Victorian Gold Pearl Diamond Cross Pendant

I grew up going to a Presbyterian church in my hometown of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. It was a beautiful old church, built in 1896 of stone and slate. When you entered into the church you could feel the history, I spent many an hour staring up into the steeply sloped dark wooden ceiling lined in heavy wooden beams. Buttressed along the walls, protruding into the room, were three dimensional carved wooden angles which seemed poised to take flight and fly out over the rows of pews. The walls were lined with deeply leaded stained glass in rich, dark tones of cobalt blue and gold, set into arched windows. I loved this church, but my absolute favorite service every year was the midnight service on Christmas Eve.

At the end of the service, they would turn out the lights and plunge the room into darkness. The Minister would light a single candle on either side of the isle and then the people lining the pews would light candles, passing the light from one to another and gradually, in silence, the room would fill with candlelight. Symbolic of Jesus, spreading the Light of Hope, of Good News. The flickers of hundreds of candles bouncing off the rich shiny wooden beams and ceiling gave the room an ageless feel, like slipping back in time. When all of the candles were lit, the congregation would sing ‘Silent Night’, a Capella, and at the end we would blow out our candles, plunging the room into darkness once more before filing out into the cold, still night.

This would be the perfect cross for that Christmas Eve service, or any service really. I guess it would be the perfect cross for lunch on a Tuesday as well. It’s religious, but not pious, beautifully spiritual but not puritanical. I had a bit of a hard time pinning down the age of this cross, I feel as though it’s quite early, possibly 1760s or so, based on the construction. This gorgeous cross is set with 32 pearls of various sizes, the center pearl measures 4 mm across and the remaining pearls measure from between 1.5 and 2.5 mm; they are very white and bright with excellent luster and an unevenness which indicates they may be fully natural. The center stone and top bale are set with rose cut diamond, one at the top and 12 surrounding the center. This early cross is unmarked but acid tests as 15 karat gold. The cross measures 38.8 mm from top to bottom and 22.6 mm across and weighs 3.6 grams.

Swarthmore hasn’t been my home for many a long year, and yet every Christmas Eve I find myself longing for that service, for the hopeful light in the darkness and voices raised in song.

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