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?


  1. Very nice find! And one that can work for a multitude of periods.

  2. Two suggestions.... 1) ask Betty Myers, the wigmaker at colonial Williamsburg to see if she would braid you a piece of your loved ones hair (her human hair wigs have her knotting I think she's well versed in it) or 2) find an artist to paint a lover's eye for you...and have the lover's eye put in instead of hair...the pearls are perfect as is the shape for a lover's eye...

    1. These are both excellent suggestions and I shall take them under advisement. Thank you, Julie!