Home  / DH1041, 2019.4.4

Snake bracelet with box owned by Catherine Dickens

Collection

Object

Object number (per part)

DH1041, 2019.4.4

Object name (per part)

bracelet

Production date

1840s - 1850s

Label

This is a gold-tone snake bracelet with an accompanying box owned by Catherine Dickens from around the 1840s - 1850s. The bracelet is a typical piece of Victorian jewellery and is full of meaning in its design and materials. Turquoise stones symbolise love. while rubies represent strength. The whole bracelet is in the shape of a snake or serpent, symbolising eternity. In her will, Catherine bequeathed this bracelet to her second daughter Katey Perugini. It is similar in design to a ring owned by Catherine (DH728).

Physical description

This is a gold-toned snake bangle with turquoise inlay on the head and tail, with ruby eyes. The head is engraved with a swirled floral and leaf design. The snake is portrayed with an open mouth, which reveals teeth and a forked tongue. The bracelet is hinged in two places for wearing and is accompanied by its own custom box.

Object history note

The snake bracelet was left in Catherine’s will to her daughter Katey Perugini, a copy of which is retained by the Charles Dickens Museum. Catherine’s will also mentions various special items in a cabinet that she bequeaths to her grandchildren, Beatrice Dickens and her siblings. Correspondence in the Charles Dickens Museum archive show that Katey Perugini was close to her nieces and it would not have been out of character for her to give the snake bracelet to Beatrice. We have various examples of Katey giving other Dickens family-related items to her nieces and nephews or younger siblings.

On 16 August 2018, the jewellery expert Charlotte Gere visited the Museum and viewed this item. She emphasised that this bracelet is full of meaning: love (turquoise) protected by strength (ruby), while a snake eating its tail symbolises eternity. Victorian sentimental jewellery frequently included ruby and turquoise for symbolic purposes, and this particular design was very common at the time, as shown by the bracelet's similarity to a ring owned by Catherine and left to Georgina Hogarth in her will (DH728). Furthermore, snake jewellery often recurred in fiction. In this particular piece, Gere wondered whether the turquoise on the snake’s head could be in the shape of forget-me-not. The case was widely used but the insert is possibly made especially, however the case-maker is not detailed in this example. The bracelet itself is also not marked, however this was not uncommon on items where the maker's signature may spoil it.

The bracelet featured in the V&A exhibition on Charles Dickens 1970 and is listed in the catalogue.

Credit line

Purchased with support from the Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund (National Lottery), the Art Fund and the Dickens Fellowship.
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