Tuesday, February 23, 2016

19th Century Motif: Branch Coral

I have already written about the prevalence of coral in the Victorian lady's jewelry box, which you can read here. I don't want to repeat all of that information. Instead, I'd like to show off a bit of research to a specific type of coral. TA-DA!

So expect this to be a shorter research post, following the two forms of evidence that I typically collect. I'm not including textual, as that can be found in the previous post.

Photographic Evidence
Still hunting for link 

There are quite a few more images, but I only chose a few to illustrate the age group of the wearer. Almost all are female, from very young to about pre-teen/teen. Remember that coral signifies good luck, so many children wore it to survive many of the childhood dangers.

Surviving Originals

There are many surviving originals online, but few that were not on ebay/etsy. I am still looking for sources. From what I have gathered from these two types of evidence, branch coral was popular in the mid to late 19th century, especially for young ladies. I have created a reproduction set:

So that was a quick mini-post sharing a tidbit of research...this weekend I am heading to the Ohio Regimental Ball, and finding time to write is difficult! Expect a full report of my shenanigans next week, after a brief time of recovery.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Friday Funny 2/19

The Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine, A Dwarf Marriage, 1860

I have so many questions about this. Did it often occur women entered the garden a maid and left it married? Does the marriage take place in the garden? Next to it? Is she whisked away to another location without her knowledge? Is there no parental supervision in this godless place?

I'm also trying to figure out how the rabbit fits in here, particularly with the parsley. I know rabbits like to munch on greens, but why parsley here? Would a rabbit not be happy with a carrot, or cilantro or dill? Heaven forbid a maiden enters the garden looking for thyme...would she leave an old woman?

It is these questions that go unanswered by the ever-wise Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine. I will forever seek "fate, destiny, and chance" to direct my choice of marriage, though my own engagement unfolds in a slow, un-expeditious fashion. Perhaps my peculiar fitness needs a more robust climate.

Also, my garden will be filled with rosemary when he whisks me away...


Friday, February 12, 2016

Friday Funny 2/12

So I've been playing around with the meme generator lately, and I found this little lovely picture. I've always loved Civil War depictions of George Washington as this reverent figure achieving an almost saint-like status. George, this one's for you!


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

18th and 19th Century Material: Paste Jewelry

Recently I've found myself fascinated by the jewelry of the 18th century. It just seems glossier, shinier...and you know I love my shiny things. And I made myself an outfit last year. So to branch out from my norm, from my usual Victorian stuff, I bring to you research about another time.

This post will focus on 18th and 19th century paste jewelry. One thing I realized as I researched this topic was that the type of resources I have available are quite different from the 19th century. I typically use photographic evidence, textual documentation, and surviving originals to determine the context of a material or motif. Unfortunately, I will not have photographic evidence for my 18th century sources. I will have to focus on collecting more of the other two until I find more resources. If it's one thing I've learned, it's that the process improves over time!

Historical Background
Paste jewelry became most popular in the 18th century as an alternative to the expensive gems so loved by the upper class. Georges Frederic Strasse, a French jeweler, developed the rhinestone called "strass." He used bismouth and thallium to make the glass "paste" more refractive, and added metal salt to change colors. Foil was added to increase the shine. It's no surprise that Strasse became the King's Jeweler in 1734. 

These creations came in a variety of styles and colors. The "Age of Paste" made a more affordable jewelry option for those who could not pay for the luster of diamond. In fact, many people desired paste jewelry in its own right. It was valued as its own art form, rather than simply imitation. The trend continued into the late 19th century, and even today we can find paste jewels at the store!

Textual documentation
I've realized that for this post I must show to continuity of paste jewelry throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. I found these in a variety of sources, from fashion magazines to newspaper ads.

