Sunday, June 21, 2015

19th Century Motif: Revival Gold Designs

Time to dust off the keyboard and get back to what I do best (or better?)...research! The past two months have been such a whirlwind that I've hardly had time to commit to a lengthy post with documentation. Life rushes in so many whirling currents!

I've found myself fascinated by the gold designs in antique jewelry. In a way I've already talked about the Etruscan style; snakes and coral both fit nicely into that category. And the early Piqué work shows the feeling of naturalism that spread through jewelry of the 19th century. I suppose this post has been a long time coming!

The 19th century saw the rise of scholarly interest in the art of archeology. British, American, and other citizens trekked across the middle east, mediterranean, and Africa in order to find artifacts. Many people of importance dabbled in archeology; Napoleon and Thomas Jefferson both spent time digging up different parts of the earth. The discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1801 and its eventual translation fascinated many.

Surviving Etruscan gold popped up often during the digs. Even by today's standards this jewelry would be considered pretty; I can imagine the awe of a19th century lady, seeing them at an exhibit in a museum.

By mid-19th century, many of the lady's magazines had jumped on the exotic craze. Reports of archaeological discoveries were echoed by the crafts, jewelry, and clothing styles. After looking through a 10 year period of Godey's and other period magazines, I found that nearly every issue mentioned some form of research about ancient civilizations.
Godey's, April 1855
Godey's, January 1856
Godey's, March 1859
Peterson's, 1860
 Godey's Lady's Book in June, 1860: "'Costly and elegant ornaments,' observes Professor Rosselini, 'abounded in proportion as clothing in general was simple and scarce among the Egyptians. Girdles, necklaces, armlets, ear-rings, and amulets of various kinds suspended from the neck, are found represented in the paintings, and in fact still exist on the mummies. Figures of noble youths are found entirely devoid of clothing, but richly ornamented with necklaces and other jewels."

La Mode Illustree, journal de la famille, 1861
A Greek/Roman Girl, Godey's, November 1863
La Mode Illustree, journal de la famille, 1863

In necklaces there are specimens of each one of the classical styles— Etruscan with scarabei; Greek with medallion female heads in English porcelain enamel; Egyptian, copied from the original found on a mummy, by permission of Lord Henry Scott; and also a noticeable collection of Oriental onyxes with cinque-cento. setting. Nor must we overlook a bracelet formed of a massive gold band into which are introduced the beautiful green Brazilian beetles, which, by a peculiar process of drying, become hard and durable as stone. A variety of brooches, etc., with Roman, Greek, and Etruscan settings, complete this display of modern antiques. There may be a diversity of opinion as to the real value of such revivals applied to personal ornament; but the highest fashion of the day sanctions them, and, as works of art demanding research and careful study of detail in their workmanship, they are well worthy of examination.
Godey's, March 1863

One family in particular would capitalize on this exotic style craze. Fortunato Pio Castellani, of Rome, started his jewelry business in 1814. After seeing the popularity of the revival jewelry, he searched for craftsman that could still reproduce the Etruscan gold-work. Under the title of "Italian Archeological Jewelry," Castellani's business thrived. His sons Alessandro and Augusto continued the family art in London and Paris, presenting at international exhibitions and even gifting a set of revival jewelry to Napoleon III. The business stayed open until 1930, when the last Castellani descendent died. 

Based on the sheer number of references to Etruscan, Roman, Greek, and Egyptian items, it is very easy to see the influence on jewelry. Amphora, acorns, leaves, snakes, key trim...all popular motifs in this gold work. I would bet that more than a few jewelers were influenced by Castellani and the research of fashionable jewels in the ancient world. Gold ornamentation became so popular!

Photographic Documentation
Hooray! I can actually find pictures of ladies wearing (what I believe to be) revival style jewelry!

Just as in my other research, I cannot confirm the exact type of jewelry on each lady. I looked for shape and gold coloring in each cdv/daguerreotype. There are at least a dozen more blurry, less defined pictures that I could include here, but I'm not sure it's necessary. It's fairly obvious that gold worked jewelry was very popular!

Textual Documentation
Some Gossip on Novelties, Godey's Lady's Book, December 1860
In jewelry, solid gold ornaments richly chased, of the style called Etruscan, are new and in good taste.

