Hatpins: “a public menace”?!

No man, however courageous he may be, likes to face a resolute woman with a hatpin in her hand. – Theodore Roosevelt

In the early 20th century, fashion dictated that more was more when it came to hats. Women across the globe were sporting teetering towers of ribbons, flowers and fruit (usually fake), and these concoctions required ever-larger and more decorated hatpins to hold them on the wearer’s head, some as long as 13 inches. Initially dismissive of such ‘vanity’, men of the period were soon forced to take notice of these pretty, bejewelled trinkets…

 

 

Enter: the Hatpin Panic of the 1910s!

With public transport more readily available, and calls for women’s suffrage growing, women, particularly in the USA, began travelling alone more often…and we all know how fun that can be! Shockingly, it turns out sexual harassment in public is hardly a recent trend. Men making unwanted advances on random women in public were known as ‘mashers’, and they started to get a little more than they bargained for once women started using the surprisingly-effective improvised weapons available to them…

The most famous incident which seems to have sparked awareness of this new ‘trend’ was that of Leoti Blaker, a tourist from Kansas visiting New York. Sick of being harassed by the man next to her, she snapped when he put his arm around her, and stabbed her hatpin into the ‘meat’ of his arm! In an interview with the New York World magazine, she said that she was sorry to have hurt the man, that she had been warned about New York ‘mashers’ before her trip, and that ‘if New York women will tolerate mashing, Kansas girls will not!’.

extra_large_hatpin-defense
Source

As ever, society was quick to overreact, despite the vast majority of hatpin self-defence injuries being very minor. Newspapers were filled with letters from men asking if this women’s independence stuff hadn’t gone too far, and how is a poor innocent man supposed to harass a woman on the tram if she’s allowed to defend herself, and don’t women know it’s just boys being boys… Sound familiar?

hatpinperilcropped
Source

The use of this uniquely feminine self-defence weapon sparked the so-called Hatpin Panics or Hatpin Perils across the USA, Europe and the Antipodes, leading to attempts (some successful) to create by-laws forbidding hatpins beyond a certain length.

However, women began making a case of their own, in defence of their right to carry these ‘portable weapons’ for their own safety.

If you replace the word hatpin for ‘pepper spray’ or ‘house keys’, this letter published in the Bennington Evening Banner on 4 March 1910, sent by a Ms May E. Davis, could have been written today:

A hatpin is a woman’s weapon of defence. […]

I always feel safe going home at night with a hatpin available for protection. Before leaving a street car I always carry a hatpin ready in my hand until I am safe within the door of my home. […]

Thousands of other women undoubtedly can speak from their experience of how a stout hatpin has been an effective defence in time of danger. A hatpin is also useful in repelling “mashers”.

The same year, in Chicago, Nan Davis (no relation to the author above as far as I know!) stood in front of the city council to speak in favour of hatpins, declaring,

If the men of Chicago want to take the hatpins away from us, let them make the streets safe. No man has a right to tell me how I shall dress and what I shall wear.

Unfortunately, society once again decided to protect the rights of abusers over their victims, and pleas like those of both Davis’ went unheeded. Women across the world, on the other hand, supported this newfound method of defence, which even got its own music hall song.

Hatpin-defence.jpg
…not to mention forming part of a self-defence instruction article which appeared in the San Francisco Sunday Call in 1904! Source

There was also a more directly political reason for curtailing the use of hatpins: governments in many countries began to grow concerned about suffragettes and suffragists using their hatpins in defence of their cause, banning them altogether in several circumstances. To be fair, this wasn’t out of the bounds of possibility; in 1912, during the Brisbane General Strike, famous Australian suffragette Emma Miller used a hatpin to stab either the leg of Police Commissioner William Cahill, or potentially the leg of his horse. Either way, women wearing ‘illegal’ pins – or any pins at all – began to be banned from parades, public meetings, and other events as a safety precaution.

charles_dana_gibso_hatpin_girl
Source

Fortunately for ‘mashers’, hatpins went out of fashion in the 1920s… unfortunately for them, women’s anger and desire to protect themselves did not and has not! Although a relatively short period of the 20th century, the hatpin panics of the early 20th century perfectly pinpointed (sorry) the tension between women, who were repositioning themselves in the public sphere, and men, who had occupied that space uninterrupted for centuries.