The Pennsylvania Gazette, August 26, 1762
PASTE Buckles for Ladies and Gentlemen, Shirt Buckles or
Broaches, Ladies Stay Hooks, Gold Rings with Garnets, Mocho
and various other Stones, Ear Rings with and without drops,
paste Necklaces, gold and Solver Seals: Mocho, Scots Pebble,
Chrystal and Turkey Stone Silver Buttons, Silver Pencils,
Ladies and Gentlemens Watch Chains, Trinkets for Ladies
Watcher, gold Wires and Bobs for Ear Rings, great Variety of
silver Buckles of the most beautiful new invented Patterns,
with and without Knee Buckles, Silver and Paste Buckles, plain
gold Broaches, Silver Thimbles, with several other valuable
Articles in the Jewellery way. Also Snuff Boxes, Penknives,
Cork screws, and very elegant Ladies Pocket books, equipped
with Scissars, Penknives, Cork screws, Ivory Table Books, &c.

Has just imported in the America, capt. William Coombes, a large assortment of plate and jewelry , viz. PASTE and garnet necklaces, earrings and aigrette, with a verity of jewelled combs, spring and hair nine; bracelets from £. 18 to £. 50, some with glasses, loose for miniatures pictures;


Costume Parisian, 1812

Godey's Lady's Book, The Ring April, 1849
The sale was to commence at ten o'clock; quite a number of persons were collected about the house previous to that hour, and when at last the hour arrived, they followed the sheriff into the house. The latter gave notice that the sale was to raise the sum of two hundred and twenty dollars with costs, and that all the articles sold must be paid for on the spot. Frank Pendleton had gone to the sale with a determination to buy in the property, and thus secure to the family its undisturbed possession. As he glanced around the room, he saw, on a toilet cushion, a finger-ring, which at first he thought of some value, but finally recognized as a cheap paste affair, which a jewelry peddler, who had happened to come in one day at the dinner hour, had insisted on leaving in payment for his dinner.

And the eight thousand women—what tenderhearted mother supposed that the little baby-girl she presented to the admiring gaze of her friends should be tramping the dark streets, bedecked in crimson robes and tinsel glare of paste jewelry ?

MR. AND MRS. RASHER. HOME AGAIN, Godey's Lady's Book. October, 1861
Compose myself? O, Rasher, you hav'n't a spark of feeling! Hid there twisting your thumbs, and looking cross instead of going for the hartshorn, when you came so near throwing me into the hysterics. Hand me that vinaigrette off the little table. Say! where are you going? If you're going off, I want you to tell me now, if I mayn't have the party. As you said before, if I'll furnish the means? Well, I will furnish 'em— ah, ha! If I can't do any better, I'll sell them diamonds you gave me last Christmas— I can get a few paste ones, and nobody'll notice. Can't do it, 'cause you've sold 'em already to pay off a cooper, who was a hard working man with a large family, and couldn't afford to do without his money? My diamonds, my diamonds, Timothy Rasher! So I'm sold as well as my jewelry !

Frank Leslie's Ladies' Magazine, Volume 10, 1862

National Anti-Slavery Standard, The Miscellaneous Department, August 5, 1865
Precious Stones, Gems, and Precious Metals , By C. W. King, M. A. London: Bell & Daldy.
IN this beautiful volume, got up as only his books ever seem to be got up, with a simple elegance in strict accord with his style, Mr. King endeavors to include all that is known upon the history and qualities of precious stones. Long distinguished as an authority upon “gems” in the artistic sense of the word, he has in the course of his researches collected a vast quantity of information upon the materials employed for the designs he has studied so deeply, and this he has given to his readers in a series of papers, each containing a complete history of some one stone, its nature and qualities, its use in the ancient world, its magic reputation in the Middle Ages, the modern estimate of its value, the best known plain examples, and if it has been used for engravings, the highest specimens of art so preserved which in the course of his researches have come before him. He adds chapters upon gold and silver, upon pastes and the various devices for swindling the collector, a translation of “Orpheus upon Gems,” the ancient song which professes to describe all the mystic qualities ascribed to stones in the ancient world, a chapter on prices, and another containing the chemical analysis of every stone.

