Monday, March 25, 2013

Regency Dancing!

Several years ago, there was an annual regency ball in moved to South Bend for a while, but now it's back in Michigan so Samantha, Julie, my mom, and I all snapped up tickets and made a night of it.

It was a very bustling event, with the floor just bursting with dancers all night long.  It had been a long time since I'd done anything but Civil War dances and it was great fun to get back to my roots, so to speak.  The style is quite different, and the dances were really beautiful to watch as well as dance.

I managed to finish a new dress for the evening; it was the one I started last June, hated the sleeves, and quit working on for six months.  I'll post about it soon; I still want to make undersleeves for it, and it was just dark enough not to photograph terribly well in the low light.

A beautiful evening all told, and I'm thrilled for the ball to be back in Michigan.  I'm already looking forward to next year!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

But what *is* it?

So after posting yesterday's entry, I realized that I glossed over quite a bit of information that could potentially be interesting to some.  I talked about fichu- or lace-pins, as well as hairwork, but only very briefly.

From Candice Hern
I like doing research as much as the next guy, but there are already a couple of pages out there that cover the information.  Because of this, I am going to defer to greater minds than I and link elsewhere for further reading

Georgian Woven-Hair Lace Pins
This article covers both of the above topics, and has some wonderful photos.  I love variety in both the pins and the weaving patterns!

18th Century Women's Fichus and Neckerchiefs lists mostly examples of actual kerchiefs, but if you go way down to the bottom of the article there are several links to original lace-pins at the British Museum's website.

Happy reading! (And, of course, looking at pictures of sparkly jewelry!)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Tiny Treasures: an Itty-Bitty Brooch

Okay, I admit it: when I found this brooch on Ebay, I didn’t expect it to be quite so tiny.  I’m delighted with it, though, and it’ll be the perfect size for wearing on a neckerchief, which I suspect may have been its original purpose.   The modern term would be a fichu pin, sometimes also called a lace-pin.

Tiny, empty brooch
What attracted me to this teeny thing was the fact that it was falling apart.  Sounds silly, right?  Well, the thing is that I’ve been fascinated with the history of hairwork for a while, and I covet a piece  of my own.  There are only two problems with that: One, antique hairwork is fairly expensive.  Two, the idea of wearing a stranger’s hair from two hundred years ago really weirds me out if I think about it too hard.

No seriously, itty-bitty!
I could go down the rabbit hole of hairwork jewelry, but that’s a whole ‘nother entry!  The upshot is that while I’m a little freaked out by the idea of wearing a stranger’s hair, I have no problem with the idea of wearing hair belonging to a loved one--my loved one, not someone else’s!  I suspect that was really the point of hairwork in the first place, but that leaves the conscientious historian in a quandary.  Do you buy a hairwork piece that grosses you out and wear it anyway?  Buy a hairwork piece and (gasp) take it apart to replace the hair? 

C-clasp and solid back
Neither!  You buy a brooch that’s already empty and falling apart, then sneak up on your significant other while he/she is sleeping and steal some hair make inquiries about having it repaired and filled with the hair of your loved one(s).

One edge of the glass popping up in the corner
Even in pieces, this is really a beautiful, dainty little piece of work.  It’s 9kt gold, according to the seller (another Ebay find), and the pearls are all there and in pretty good shape.  The glass was wedged in tightly enough not to fall out in shipping, but a little prod with my fingernail popped it right out—which was a relief, since I was worried about breaking it in the process of removing it!

Glass removed successfully!
So, next up is to contact some hairwork artists and see if they can do anything with it, and if so, how much it’ll cost.  I’d hate to invest so much I’d be scared to wear it!  Updates to follow as the situation warrants.

And a little...thingie. What would you call that, a bezel?  Anyone?  Bueller?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Tiny Treasures: the Wee Watch Fob

This tiny watch fob is one of my favorite antique finds ever.  I’d been searching high and low for a trinket-type gift for my favorite fella, with limited success.  He’s not big on jewelry, he’s a little picky (for a guy), and there just didn't seem to be anything out there.

So tiny and lovely

When I found it, I was actually looking for something else on Ebay.  I don’t remember what, because as soon as I saw this I basically dropped everything and ran in little circles shrieking with delight.  It’s adorable!  It’s perfect!  And it has his name on it!


No seriously, how amazing is that?  I mean, it’s not like his name is Epaphroditus or Aloisius or something.  Richard is a good, normal name that’s been around a while, but I know very few people who just stumble across lovely antiques that basically say “buy me; I belong to you! (or your boyfriend)”

Also, it was the first thing I’d showed him that got “I love it!” as a reaction.  Clearly he has impeccable taste in antiques.

Because Rich and Tea (and therefore tea pots) go together
According to folks more knowledgeable than I am, it’s a Georgian piece that dates probably to about 1820ish.  It’s made of pinchbeck, which is a type of brass (copper and zinc) mixed to look like gold.  Personally, I can’t tell the difference!  The stamping surface is black glass with teeny-tiny letters stamped or engraved into the surface.