Edwardian women simply wanted the right to move around in public safely, un-pestered, whilst wearing whatever they liked – a century later, it seems like this is still too much to ask… However, one thing the Hatpin Panic does demonstrate is women’s ability to pull function from fashion and power from powerlessness. If we can, we will defend ourselves, and we’ll look damn cute doing it!

980x.gif

 

 

The Affair of the Diamond Necklace

Last week, I delved into the recent sale of Marie Antoinette’s jewellery, but I didn’t have space to go into the bizarre tale known as The Affair of the Diamond Necklace. Strap in, everyone; this one’s a wild ride!

So, how exactly did a kerfuffle over a huge diamond harness contribute to the French Revolution? Yep, it was more of a harness than a necklace:

800px-Collier_reine_Breteuil
Reproduction necklace based on sketches.

The necklace itself was actually commissioned several years earlier, in 1772, for the previous king, Louis XV’s, favourite mistress, the infamous Madame du Barry.

220px-Madame_du_barry.jpg
Source: Wikipedia

Not one to believe that less is more, the king designed this monstrosity for du Barry, featuring a vast amount of diamonds, including 17 huge diamond drops:

Diamond_Necklace_Marie_Antoinette
Original sketch of the necklace design. Source: Wikipedia.

Unfortunately for the jewellers who set about collecting the necessary stones, the king died of smallpox before they were done, leaving his debt unpaid. I know this may not have gone down well with an autocratic king, but this is a prime example of why you get money for custom orders up front, my fellow artists!

giphy

Backed into a corner, the jewellers hoped that the famously lavish Marie Antoinette might want to buy the necklace off them instead. Unfortunately for them, the new queen was not one to wear someone’s sloppy seconds, especially if they were originally designed for a woman she despised and looked down upon.

In 1781, after trying to offload the necklace outside the country, the desperate jewellers once again tried to persuade Marie Antoinette to take it off their hands, but to no avail.

Enter con artist Jeanne de La Motte, who came up with a plan to further her status in court at the cost of the people around her. As you do.

La_Comtesse_de_La_Motte1
Source: Wikipedia

Her first play was to get into bed (literally) with the Cardinal de Rohan, a man Marie Antoinette happened to loathe because he’d been gossiping about her mother, naturally. Persuading de Rohan, who was presumably not too bright (or bothered about his vow of chastity), that she was cosy with the queen, La Motte promised to get him back into favour.

idjut.gif
Source: reactiongifs.com

Rohan began sending notes to the queen, with La Motte bringing him replies ‘from the queen herself’, and eventually setting up a meeting between the two at the cardinal’s request. Did this phase La Motte? Not one bit! She simply brought along a local sex worker with a striking resemblance to Marie Antoinette, and they all met in August 1794 in the rose garden at the Palace of Versailles.

Image source: By Kallgan - Unknown, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=336150

After La Motte’s friend had convinced Rohan that she (‘the queen’) had forgiven him, La Motte began borrowing large sums of money off the cardinal for ‘Marie Antoinette’s charity work’. She also started boasting about her relationship with the queen, which people seemed to believe.

tenor

The enterprising jewellers, Boehmer and Bassenge, approached La Motte to try once more to sell the necklace to the queen, and she agreed. Following an incorrectly-signed note to Rohan instructing him to buy the necklace in secret so as not to raise tensions by buying lavish jewellery in a time of starvation.

