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Mid-Victorian Jewelry For The LadyAuthor: Ada Darling Morrison
( Article orginally published February 1963 )
Milady's jewelry and accessories of the 1860s and 1870s were rather ornate and truly diversified. Most popular were pieces that dangled and jingled. Charm bracelets, long earrings and pendants, brooches with chains attached were high style.
Much of the jewelry was made in sets consisting of earrings and a brooch or pendant. Matching bracelets were often added to the more expensive collections. The smaller and more simple sets relied upon one-stone settings; a single pearl in a design of black inlay, or a tiny cluster of garnets on a plain gold background often furnished the only decoration. On expensive pieces, rose diamonds, large and small, were used in profusion. In the brooch pictured, there are nearly a hundred stones, all rose cut, applied on a base of gold and black enamel.
Safety catches were then unknown. Security was provided by a gold safety pin, or a long stickpin, on the end of an attached chain.
Openwork perfume bottles with hinged tops dangled from a belt, or were suspended from a brooch to swing gaily from the front of the dress. In the ornate example pictured, the large stone in the center is an amethyst, and there are small turquoise dotted through the design. This type was used with a wad of cotton inserted, upon which the perfume was poured. The brooch shown beside it presents a nice design in black inlay on the bar; the pendant has small garnets around the center stone, which is a fine star sapphire. This is most likely a later date replacement; the original center stone was probably a garnet. This opinion is based on the fact that star sapphires were rare at that period while garnets were plentiful and inexpensive. In this case, too, the garnet would have matched the small stones. These two pieces are typical of the mid-Victorian era.
Sharp little dangles or fringe were often added to earrings and brooches, known at that time as "breast-pins." The set illustrated is large and handsome. In the openwork design of the brooch is a square cut emerald, and there is a locket on the back. This piece has a loop at the top; it could be worn as either pin or pendant.
Ladies' watches were large, usually with closed cases. They were worn on long chains that reached the waist. The watch was either tucked snugly into the belt or, with a pin added, fastened to the shoulder of the dress, with the chains draping gracefully below. Dangles again! Styles in finger rings varied, controlled somewhat by the size of the pocketbook. Shell and tiger-eye cameos, garnet, amethyst and topaz rings were among the moderately priced. There were inexpensive band rings, plain or engraved, made of solid gold or a so-called "rolled plate." This "plate" seems to have been made from a very thin sheet of low karat gold which was applied somehow to a base of cheap metal. Its wearing qualities left much to be desired.
There were other accessories that milady considered necessary to her toilet. Trains were in vogue, and there was a clever little train-holder - a short chain with finger ring on one end, and a shell-shaped clasp on the other, which opened or closed by pushing a little slide up or down. This clasp could be pinched onto a fold of the train, the ring slipped onto a finger, and the train lifted gracefully from the floor, a special convenience for dancing.
Hair-dos were elaborate, especially for evening affairs, and large jeweled or carved tortoise-shell combs were popular.
Sleeve buttons were lovely. One example -a set with butterflies and fans, one at each end of a short chain-were little pins which served to decorate the sleeves, while fastening the cuffs.