Paris, 61 x 23 mm, circa 1780
A rare tortoiseshell gift box with miniature painting of a young lady
Case: tortoiseshell and two coloured gold mountings, case maker's mark illegible, charge mark Jean-Baptiste Fouache (1775 - 1781), discharge mark Julien Alaterre (1768 - 1775), guild punch mark "S" of 1782.
Round case with loose lid with very fine enamel portrait under glass in the centre showing a lady in a blue dress with her curly dark blond hair pinned up; with a surrounding of finely woven dark blond hair; framed by green gold laurel wreaths, rims with gold pearl dots.
A lock of hair
Jewellery made with hair came into vogue during the 18th and 19th centuries, when love and friendship were often cultivated with such keepsakes. The emotional value of the jewellery was all-important; most of these early pieces were created from the giver's own hair and personal gifts of this type were held in high esteem in the Age of Sentimentalism.
The custom of making jewellery from hair originally came from England; during the times of Classicism and Biedermeier when the cult of friendship and the storage of mementos was its zenith, people all over Europe took delight in this kind of art.
Source: http://www.museum-isny.de/m_archiv_haar.htm, as of 09/19/2010
Case: very good, hairline