The art form of crystal based reverse intaglio, or Essex Crystal work, began in Europe, possibly in Belgium. The difference between reverse carving and intaglio is that an intaglio piece is carved into the front rather than the back of the surface. It is said that Thomas Cook first introduced this tedious process to England during the 1860s. His finished crystals were initially sold by Hancock’s in London. So why weren’t they called “Cook crystals” or “Hancock crystals”? Well, it so happened that a very popular artist named William Essex, who specialized in enamel miniatures, was assumed to have produced them because of the fineness of the workmanship. Essex was one of Queen Victoria’s favorite portrait artists and so it was probably just assumed that such beautiful work must be his, and the mistaken attribution stuck!
This antique Victorian celluloid pill box is set in the top with the most exquisitely carved and painted spider. I’m not usually a buyer of things non-jewelry, but I simply couldn’t resist this fantastic crystal with it’s detailed creeping spider. The crystal is set into a 9 karat gold frame and measures 14.2 mm across, while the box itself is 42.7 mm across and 19.6 mm deep, it has a silver band around the outside. The materials have been acid tested to verify content and the box weighs in at 17.3 grams.
Most Essex crystal designs fall into one of four categories: animals, birds, flowers, and nautical themes. Within the animal genre the most popular subjects were horses, dogs, and foxes, but this is the first time I’ve ever had the delight of stumbling upon a spider!
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