I recently bought this antique silver locket at auction. As you can see, the front of the locket is engraved in the style of the Aesthetic Movement of the late 19th century, with a swallow, bamboo and grassy mound. The opening up of Japan after 1854 led to an interest in Japanese culture and the Aesthetic Movement was inspired by simple naturalistic asymmetrical themes – birds, leaves and sometimes Japanese-style elements like bamboo.

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Front of silver locket with bamboo, swallow and flowers

There is a border of silver balls around the rim of the locket. The back is plain. So, from the outside, the locket looks like a fairly typical engraved silver locket from the 1880s.

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Back of silver locket

Inside is the surprise. There is a carving in ivory of Mary holding Jesus, a religious icon that the original owner would have used to aid her prayers.

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The locket was made in St Petersburg, Russia, between 1882 and 1899. The maker’s initials are B.C.