I'm running out of things to say...
So, all in all I'm really thrilled with this little guy, and I'm looking forward to getting Rich a pocket watch so he can actually use it.  Of course, I then have to make the clothes with the pockets for the pocket watch...oh boy!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Les Rivières: Deuxième Partie

Updated Nov 22, 2013: please see bold below

(I used Google Translate for that title, so if it's wrong please tell me.  I'm bilingual, but French ain't one of my linguas.)

Napoleon & the Empire of Fashion
Angeline, c. 1810
I don't know about you guys, but after that last post about collet or rivière style necklaces, I found myself in need of some serious retail therapy.  I mean, I'm a no-frills kind of girl, but who doesn't love a pretty bit of sparkle?  Luckily for you, I'm being strict with myself on spending, so my shopping is all just window-shopping.  Fortunately, you get to benefit from my browsing!

So, as far as owning your own rivière, there are two options.  Original, or reproduction?  Mostly, it depends on how much of a purist you are, and how much money you want to spend.  For an original, you can expect to spend a few hundred dollars, minimum.  If you have the cash to burn, you could easily drop five figures (and be sure to invite me over to see it.)  For the rest of us, you can nab a repro for less than a couple hundred...phew!

Citrine Collet by Duchessa Jewels

My first pick for a beautiful repro at a decent price is definitely Duchessa Jewels.  Duchessa offers a variety of stones and metals to suit your fancy, and although they're a modern take on a period classic I think creator Nerida Aylott definitely maintains the timeless aesthetic of the collet style rather than specifically recreating extant objects from a certain era.  The website cites a Georgian influence, but I see similarities in Victorian pieces, too.  Overall I'd say it's a good look for a respectable price...and on her blog, she mentions that a lot of other things are for sale, so I'd say contact her if you're interested in matching earrings, bracelets, etc.

Sacred Cake on Etsy

Next up is Sacred Cake on Etsy.  These are really pretty, and come about as close as the ones from Duchessa...the settings are different from period examples, but the way they're linked is similar, so in my opinion it's a matter of preference--six of one, half a dozen of the other, so to speak.  They're also slightly cheaper, so you'd have more money left over to buy fabric...right?  Unless, of course, you pick up a matching pair of earrings while you're browsing on Etsy.  You can check out the owner, Jennifer Valentine, on her blog.

Try me instead!  Link below.

Taylor Shelby at Dames a la Mode is running a by-reenactors-for-reenactors operation to fill a previously empty niche in the market of much-needed pretty things for historically minded people.  She sells beautiful ribbons and excellent millinery flowers and leaves, and has recently expanded her repertoire to include gorgeous collets and sets in the style we've been discussing here.  Her prices absolutely cannot be beat, and I would definitely say she is now my favorite one-stop-shop for period pretty things.  Also, definitely do contact her about custom work if you've got a particular desire; she's really great!
Antique Silver Gold Garnet Paste Riviere Necklace C1900
by CJ Antiques Ltd
By Juicy Couture

Let's talk about my love-hate relationship with Ebay.  There are some great deals to be had on Ebay, and I love a deal.  On the other hand, there are some great deals to be had on Ebay...and my wallet cries every time I go there.  Above are two examples of good deals, both for different reasons.  The top example is an original piece currently listed at what seems to be a great price.  The bottom example is a modern piece, released by Juicy Couture but currently out of stock on their website and listed several places on Ebay for less than the original price.  As far as antiques go, I highly recommend CJ Antiques friend Julie linked me to them on Facebook and since then I've bought a Georgian garnet & pearl ring and a watch fob from them.  They're super nice, great about layaway, and have some really nice stuff.  Remember that love-hate thing?  I love wallet doesn't!

Now, I understand not everyone is in the business of getting things as accurate as possible and some people just want as much sparkle as humanly possible.  In my internetty wanderings, I did come up with a few really pretty pieces that aren't quite accurate enough for my taste but might be just your cup of tea.  Etsy is a gold mine, what can I say?

By ParisiJewelry
By ParisiJewelry
By Bouvier Jewelry
By Bouvier Jewelry
So there we go!  We've got more than a little sparkle, and quite enough to go around.  Whether you want an original to finish off your period impression, or a bold statement for a modern outfit, the collet style might be just the thing.  Happy shopping!

Some of you may have noticed this post seems to have been fluctuating a lot lately.  There's a bit more information in my January 7th, 2014 entry, but long story short is that there was some drama, it's over now, and I'm not editing this post anymore.  Everyone should go buy some nice shiny jewelry and be happy! :) 

Friday, March 1, 2013

What do you "collet?"

(Trust me, you'll think that title is funny in a minute...or at least worthy of a groan.)

Ever had one of those days where you have the perfect outfit but you just can't decide what jewelry to wear with it? Well, never fear: it happened to our ancestors, too.
By Charles Howard Hodges

That's right, Grandma. WEAR ALL THE BLING.