Rohan merrily went on his way, and secured the necklace, after which La Motte and an accomplice merrily split it up and sold the stones on the black market!

jean-ralphio-gif-12

Unfortunately for them, it all came apart when the jewellers became suspicious of the lack of payment and notes ‘from the queen’, and went to Marie Antoinette herself to demand payment. The queen told them she had not ordered the necklace, had not received it, and most certainly would not be paying for it.

tenor (2)

With a flair for the dramatic, the king and queen resolved to arrest the Cardinal at one of the biggest religious celebrations of the year (presumably to make an example of him). When Rohan was ready to officiate the Assumption of Mary, on 15 August 1785, he was promptly arrested and brought before the court, then to the Bastille. Jeanne de La Motte, however, was not arrested until three days later, in which time she destroyed her papers relating to the fraud.

giphy (1)

Also arrested were Nicole Le Guay, the Marie Antoinette impersonator, and Rétaux de Villette, La Motte’s lover by whom she originally entered court society. Side note: Villette is described on Wikipedia as ‘French procurer, forger, blackmailer and prostitute’, which would make a pretty great Twitter bio…

Somehow, the feckless cardinal managed to worm his way out of punishment, but La Motte was whipped, branded with a V for ‘voleuse’ (‘thief’) on both shoulders (ew), and sent to prison at the Salpêtrière. Villette got off lightly, being merely banished, but La Motte’s unlucky husband was tried in absentia and sent to be a galley slave.

giphy (2)

But it’s not over yet! After a year’s imprisonment, La Motte escaped dressed as a boy, and fled to London, from where she published a savage memoir blaming everything on Marie Antoinette.

tenor (1)

So why did the queen take the fall despite the evidence acquitting her?

This all went down in 1784-5, just 4 years before the French Revolution broke out and the monarchy came to an end. The profligate, Austrian Marie Antoinette was already wildly unpopular, the subject of a lot of vicious political cartoons (seriously, the picture below was the cleanest one I could find…), and her reputation didn’t need much of a push to hit rock bottom.

Symbol_and_satire_in_the_French_Revolution_(1912)_(14596417420).jpg
Source: Wikipedia

Unfortunately for her, public opinion sided roundly with La Motte, with some suggesting the queen had used her as a way to get some petty revenge on Rohan, or that she simply wanted some new jewels and was stealing from the public purse to get them. Following the affair, the pamphlets against her (read: political porn) began to be produced at an even greater rate, fuelling the anti-monarchy sentiment that eventually led to Marie Antoinette’s own beheading in 1793.

As I said earlier…

tenor

If you’re interested in learning more about the scandal, the chapter on it in Aja Raden’s Stoned has a lot of great detail and is also a really fun book. And if you just can’t get enough, Jonathan Beckman has written an entire book on the subject. Enjoy!

gif-maria-antonieta.gif

Disney Designs 5: Sale As Old As Time

The Goblin and I recently watched Beauty and the Beast for the first time in a few years, and you know what that means… Time for another Disney Designs post!

tenor (1)
Source: tenor.com

It’s not entirely clear in which historical period Disney’s 1991 version of Beauty and the Beast is supposed to be set, but a quick Google suggests some time around the mid-to-late 18th century, so let’s go with that.

giphy (1)
Source: giphy.com

In the film, Belle is too busy swooning over the Beast’s gargantuan library (wahey) to wear very much jewellery, but you know who was around at this time who did? You guessed it: Marie Antoinette, the soon-to-be-headless Queen of France.

Marie_Antoinette_Adult4
Marie Antoinette (pictured here pre-guillotine, obviously..!) Source: Wikimedia Commons

As it happens, Marie Antoinette’s jewellery collection was just auctioned at Sotheby’s in Geneva, after going on display for the first time in two centuries. The collection was sold alongside other royal gems from the Bourbon-Parma family, and the whole lot broke Sotheby’s records, going for a whopping £33.63 million!

tumblr_oie4f3HSdg1s2wio8o1_1280
Source: Tumblr

Before the French Revolution broke, she saw the writing on the wall and shipped some of her jewels off to her nephew in Vienna, meaning that they avoided the dismantling which befell the pieces left behind… and, indeed, their owner!

giphy (4).gif
Source: giphy.com

So, let’s take a peak inside Marie Antoinette’s jewellery box… (Ok, that’s probably enough innuendo now…)

 

It’s clear from first glance that this famous historical magpie was a BIG fan of both diamonds and pearls. Unlike today, where cultured pearls are plentiful and relatively affordable, in Marie Antoinette’s time, naturally-occurring pearls were very rare, and required many hours of life-threatening dives to obtain in any great number. Is it any surprise, then, that they were a favourite of this image-conscious royal?