Godey's Lady's Book, November, 1865
WE thought the following was a joke, until we had it confirmed from other sources:—
PAINTED ANGELS AT SARATOGA.— A newspaper correspondent has had his feelings terribly shocked at Saratoga Springs, and thus explains the cause:—
For one whole week my most ardent sympathies were excited at the sickly, languid appearance of a young lady who had a seat directly opposite me every day at the dinner table; her form was emaciated, her skin perfectly transparent, and a death-like hue seemed to pervade the whole atmosphere about her; the eye shone with unnatural brilliancy, and under them was perceptible the inevitable blue-black coloring— the tell-tales of a debauchee. I longed for an introduction, that I might recommend the application of fresh oysters or a blood-sucker: but failing of an opportunity to secure this privilege, I besought a lady friend to suggest these applications. "La me," she exclaimed, in utter amazement, "why, how verdant you are; don't you know that the lady paints her lower eyelids?" It was indeed too true, as I have since ascertained positively. She for whom my whole soul has yearned in sympathy for a week, was daubed all over with paint, and most shockingly disfigured herself to gratify a prurient taste to be in the extreme of fashion. Looking around me at the dinner-table to-day I saw no less than six ladies disfigured by a daub of blue-black paint on the lower eyelids. The next fashion possibly may require ladies to wear rings in their noses. It is bad enough to wear paste diamonds and pinchbeck jewelry ; but when earth's angels begin to paint about the eyes, wear false busts, and false hair in a bag behind their heads, to what extremes may we not expect the dear creatures to go!

THE VINCENNES WEEKLY WESTERN SUN, The Jewelry Department at the ExpositionJune 15, 1867
The jewelry exhibited by the French at the exposition is most beautiful. One manufacturer has an especial feature, which appears to be unique. He has taken the natural wing of the butterfly, and has so fixed it in a slight frame of gold, and covered it with glass, that the most perfect appearance of enamel is obtained. By this contrivance, and the formation of the body and legs of gold or silver, the prettiest ornaments for the head are obtained. Messrs. Dubois and Bumachy rejoice in the appointment of crown jewelers to the Queen of Madagascar, for in their cage they show two gold crowns made for her Majesty. Both of these are massive end ornamented. Unfortunately, the present condition of the finances of the island only admits of paste instead of real stones for ornamentation, but, as they are excellent imitations, few of the queen's subjects will know the difference.

This is a tremendous amount of information to process in one post. One obvious point is that I have a gap in documentation-not much from 1767-1849. There are a few more fashion plates to look at, though I didn't add them here. How does one know for sure if a piece is paste jewelry in a plate? I am still training my eye for the characteristics of paste.

Perhaps the greatest change I noticed was the attitude towards paste jewelry. It seems that my pre-1849 references do not refer to the material in a negative manner. I'm sure there were plenty of ladies who didn't like wearing paste jewelry because of its "pasteness," rather than "realness." But if these are being advertised in newspapers, they must not be completely taboo.

In stark contrast to the Georgian/Regency idea of paste jewelry, it seems that the Victorians found it to be "cheap" and the object of a "swindler." Rich ladies sold their real jewels for paste. It was hidden, rather than displayed. I didn't find advertisements for paste jewelry as I had previously. It seems the Victorian lady didn't want anyone to know. But based on the amount of references collected, we know it was still worn. When and why did this change occur? I have a few theories:

Perhaps the French Revolution soured popular opinion to large, glittering gems. After all, aristocratic folks lost their lives in part to the outrageous juxtaposition between wealth/poverty in the political climate. Could that lead to a sudden distaste of such sparkle in France, the capital of fashion?

