expensive than others. For example, floras were cheaper than portraits. Commissions could include anything from these portraits to landscapes and even pets. There was a lot of appeal with the small size of these tiny, beautiful and wearable pieces of art. They could be collected or sent back home to loved ones – kind of like a postcard!
These tiny, beautiful portable and wearable pieces were made in Italy and then usually were sent to London and Paris to be mounted and sold as they gained popularity. If you could wear any vacation spot you’ve traveled to on a piece of micromosaic jewelry, which one would you pick?
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Written by Olivia Matthews
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