200px-Marie-Antoinette;_koningin_der_Fransen
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Interestingly, some saved jewellery was later broken up and reset anyway. This was and continues to be common practice amongst aristocratic families when it comes to heirlooms, since the component gemstones are often more valued than the piece they’re set in. Thus, it’s not unusual to see particularly beautiful stones set and reset into more contemporary pieces over the centuries.

4760298-6239107-image-a-77_1538661639456
A 19th century diamond brooch made from stones smuggled out of Paris by Marie Antoinette. Image (c) Sotheby’s.

If you’re interested in the relationships between family members and gems, Sotheby’s have put together a handy family tree to show where each piece came from:

Screen-Shot-2018-09-29-at-12.00.33-PM-768x538.jpg
Source: Sotheby’s (c)

The most famous and anticipated piece sold at auction was this pendant, fashioned from an enormous natural pearl (26 x 18mm!), topped with a diamond bow and large solitaire diamond:

1_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqqVzuuqpFlyLIwiB6NTmJwfSVWeZ_vEN7c6bHu2jJnT8
Image (c) Sotheby’s

It sold for *drumroll please* £28.4 million, beating its £1 million estimate by, er, quite a way, and beating the record previously set by Elizabeth Taylor’s Peregrina pendant.

 

SeveralWearyBobcat-small
Source: Tumblr

It’s a total the queen herself would likely have been proud of, although it is true that her lavish tastes were exaggerated by her contemporaries. After all, can you blame them? The opportunity to tie Marie Antoinette to 1784-5 scandal known as ‘The Affair of the Diamond Necklace’ was too good to resist amongst the anti-monarchy feeling of the day…despite the fact that poor old Marie Antoinette had nothing to do with it. But that’s a story for next week’s post…and it’s a banger!

tenor.gif
Source: tenor.com

Spotlight on: rose quartz

It’s getting dark and autumnal and I love the knitwear-boots-hot-drinks vibe but I’m less keen on the greyness, so today I’m looking at things through rose-tinted glasses – or rather, rose-quartz-tinted glasses…

giphy (16).gif
Source: giphy

Sorry… But really, though, a bit of blush pink crystal is a nice way to brighten up a rainy day, so let’s take a look.

SelfreliantExcellentAcouchi-size_restricted.gif
Source: gfycat.com

What even is rose quartz?

  • It’s a type of oxide mineral.
  • It’s the second most abundant mineral in the Earth’s crust.
  • The name ‘quartz’ comes from the German for ‘hard’ (snigger snigger), and the ‘rose’ part is, of course, a reference to its pale pink hue.
  • It’s generally thought that rose quartz’s pink colour is due to trace amounts of titanium, iron, or manganese.
  • The colour is also photosensitive, so don’t leave your rose quartz pieces in direct sunlight for long periods of time if you want them to stay pink!

Myths, legends, and hidden meanings

From Ancient Egypt to modern crystal enthusiasts, rose quartz’s pretty pink colour and association with romance has created mystical ideas aplenty, but Ancient Greek and Roman myths are the most romantic.

The first is that rose quartz was the physical gift of love bestowed upon humans by Cupid/Eros, the Ancient Greek/Roman god of love. Alternatively, another Greek myth told that rose quartz gained its colour from the blood Aphrodite spilt trying to save her one true love, Adonis. Both lovers bled onto the stone, and this was meant to represent true love. Kinda gross, kinda romantic…

Either way, rose quartz has also been said over the years to have the properties of:

  • Resolving arguments
  • Preventing wrinkles
  • Bringing love into loveless situations
  • Signifying that a deal had been completed
  • Fostering compassion

Whether or not you believe in its special qualities, one thing that’s undeniable is rose quartz’s gorgeous blush pink colour, which has made it popular in designs throughout the centuries…

© 2008 GIA
Ancient Egyptian necklace made from rose quartz, emerald & ceramic. Royal Ontario Museum. Image by Robert Weldon.
charlotte isabella newman 1860s v and a
Sketch of a rose quartz earring by Charlotte Isabella Newman, 1860s. Image (c) Victoria & Albert Museum.