The Romantic Era utilized different materials with meaning beyond the shininess. Hairwork became popular, as well as coral and pearl. In 1861 Queen Victoria ushered in a love of all things black/mourning because of the death of her husband. Such "fakeness" might have seemed disingenuous to the naturalistic-minded Victorian. There are plenty of published articles from different primary sources about the fake silhouette created by corsets and crinolines. It is not too far of a stretch to believe that jewels could fall into this category.

I could also see an upper class lady angry about the lower class "pretending" with fake jewels. Such class distinctions would be difficult if all ladies could afford to appear quite rich. Magazines applied pressure not only to fit into one's domestic role, but to stay true to one's social class.

As I discovered in "Antique Jewelry, a Practical &Passionate Guide," attitudes towards paste changed around 1840 when open settings replaced closed ones in popular jewelry. The glass was also silvered, rather than foiled on the backs, cheapening paste jewelry as a whole.

Despite that fact that I found a more definitive answer to my question in theory #4, I wanted to leave them up to show the many factors that could have an effect on attitudes towards paste jewelry. Right or wrong, I think showing my thinking can only benefit the research process as a whole!

Surviving Originals

Obviously I limited the amount I posted here-there are many examples of paste jewelry! I can certainly see the difference with the change from closed to open settings. The 18th century jewelry is more closed, while the 19th century pieces tend to have a more open setting in the back. I've also noticed that the 18th century settings appear to be more focused on the paste stone itself, while later pieces tend to include pearls or other paste settings (there are certainly exceptions-more of an observation rather than a rule). The stone becomes less of a focal point, and more of a part to an overall piece. The colette style necklace also morphed into a more detailed, more gold-worked Victorian set.

As for color, many colors seem to be popular throughout both centuries. Yet the more "unrealistic" colors seem to hit the 18th century more. Pinks, yellows, oranges...I may find a few Victorian pieces that fall into this category. I'm still hunting!

One problem I had with this part of the research is that 18th century jewelry is not dated as accurately. Much of the Victorian jewelry can be dated within 5-10 years, while the Georgian pieces included quite a range. I wonder if it's harder to date for that time period because of a lack of jewelry creator records? Or did they mark their jewelry less?

Whew! After all that, I've determined that paste jewelry did happen throughout the 18th-19th centuries. It was fun to research a less-discussed material of the Victorian Era, and to compile it all in one place. I even tried my hand at a Victorian paste jewelry set...

Let me explain a few of my choices for this one, as I had to make specific design choices based on my research. First, I noticed that the paste jewelry of the Victorian Era sometimes included stones from the Georgian time period. And the green totally happened in both eras, so that worked. That helped with my stone selection. Next, I noticed less of an emphasis on the paste as a central stone. I added pearls to lessen the effect of the green stone, and I noticed that a few of the originals did as well. You can see the design elements that I pulled from a few of the pieces. Finally, the gold medallion evokes that Etruscan style so loved by the Victorians. My own creation with the bits of research. 

If I were to recommend this piece, it would be worn as very fine jewelry. After all, you are pretending to be wearing fine gems. Not a work dress over the fire-upper class, very formal occasion. It would sit on the collarbone just so, and dear goodness is it fancy.

With that, I must take a short rest from my writing/research. Or better yet, I'll go to the Ohio Regimental Ball next weekend. You know how I love to travel :)



Friday, February 5, 2016

Friday Funny 2/5


—A Paris paper describes a new style of stealing in that city which, like other Paris fashions, will not be long in getting to this country, and we therefore warn the public against it in time. An elegant lady enters a store accompanied by a nurse carrying a baby dressed in rich embroidery. On leaving, they are supposed to have taken laces, jewelry, &c., as the case may be, and are arrested. An examination proves that the baby has a wax-work face, and a hollow paste-board body which serves as a hiding place for the stolen articles.

In case you were wondering, yes they smuggled things in dolls during the 19th century. And that terrifying modern horror story of the hollowed-out child used to carry drugs? Apparently our ancestors inspired that. Thanks Victorians, for the period accurate Creepypasta!



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