The Controversial World Of Blackamoor Jewelry

Jewelry depicting people of color has long been collectible. In the 19th century, Americans of color were depicted in postcards, toys and other controversial in a disrespectful way. Jewelry depicting “Moors” was often done in a more dignified manner.

Originating from Europe and Brazil, these pieces often depicted a Black nobleman or kings or queens, and celebrated them. But some of the “blackamoor” pieces as they are called are now thought of as insulting. Like old lawn jockey yard statues, some are workers or helpers, indicating servitude. Recently, the former Dutchess Meghan of Sussex was apologized to by Princess Michael after she wore a blackamoor brooch. The press called it “offensive.” And at this event – the coming out of a Royal of color – it may very well have been ill-advised.

blackamoor jewelry

Celebrating The Moorish Culture

But several wealthy, high-profile Black women actually COLLECT blackamoors. One even wrote the following: “I see kings and queens who held their own in Southern Spain, Sicily, as conquerors, traders and merchants. It’s a reflection of a time when in a wealthy international city like Venice, Black people and former slaves did have a place.” These blackamoors remind you that Black people in Italy didn’t stop after the Roman Empire. Moors, and depictions of Moors, were entrenched in Italian culture. Othello, anyone?

The subject of this week’s column is a gold, platinum and diamond Cartier brooch. Is it celebrating a Black
nobleman’s bouquet gift to his betrothed? Or a subservient having just picked flowers? His diamond bracelet seems to indicate a man of wealth rather than a servant.

While it is all in the eyes of the beholder, the controversy has decimated the value of these works of art. These once brought $10,000 to $20,000 at auction when signed Cartier, but we will lose money as we bought it just before Ms. Markle’s marriage and the controversy drove the prices of these down. Is it a work of art celebrating the Moorish culture or simply a racist souvenir?

Retail replacement value, $25,000.
Old auction value, $10,000-$20,000.
Today, under $5,000.
We will take a loss on this one.

Three former Sothebyscom associates
and three art historians on staff. We will buy for cash
or consign to auction any piece of rare, valuable jewelry.

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