And there’ll be sun, sun, suuuuuun…

This year, the British summer has lasted longer than a few days in May, and we’re all pretty shocked. The vitamin D, blue skies and bright light are fab; the sweaty air, less so…

tenor234.gif

Anyway, I’m sat in front of a fan with a cold glass of Pinot Grigio in hand and I’m ready to spread some extra sunshine in the form of sparkles (what else?!).

As long as humans have existed, the sun has been a source of fascination, an object of worship, and a muse for artwork, so it’s no wonder it features in jewellery across time and space. Here are five of my favourite pieces of sun-themed jewellery…

Medal Of The Qajar Order of Aftab, 19th Century CE

14e481b5f709f8c3e422239ea6e64779.jpg
Image: Islamic Art Museum, Malaysia

This beautiful, honorific badge is a gorgeous demonstration of how to mix materials. The central, painted enamel inlay bears the face of the female sun (aftab), which emanates platinum rays set with sparkling diamonds.

The Qajar Dynasty of Persia ruled from 1779-1924, and the Order of Aftab was introduced in 1873 by Nasser al-Din Shah Qajar, the King of Persia. It had two classes, the first for female sovereigns and the spouses of reigning kings, and the second for princesses, women of high rank, or others deemed worthy of special appreciation. The Shah created the order before embarking on a trip to visit foreign dignitaries around the world, which is why Queen Victoria of England was one of the first recipients of a first class order badge.

The first class badge was fashioned in platinum and diamonds, the second uses brilliants rather than diamonds, and is only a semi-circular sun rather than the full disc. Both were worn on a pink and green sash, and all badges were made to this design until the order changed in 1939 with a change of dynasty.

Gold brooch by Castellani, Rome, c.1860

IMG_20180712_164059.jpg
Image: 7000 Years Of Jewellery, ed. Hugh Tait

This brooch was made around 1860 by the Castellani jewellery company, which specialised in archaeologically-inspired pieces to cater to the 19th Century CE trend for neo-classicism. It’s based on the Greek sun god, Helios, with both the rays and Helios’ hair executed using the popular but difficult ancient technique of granulation, and is approximately 3.25cm in diameter. It was inspired by a Hellenistic Greek ornament in the Campana collection.

Minoan gold brooch, 17th Century BCE

8240-004-6C1E6233
Image: Encyclopaedia Britannica

Found in a Minoan tomb in Mallia, on the island of Crete, this brooch features the sun’s disk, covered with granulation and held up by two bees, right at the centre of the the piece. The delicate and sophisticated work, particularly for the time in which it was made, involved in the piece is one of the reasons I love this brooch so much. It’s also interesting for its symbolism, because bees were believed to be messengers between the living world and the dead, as well as being the symbol of the Minoan-Mycenaean goddess Potnia. This explains both the work put into the piece and the fact it was found in a tomb – I love it when jewellery has a clear design inspiration!

Sunburst costume pendant, D’Orlan, Mid-20th Century CE

LAX120-0644
Image: ebth.com

This piece was made by D’Orlan, a mid-century Canadian jewellery company, and I love it for its vibrant colours and mixed stones. Although it’s costume jewellery, fashioned in gold plating and imitation gemstones, the mixture of tones within the piece give it a fun, vintage charm. It has alternating pink, purple, blue and green rhinestones, turquoise and coral-coloured cabochons, and faux pearls, all channel-set into the cast gold-plated sunburst shape.

