Small seed pearls imported from China and India and strung on horsehair or silk into earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and hair ornaments achieved great popularity in federal America. Their smooth white texture and color melded with the neoclassical aesthetic that harkened back to ancient Greece and Rome. During the presidency, Martha Washington purchased readily available seed pearl jewelry that was imported or made by Philadelphia and New York jewelers. The interest and fashion for seed pearl jewelry lasted after her death, and Mrs. Washington's descendants continued to wear her finery, occasionally re-working her seed pearls into pieces such as these earrings with pendant rosettes.

Description

Pair of seed pearl earrings and pendants, each consisting of a small circular earring and a larger circular pendant composed of seed pearls sewn onto mother-of-pearl disks

A: The larger pendant is composed of seed pearls arranged in a circular, open pattern of a flower or pinwheel with six petals and an arch at the top; at the center of each petal is a large pearl; at the center of the flower is a circle of five rosettes, each with a large pearl encircled by seed pearls, surrounding a single large pearl; a rosette with a large pearl encircled by seed pearls is mounted between the arms of the arch; an eye hook is mounted to the back of each pendant.

B: The smaller circular earring is composed of seed pearls arranged in concentric circles with a large pearl mounted above the center and eight rosettes of large pearls encircled by seed pearls placed around the perimeter; some of the large pearls are missing from the center of the rosettes.

C: The larger pendant is composed of seed pearls arranged in a circular, open pattern of a flower or pinwheel with six petals and an arch at the top; at the center of each petal is a large pearl; at the center of the flower is a circle of five rosettes, each with a large pearl encircled by seed pearls, surrounding a single large pearl; a rosette with a large pearl encircled by seed pearls is mounted between the arms of the arch; an eye hook is mounted to the back of each pendant.

D: The smaller circular earring is composed of seed pearls arranged in concentric circles with a large pearl mounted above the center and eight rosettes of large pearls encircled by seed pearls placed around the perimeter; some of the large pearls are missing from the center of the rosettes.

Date

c. 1789-1797; refashioned c. 1852-1864


Geography


Material/Technique

Pearl, mother of pearl, silver


Dimensions

Other (pendant): 2 in. x 1 1/8 in. x 3/8 in. (5.08 cm x 2.87 cm x 0.97 cm)
Other (earring): 7/8 in. x 7/8 in. x 1/4 in. (2.24 cm x 2.24 cm x 0.64 cm)


Credit Line

Gift of Helen Upshur Hunt Conrad, 1958


Object Number

W-2214/A-D


Colors (Beta)


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