Anyway, this portrait is what got me started, really. There's obviously a lot going on there, but my favorite is her rivière necklace. That's the really shiny one with all the stones, also called (wait for it...) a collet necklace. A bit of browsing on the interwebs told me that there are actually plenty of originals still around, although they can range in price from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. They also range in date from the mid to late 18th century all the way up to the early 20th century and it seems that the style was indeed popular for over a century (for those who could afford it, of course.)

The earliest examples of rivière necklaces I found date from around 1760 (though let it be known that I'm definitely not an expert on earlier periods!), like the one worn in this portrait of Anne Fairchild Bowler, wife of Rhode Island merchant Metcalf Bowler.

By John Singleton Copley c. 1763
National Gallery of Art
This mannequin from the Kyoto Costume Institute is decked out in all her mid-18th century splendor, wearing a similar necklace, down to the pendant hanging from the center.

KCI Digital Archives, 1750-60
It's not terribly uncommon to see matching pendants on this style of necklace; some of them were even removable, so the necklace could be worn in different ways.  Pretty clever, considering what these things must have cost!  This one c. 1780 has a little hooky bit on the center stone so you can dangle something off it if you want...

Golden Topaz collet necklace c. 1780
S.J. Phillips Ltd

Here's another example that belonged to First Lady Elizabeth Monroe around 1817, so while we're jumping ahead a bit on the timeline you can still see how similar the styles are.

National Museum of American History
The settings vary in intricacy, some being very simple and some with a little more flair.  The whole point was to cover as little as possible of the gem, though, so you won't typically see anything too chunky around the stones.  Here's a closeup of a garnet rivière  c. 1800, where you can see the decorative "beading" on the gem mounts.

Third Floor Antiques

The early 19th century had a lot to offer in terms of surviving orignals and portraiture featuring the collet necklace.  Sometimes it's part of a set or parure, sometimes it stands alone.  Below is a gorgeous example of an opal parure owned by Hortense Bonaparte.

Château d'Arenenberg, musée Napoléon
Yeah, want.  Grabby hands...definitely!  Fortunately for those of us who don't bear the title "reine," there are some examples around that are just as nice, even if they aren't as extensive a collection.
From Antiques & Uncommon Treasures

Okay, so I'm not 100% sure that's a collet necklace, but there's a good argument for it given the level of detail in the miniature.  Besides, isn't she lovely?  She was sold as simply "Lady in Tiara," and I love the unusual, bright color and the way it matches her other accessories.  It's also a nice example of a partial set, since she's not wearing any other visible pieces (earrings, bracelets, brooches, etc.)  Also, it's nice to see that the stones in these necklaces (and sets) weren't always diamonds or precious stones...sometimes you see "soft" stones or semiprecious gems, too.

Gold & Agate Rivière c. 1830 
No. 1 Mayfare
The above necklace is not only an example of the use of cabochons as opposed to faceted stones, but also shows a graduated style--the stones in the center front are bigger than those in the back.  You can actually see that in a couple of the examples above, but there seems to be a pretty even mix among the samples I saw.  I assume it was personal taste as well as what you could afford that dictated which style you'd wear!

Almost a hundred years after the earliest examples I saw, the rivière is still in fashion--quite a feat, given how much styles changed in that intervening century!  Franz Xavier Winterhalter painted a portrait of Queen Victoria in 1859 wearing a rivière of diamonds...which means it can't have gone too much out of style, right?

Wikimedia Commons
And it wasn't just the royals.  The fashion in this portrait of Maria Pia of Savoy puts it right in the middle of the 19th century, and here's another collet necklace making a prominent appearance.

Wikimedia Commons, no artist given
Pretty spiffy, eh?  One style of necklace, spanning a hundred years of fashion!  But wait, there's more.  This survived up into the 20th century!  This next one is gorgeous, with some extra detailing on the settings and a beautiful bright, sunny color.  Also, the circular stones are a bit unique...lots of the originals seem to be oval, or oblong, but I've only seen a couple circles.

Citrine rivière necklace, circa 1870
Simon Teakle

For the most part, the style stayed pretty similar over a couple hundred years, with minor details (to my eye, anyway) that differentiate when each one was made.  The example below dates to the early 20th century, and you can see in the closeup that there are only a few differences between it and the earlier examples above.

Early 20th Century Amethyst Paste Necklace
The Three Graces 
I guess the takeaway from this is that everyone loves a shiny, right?  So maybe you don't end up like the woman in the first portrait I posted, with every single piece of jewelry you own bedecking your figure...but as far as history is concerned, you can't go wrong with a timeless rivière.

And, P.S.  Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue apparently agrees.  Can't argue with that fashion advice, eh?  Yeah, that's right...not one, not two, but THREE apparently original collet necklaces.  If only...right?

Oh, P.P.S.  If you'd like a couple more pictures that I didn't publish here, feel free to visit my Pinterest board, A Riviere Runs Through It (grooaaaaannnn)