Vincennes Gazette, September 1860



Ladies' Cameo Sets.
" Lava Sets.
" Carbuncle Sets.
" Enameled and Coral Sets.
" " Carbuncle Sets.
" " Ruby Sets.
" Gold Cluster Grape Sets.
" " " Jet Sets.
" " " Black Mosaic Sets.
" " " Gold Stone Mosaic Sets.
" " " Fancy Stone Sets.
" " Ribbon Twist Sets, with brilliants.
" " Bouquet Sets, new styles.
" " Cluster Sets, Enameled Styles.
" Plain Gold, Florentine, and Onyx Sets.
" Goldstone, and Coral Sets, different styles.
Etruscan Lava, and Carbuncle Sets.

Chitchat upon Fashions, Godey's Lady's Book, February, 1863

The ornamental back and side combs which we have before noticed still continue very fashionable, and are more beautiful every day. The classical designs are in the best taste, most of them being of the Etruscan or Grecian styles. The hair should be arranged in a bow at the back and very low in the neck. The front can be either braided, rolled, or waved.

Frank Leslie's Weekly, 1863

Chitchat upon Fashions, Godey's Lady's Book, January, 1864
In jewelry, the prevailing taste is for the peculiar, though the Roman , Greek, and Egyptian are greatly in favor. Among the novelties are necklaces, composed of dead gold bells, from which depend tiny gold daggers, connected with each other by rows of fine chains, which fall in festoons.

Peterson’s, 1865

Lady's Friend Magazine, 1865

It wasn't difficult to find examples of archaeological influence on jewelry from the time period. They show up in advertisements, stories, and fashion discussion. One problem I found with this type of evidence was the use of vague language-my perspective of "Etruscan" can be quite different from the 19th century interpretation. The plates do help a bit, and they mimic the ancient jewelry in shape and content. Based on this textual documentation, revival-inspired jewelry was common.

Surviving Originals
19th Century (I know I cheated with silver!)

I want every one of these! The gold work is intricate but simple; the artists really capture the spirit of the ancient jewelry. Intricate designs on a simple background of gold makes for a stunning piece. The surviving originals tie both the photographic and textual documentation together to form a picture of the Etruscan style of the 19th century.

The evidence points to the common usage of ancient-inspired jewelry, especially in terms of worked gold. The Victorian interest in the revival certainly came through in their adornments! It also appears that such jewelry wasn't necessarily for the most formal occasions; gold earrings, combs, even necklaces could be worn in the daytime with fashionable clothing. 

Of course I have to try to reproduce it all in some way...and now they're in my etsy shop!

I have seen a number of intricate gold earring sets within the reenacting community, so it is nice to see representation of the Etruscan style available to the public. Now with a bit more documentation available, ladies can speak more of the style!



Thursday, June 18, 2015

Summer Solstice Giveaway 2015

Do you celebrate summer solstice? We certainly did as children! I remember sipping away at a juice box, watching the sun set on my parents' little backyard patio. The longest day of the year stretched beyond my bedtime, into a celestial moment. That thin veil between the ordinary and the mythological slips away. Would you believe I waited for that otherworldly magic? 
I could spot Puck from a mile away

In a high school British literature class I had the pleasure of seeing A Midsummer Night's Dream in Stratford, Ontario. My English language interest turned to full-blown obsession, and as the snow dusted the bus windows my mind wandered to those forests. Would I be a desperate Helena? A confident Hermia? Or the proud fairy queen Titania? I promise ladies and gentlemen, my whimsical humor will end soon...

As an adult that endless night is celebrated differently, though I never lost my imagination for it. Whenever I come across a reference in my reenacting research, I reminisce. One can find hints of the time in Godey's Lady's Book, and this July, 1857 poem seems to speak to me in a way that only nature can. 



THERE'S beauty when the morning light 

Falls on the emerald lea,
In every dew-drop sparkling bright,
In every budding tree;
In every mountain stream that leaps
In gladness to the sea,
In every thought that memory keeps 
Of guileless infancy.

There's beauty where the vernal showers 
Awake the breath of spring,
When fragrant grow the floral bowers, 
And feathered minstrels sing;
In every blade of grass that springs
To deck the verdant plain,
And when the summer solstice brings 
Rich fields of golden grain.

There's beauty when the storm-king's car 
Is driving o'er the main,
And in the elemental war
That brings the summer rain;
When the small brook a torrent flows, 
And forest-trees are riven,
When lightning's flash, and lurid grows 
The azure vault of heaven.

There's beauty when the zephyrs bland, 
Sigh through the gray old woods;
In every work from nature's hand,
The hills, the vales, the floods;
Where hazy veils, vermilion hued,
Adorn far tropic skies,
When the calm sea is all imbued
With sunset's gorgeous dyes.

In spirit voices sad and lone,
The beautiful we hear;
There's beauty in the artless tone
That greets the mother's ear;
And thy entrancing voices, love,
How witching they appear,
Thy magic tones the soul can move,
Or start the gentle tear.