Silver suburst necklace, Graham Watling, 1973

Graham Watling Silver Gilt Sunburst Necklace (3)
Image: hashtag-silver.com

This sunburst necklace is a little more abstract than the other designs on this list, and that’s exactly why I like it. The artfully-alternating lengths of silver seem to shimmer on the chain, designed to move with the wearer and create a sunny halo round their neck. The designer, Graham Watling, was part of the ‘Renaissance of British Silversmiths’ in the 1970s, and the epitome of the phrase ‘it’s never too late to try something new’ – after a military career and 17 years teaching Arts and Crafts, he completed a BA Hons in silversmithing and began designing and selling his creations!

 

Famous jewels: Jackie O’s engagement ring

weddings-2014-05-2-jackie-kennedy-engagement-ring-pictures-0507-main
Source: Glamour Magazine

It’s been a busy week, so here’s a quick mini-blog to tide you over until my next full-length post later this week. In my various sparkly research I come across a lot of famous gems I squirrel away to look at at a later date, so here’s one of my favourites, made by French jewellery firm Van Cleef and Arpels…

jackie o wedding ring Luxury World s most iconic engagement rings from Jackie Kennedy to Grace
Source: Pinterest

Subtle this one is not, but that’s why I love it. I mean, look at this sparkle! The First Lady was famously fond of emeralds (as am I!), so her engagement ring features a 2.84 carat square-cut emerald and a 2.88 carat square-cut diamond within a beautiful open-halo setting of 12 marquise-cut diamonds, as well as numerous smaller round diamonds along the gold band. Phew – no wonder its estimated value today is an eye-watering £966,000!

Jacqueline-Bouvier-Emerald-jewelry.jpg

Aside from the craftsmanship and sheer wow-factor of the ring, I love the two stand-out square-cut stones nestled together in their laurel-like surrounds. They’re the perfect pair, and a lovely representation of the promise of engagement – if only JFK hadn’t been such a rubbish, philandering husband, he and Jackie could have been the same! Still, at least she got this gorgeous sparkler out of him…

JackieKennedyEmeraldEngagementRing
Source: Pinterest

Let me know your favourite famous jewels in the comments – I love discovering exceptional pieces that I’ve never seen before!

Jet-setter

 

One of the best things about running this business is that I get to create beautiful things that become a treasured part of my customers’ lives, and I get to do that by stretching my design wings. I recently undertook a commission which was heartfelt, exciting and challenging, and I thought I’d share it with you…

tumblr_me62r9Pxrl1ql5yr7o1_500.gif

My client was Suzanne*, a lovely woman who owned a treasured but somewhat battered piece of Whitby jet which had been passed down to her by her grandmother. The piece of jet had an extra-special meaning to Suzanne, because her grandma played a big role in raising her, and she wanted it turned into a wearable piece of jewellery so she could carry the gift with her everyday. She was also concerned about the potential to develop arthritis in the future, so she wanted the ring to be adjustable.

As well as being delighted that Suzanne had entrusted this piece of jet with such sentimental meaning to me, I will admit I was a little nervous! Jet is notoriously difficult to set, being quite a flaky and fragile stone. However, the challenge was exciting, and I explored a number of different design options to set this stone into a silver ring, since, after some discussions with Suzanne, it became clear that she favoured rings over other types of jewellery.

I knew as soon as I saw the jet that I wanted to make a design feature of the missing corner rather than crafting a setting to hide it. After all, this jet is a piece of Suzanne’s life story, and life has its imperfections as well. I wanted to embrace the history of the 150-year-old stone, and Suzanne was also excited about this idea, so it was full-steam ahead! We decided to go with the double-band design, and Suzanne absolutely loved it.

After receiving the ring, she sent me a lovely email telling me that she plans to pass the jet down to her own daughter in the future – I could not have been happier or more touched.

IMG_20180427_185334
Side view – this is how I achieved the adjustable ring. It can be altered by gently squeezing the sides, and the rounded ends allow a comfortable fit.

I also love the way the design turned out, and the whole process was one of the best commissions I’ve ever had. Sometimes I can’t believe I actually get to do this job!

