Unusual Operculum Jewelry

Some operculum jewelry pieces simply don’t fit neatly into any of the more popular design categories such as filigree, tortoise shell, etc. This isn’t too surprising, considering that opercula are rather unusual themselves! So here are a few that defied description and/or approximate dating, although in some cases I’ve included my personal “guesstimate” of age.


various vintage and modern operculum jewelryThis assortment of pieces could be from any place or time, other than the foldover clasp pointing to sometime during or after the 1920s. I haven’t seen any metal prong set opercula like these until at least that era, as well.



sterling leaf motif operculum ringThis leaf-motif ring was advertised as being “antique Victorian sterling” although there’s nothing about it (or the STERLING stamp) that would specifically date it as such to the exclusion of any other era.



art deco era operculum jewelry03bOn the other hand, I am fairly certain that this necklace and bracelet are from the late 1920s/early 30s. Although very similar they are not a matched set. The necklace is 16″ long and has a hook closure. The foldover/clasp bracelet is a generous 8.25″ long and 1.25″ wide; the stations have an interesting and decorative motif on the back which also protects the back of the opercula as well. Both pieces are sterling.
vintage sterling and coral necklaceThe vintage Art Deco era coral and sterling necklace above is remarkably similar in design to the operculum pieces.



shell and tortoise necklaceThis combination of cowrie shells and an operculum atop a faux tortoise shell heart is probably more modern-day and quite possibly even a tourist piece. It is 17″ end to end, with a 3.5″ shell-and-heart drop.



operculum costume jewelry earrings and broochThese pieces are probably from the post WWII period. The sterling bow brooch is probably a product of the late 1940s-early 1950s Victorian Revival craze. The earrings are just over 1″ in diameter; all the shells are affixed to a flat plastic back and have tiny rhinestones glued between them.



1940s operculum trench art braceletThis bracelet is definitely from the 1940s and is quite possibly an example of WWII “trench art.” It can be dated because the opercula alternate with 1943 George V silver threepence coins. This bracelet may well have originated in the South Pacific war theatre. The bracelet is 7.5″ long and the coins are just over a half inch in diameter.



operculum and MOP necklace earring setInstead of real or faux tortoise, this necklace and earring set uses mother-of-pearl plaques. The ten rectangular mother-of-pearl plaques are graduated in size, as are the opercula topping them. The extremely brief description only mentioned that the earrings have clip backs, which effectively dates this set to no earlier than the 1930s which is when clip-on earrings first made their appearance.



operculum and mother of pearl necklaceHere’s another (and rather ferocious looking!) necklace made with triangular plaques instead. It was cited as being 15″ long; obviously that’s just measuring the chain. It was also described as being “Victorian era” but I’m having a bit of a tough time envisioning that.



operculum and glass or lucite acrylic pendantThe seller of this pendant described it as being “either glass or heavy lucite”, so in view of the fact that Lucite was actually created to be much lighter than glass (that’s why they used it instead of glass in WWII warplanes) I’m going to guess it’s probably glass. Although not visible in the photo, there is an operculum on the back as well as the front; wouldn’t that be a bit uncomfortable to wear? Another oddity is that, according to the description, “under the sterling silver bale that there is a hole for a chain in the glass. The sterling bale can be removed to use a chain through the glass.” (But why would you want to?) Measurements were cited as 1.77″ wide x 1.82 high without the jump ring, and the width as 0.80″.



operculum flower broochUndoubtedly 20th century, this cheerful-looking flower brooch has an operculum in the center. The metal is not specified other than a weight of about 9 grams for the piece. It is 1.75″ wide and 2.75″ top to bottom.




pique operculum braceletThis postwar bracelet combines opercula, tortoise, and silver inlays of a palm tree and a flower. This method of using silver (or other metal) inlay is called pique work. It’s possible this may also be an example of tourist jewelry.



operculum disk necklace12bAnd to round out this dozen examples of unusual operculum jewelry, we have a necklace made entirely of flat operculum disks. Unlike the typical cabochon opercula these are flat but are also thick enough that they were able to be drilled for use as beads (I can only imagine how many times that drill slipped, though) The necklace is 19″ long, about 5/8″ wide, and contains 38 opercula; no wonder the seller described it as having the “weight and feel of stone”!

Other posts in this series:
Antique Victorian Operculum Jewelry
Operculum and Tortoise Shell Jewelry
Silver Filigree Operculum Jewelry

  2 comments for “Unusual Operculum Jewelry

  1. May 3, 2016 at 11:00 am

    Wow. They really are lovely, and some are intriguing ….

  2. May 8, 2016 at 9:50 am

    I love this stuff, thank you for my education. Now if you are looking for a birthday present for me (anyone) that last necklace is an absolute stunner!

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