Victorian Refinement - VI


Victorian Gold-Content "Grotesque" Cufflinks with Amethysts (LEO Design)


Queen Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1901—an era well-represented in our collection of handsome cufflinks.  For the rest of the month, we'll be sharing some of these Victorian cufflinks offerings, many of them recently acquired.  Click here to see all of the cufflinks at LEO Design.

In architecture and the decorative arts, a "grotesque" is a hideous human or animal face used in a highly embellished (and theatrical) manner of decoration.  They have been utilized since Ancient Roman times, perhaps to illustrate the dark side of human behavior or to scare away evil spirits or habits.  The name is derived from the Italian word "grottesca" which means "from a cave," for it was by being lowered into caves that 15th Century archaeologists rediscovered Emperor Nero's Domus Aurea palace in Rome—where such grotesque masks had been employed with abandon.

Grotesques were much-used in the Medieval period, too, especially in churches, reminders to the faithful of the ultimate wages of sin.  They were intended to frighten the congregants while warding-off evil.  Gargoyles—which are ghastly waterspouts—are a variation on the same theme: intending to frighten away evil while directing rainwater away from the building.

In the century after Nero's palace was excavated, grotesques were revived in the Renaissance and Mannerist periods, then later in the Victorian Era.  One famous Ancient grotesque is the Bocca della Verità, the "Mouth of Truth" in Rome.  The 2,800 pound stone bears a carved grotesque face with an open mouth.  It was carved in the First Century and, since the Middle Ages, legend holds that the stone will bite-off the hand of anyone who dares to place his or her hand in the open mouth while telling a lie.

These Victorian cufflinks portray grotesques holding faceted amethysts in their mouths. They are reminiscent of Rome's Bocca della Verità and are certain to ward off evil (and liars) while closing your cuffs in style.  Click on the photo above to learn more about them.


Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (

We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques ( or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248