*Not her real name; I like to maintain my clients’ privacy unless they wish to be a part of blog posts etc.

Disney Designs 4: Dun(broch) mind if I do

Time for another Disney Designs post! This week we’re going to run, fly, chase the wind, touch the sky…and take a look at Queen Elinor’s necklace.

giphy (7).gif

Ok, maybe just that last one, then…

giphy (8).gif

If you’ve not seen the film, Queen Elinor of Clan Dunbroch (above) is the mother of Merida, the flame-haired archer princess who is Brave‘s protagonist. Also, if you haven’t seen the film, I highly recommend it. Although a bit short on songs for my taste, it makes up for it with its focus on Merida and Elinor’s relationship, its lowkey, dry humour, and Merida being a generally cool but also realistic 16-year-old. I won’t spoil it for you if you’ve not seen it, but there is an excellent bit with an archery competition…

merida_brave2

To get back to the point of this blog, when it comes jewellery, as well as her gleaming green circlet, Elinor also has a bear pendant which she gives to Merida before the ill-fated suitor contest:

Queen-Elinor-queen-elinor-35547244-245-214

….aaaand then Merida trades it to a witch. Ouch.

Anyhow, Elinor’s necklace is in a recognisably Celtic style, which makes sense given the story’s 10th century Scottish setting, but I wondered how it compared to what people might really have been wearing at the time.

 

Circular pendants and brooches with interlocking patterns were certainly popular in 10th century Scotland, but it seems there were more abstract than animal motifs. The never-ending circle motif was everywhere, just as it is on the walls of Merida’s castle:

giphy (9).gif

The three-animals-in-a-continuous-circle motif was widespread in Far East Asia, along the Silk Road, and in the Middle East, in the form of three hares rather than three bears. Although it’s uncertain when exactly the symbol travelled to Western Europe, it does not seem to appear consistently before the 13th century ,so Brave is a little early on that one.

3-hares-iranian-traychris-chapman.jpg
13th century Iranian tray depicting the Three Hares. Photo by Chris Chapman.

However, animal heads as part of the triskele motif were found in Scotland and Ireland from the 5th-6th century:

 

I didn’t find any examples with bears from the period when Brave is set, but bears’ teeth were popular amongst those with slightly more hardcore tastes…

716d9988bcd2f981fd25ea1092e76bf9
9th – 11th century CE

giphy

And if anyone fancies channelling Merida? Well, I’ve made a new design: a Celtic-inspired shield necklace just for you…

DSCN3315

 

Just don’t go trading it with witches, now!

Fergus-and-Elinor-brave-35549439-500-235.gif

Not just a ‘shiny piece of coal’ – the jewellery of Hamilton

Last week, after almost 3 years of having the soundtrack on repeat, I FINALLY got to be in the room where it happens at Hamilton in London, along with The Goblin and a whole bunch of family and friends. I cried. A lot.

 

And I have A LOT of feelings about the show, the top 3 being:

1) How amazing Jamael Westman & Rachelle Ann Go are as the Hamiltons

2) How I will never be satisfied with a Washington who isn’t Christopher Jackson

3) How It’s Quiet Uptown will never not make me cry (especially when sung by the divine Rachel John).giphy (3).gif

I also have a lot of feelings about the gorgeous costuming, which Paul Tazewell, acclaimed Broadway costume designer, created as a modern, minimalist version of 18th century silhouettes. It’s a combination of old and new right after my own heart*, all in a palette of lush colours.

 

The minimalism doesn’t just stop at the clothing, with the only jewellery in the show being the main female characters’ delicate drop earrings (aside from King George’s bling, of course!). They’re a gorgeous example of minimal styling, because they add a little sparkle without taking away from the incredible vocals and rich dresses.

 

tumblr_o17rzdkzmh1qchdnoo2_500

Like the costumes, the Hamilton ladies’ jewellery is a stripped-back version of what women of the Schuylers’ status would have worn during this period of history (although not that stripped back; in late eighteenth century America, less jewellery was definitely more). Hair adornments and brooches were the accessories of choice at this time. Necklaces, when worn, tended to be of a choker style, and earrings were relatively simple (albeit expensive) gemstone drops.