What better way to mark this occasion than to a giveaway? I've collected items from my shop that represent the deliciousness of summer, items that I've not yet added to my online store. My glass coral drop earrings, necklace, comb, and clay grape cluster brooch look delicious enough to eat! But yummy enough to share with you...

So share away my readers! Rafflecopter will select a winner on the summer solstice!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


These fabric tabs I am making for decorating my new dress is very tedious and dreadful to fold I am about over with it. I am able to make three of these tabs in two hours.

They are two inches wide and three in a half inches in length. They take up most of my time but the end result will look fabulous!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Fort Wayne: Colonial Reenacting

Oh hello again there, blog! You must think I've forgotten about you! Definitely not, but there's something about the school year ending that makes me less likely to write...summer vacation is wonderful as a teacher. And it makes me a bit lazy about my writing. However, I find myself hurrying to do so many events that I didn't have time for during the year!
Too lazy to even tie my own shoes!

Ken Giorlando, over from Passion for the Past, has been nudging me towards 18th century reenacting for a few years. It has been a slow process-first the stays, then the shoes and fabric as Christmas presents, and then...nothing. My business made me incredibly busy for a few months, and branching out felt impossible. Until now.

Ken Giorlando took every photo in this post...he knows how to bribe me into another century!

I used the JP Ryan pattern for the bodice, with little modification. The petticoat came together quite easily with a little help from Koshka's tutorial. Finally, I slapped some silk on that bergère hat and called it a day. Wait no...I made an apron too. In the car. After a family camping trip that involved marshmallows, mud, and a head injury. Hooray!
And then someone pointed a gun at me...
I arrived to the event a bit late; the threat of severe thunderstorms made many of the reenactors close up a bit early. I was welcomed with open arms, and I found myself with a group of people much like my 19th century family (well, the Giorlandos were there too!). We took pictures, chatted, and then scurried inside when the heavy rains fell. While it was slightly uncomfortable to wear unfamiliar clothing, I was delighted by their company, and I hope to return to the time period for the Kensington event later this summer!

Alas, my lazy summer attitude is kicking in. As I type the sun peeks through the window of my room, taunting me! My fiance sometimes marvels at my energy, running from one activity to the next. With the exception of that head injury, I'd say I'm not slowing down anytime soon!


***P.S. I pinkie swear promise to myself and everyone here that I will do a research blog post ASAP.  

Monday, June 1, 2015

Greenfield Village 2015

As always, the Greenfield Village Civil War reenactment kicks off the start of the Michigan season. We dust off our tents, mend torn petticoats, and pack enough to feed both the North and South. I've written posts about this event numerous times; in the 2013, 3-part series (Day 1, 2, 3) and 2014.
Yet 2015 held a different form of awesomeness: this year, I was a vendor!
(Ps-All photos by Ken Giorlando)
My stoic, prepared face

I met SO many people this year, had interactions with far more spectators than I ever have before. Glenna Jo has proposed this theory in the past; people know how to interact with vendors because that type of relationship exists today. We often go shopping and come in contact with retail clerks. It is a part of the 19th century that continues, and oh did it keep me busy! So busy.
How I actually felt...

Setup took a very long time, as I like having things just so. I found an amazing print of Washington hugging Lincoln on their way to heaven, so in honor of the departed presidents, I created a mourning section of my shop. Also notice my notebook of documentation in the other picture. That was probably one of my favorite parts of my presentation! It was certainly appreciated by like-minded reenactors...

Mr. Giorlando's daughter Rosalia helped me quite a bit throughout the weekend, fussing around the jewelry. She would adjust corners, straighten jewelry, and restock when I became incredibly busy. She's a hard worker, and I'd certainly ask for her help again! Nice job :)

Did I mention that I was busy? In the space of one weekend I sold more jewelry than both Kalamazoo and Springfield events combined. While I do have pieces leftover, the majority of my stock is gone! The compliments I received from my fellow reenactors helped motivate me throughout the weekend. Their support makes me want to be a better reenactor! 

And now I must recover. In less than two months I participated in so much:

Becky's wedding, my fiance's return from school, the Springfield Funeral Event, conferences, graduation, Culture Day (a school-wide activity that I planned), Greenfield Village, my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary, my soon-to-be-Aunt Val's wedding shower, and my other grandma's 78th birthday party (and so many hospital visits to see her!).

I think I have earned my break...or not. I'm going to Mexico :)


On My Bookshelf: December

December has been a really rough month. Between what happened in Oxford (not far from where I live...) and just the general pandemic issues,...