Known as 'hediao', fruit or nut pit carving is a folk art which became popular in China during the Qing Dynasty 1644-1911 the last imperial dynasty of China. Pits of peach, coquilla, apricot, olive, myrica rubra kernels, walnuts, and others are sculpted to create miniature designs of the Buddha, Sages, natural subjects or the Chinese zodiac which are said to repel evil spirits and signify good luck to the wearer. The quality of the work was held in great esteem, and the artists highly regarded for their efforts to surpass themselves in intricacy and fineness of result.
As Mark Lawson says in his article on HEdison...
'Each peach stone is unique, with an irregular shape covered in bumps and holes. A master carver was capable of producing an exquisite three-dimensional sculpture on a very tiny scale. The finest master carvers could create complex historical scenes, poetic themes, overflowing flower baskets, rustic landscapes, on a peach stone usually measuring somewhere between 3/4″ to 1 3/4″ long. Each tiny work of art was an incredible feat of creative vision, technical skill, and patience.'
We are not sure where it would have been bought but the nutty panels would have been carved in China and then most likely set by European Goldsmiths. Trade at that time was very much governed by the British East India Company, and possibly these panels were purchased as a curio on The Grand Tour. This would have been an exotic and highly fashionable piece at the time it was made and would have shown that the wearer was fashionable, well travelled and cultured. This grand beauty is now available for purchase and comes in her own original fitted case.
To read further about the fashion for Coquilla nut carving see Jane Austens World
To learn more about the art and history of Cannetille we suggest the Antique Jewellery University.