This antique portrait bracelet is another treasure I spotted at the Original Miami Beach Antique Show – it’s just so cool that I thought it needed to have its very own post.
Here’s what this antique portrait bracelet looks like at first glance.
Gorgeous, right? That thick gold base, the careful blue enamel detailing around the diamond-set stars, the chubby old-cut diamonds themselves. There’s nothing here that isn’t lovable.
Beautiful, but portrait-free so far. Don’t worry. I promise I said “antique portrait bracelet” for a reason.
Whaaaaaaaat?!? That’s right. Each of those diamond-set, enamel-lined stars conceals a secret compartment. The central, largest portrait is the husband of the Fanny C Bell, the lucky woman received this mind-boggling treasure on June 13th, 1864 in honor of their 26th wedding anniversary.
The stars to the sides of the center open to reveal a line of four portraits on each side: the entire Bell brood, from oldest to the curly hair and chubby cheeks of the youngest Bell all the way on the right.
Wait. How did I know all of that very specific information?
I’LL TELL YOU HOW (apologies for the caps, I find this antique portrait bracelet very exciting).
The bracelet is engraved on the back with the gift recipient’s name, the date, and the explanation of the occasion:
FANNY C BELL
on their 26th
from her affectionate
13th June 1864
Is that not just the coolest thing you’ve ever seen? Gotta love those different fonts in the engraving, too.
Here’s my lingering question: what did this woman get as a gift for her first twenty-five wedding anniversaries that her husband went this big for the 26th? Or maybe he forgot the first 25 and this was his apology?
Either way: Mr. Bell did well.
I spotted this antique portrait bracelet in the John T Haynes’ Miami Beach Antique Show cases – between some golf ball sized opals and a huge, gemstone-set cross that had been a gift from the Pope – and I went RIGHT for this one.
Melinda Lawton says
Wow! I, like you, have spent most of my life looking at antique jewelry, and I have never seen anything like this! It must have been quite a feat to create something like that in 1864! Thank you, Becky, for sharing!
Isn’t it absolutely mind-blowingly incredible?? I’m so glad you love it too. And I completely agree: I hope that the luckily recipient of this bracelet understood how extraordinary a piece they owned. I assume she must have, for it to have survived in such good condition.
Thanks so much for stopping by!
Josh Gann says
Antique jewelry can be so innovative! It’s fun to wear vintage pieces, and to also use them for inspiration in new designs. Vintage-inspired modern designs are also fun to wear because these are given a modern twist.
This bracelet is awesome! I wonder if there is more information about the other portraits; children, I assume. What a keepsake!
As for Mr. Bell’s tardiness, I forgive him. It’s the thought that counts! And there was a war going on in this country at the time. Maybe it took longer than expected for a goldsmith to produce this wonderful piece.
Those are all excellent points. Maybe he was waiting for the littlest Bell to grow up enough to sit for a portrait? Either way, it’s a treasure.
Amy Roseveare says
I agree with you — that bracelet did deserve its own post. I’ve never seen anything like it! Thanks so much for sharing.
Isn’t it AMAZING?? It was in the display case next to a jewel-encrusted cross that had belonged to the Pope (or something like that) but I only had eyes for this baby.