 

Following the Revolution, at the start of the nineteenth century, American jewellery manufacture briefly boomed at home, as well as there being expanded import options. The Neo-classical trend in Europe carried across to the States, with pearl, topaz and amethyst designs gaining popularity.

 

However, from their portraits, it seems the real-life Schuyler sisters were even simpler in their tastes than the styles of the time:

angelica by trumbull
Angelica (by John Trumbull)
Mrs._Elizabeth_Schuyler_Hamilton
Eliza (by Ralph Earl)
download
And Peggy! (by James Peale)

I, of course, made myself some Hamilton-themed gems to wear to the show, focusing on the star motif….

IMG_20180423_200215
These may make their way into the Tiding of Magpies store one day…
AirBrush_20180423200042
Loving wearing my long threader earrings through multiple piercings at the moment for a different look…

Judging by the costumes and the historical jewels, perhaps I should have worn a pair of my gemstone drop earrings instead so I could pretend I was a Schuyler sister! Come to think of it, maybe I’ll do this tomorrow – I just need to find an orangey-pink outfit to go with my rose quartz drops…

 

tumblr_o1w5kv1S5N1qe6vjyo1_540

Some interesting articles on the costume design process:

http://tyrannyofstyle.com/costume-design-hamilton-broadway

https://www.thecut.com/2016/06/see-the-original-sketches-of-hamilton-costumes/slideshow/2016/06/09/hamilton_sketches/

Also, shout out to this blog for providing endless portraits of 18th and 19th century American women – https://b-womeninamericanhistory18.blogspot.co.uk/

 

*Maria Reynolds aside, because, come on now, this show is better than that stereotypical ‘vampy’ red…

 

“A little something from Fabergé”

It’s the long weekend break in the UK, so I’m spending four days in Mid-Wales with the in-laws doing a whole lot of this:

(Learnt Monopoly Deal and then won twice in a row, just saying.) Not pictured: roast lamb and amazing homemade treacle tart courtesy of my lovely mother-in-law. But between all the food and scenery and aggressive card play, I’ve whipped up a little virtual Easter treat for you all. An Easter egg, if you will…(sorry).

I’m assuming most people (if not everyone) reading this have heard of Fabergé Eggs, but I thought they deserved a bit more of a detailed look (because, God knows, they don’t get enough attention…). Essentially, the Fabergé Imperial Eggs are a collection of 50 intricate, jewelled metal eggs, filled with equally intricate surprises, which were given as Easter gifts by tsars Alexander III and Nicholas II to their female relatives (predominantly their wives and mothers). The eggs were made by the world-renowned Fabergé workshop in St Petersburg, and 43 still exist, most of which are owned either by oligarch Viktor Vekselberg or the Kremlin Armoury.

faberge-egg-collection-800pxx520px1

I was lucky enough to visit the Fabergé Museum in St Petersburg last year, where I saw 9 of the surviving Imperial eggs, as well as a whole host of other Fabergé treasures. Fun fact: although Peter Carl Fabergé is most famous now for the creation of the beautiful eggs, he also made a vast range of other trinkets. In fact, in the late 19th and early 20th century, it became fashionable for the European aristocracy to gift each other “a little something from Fabergé” for almost any occasion. With Fabergé’s continuous technical innovations, cigarette cases, watches and photoframes could be had in a dazzling array of enamel colours:

 

 

 

And let’s not forget the stunning jewellery the workshop created (so many egg-laces):

 

 

 

He also made some gorgeous faux flowers, which I now desperately want for my wedding centrepieces…

58074107cfdbb58f55f1c252034d013f
Source: royalcollection.org.uk

 

 

 

Faberge-flowers
Source: viola.bz

But back to the eggs. Although there are 9 impressive eggs in the Fabergé Museum’s collection, these are my top picks:

 

 

First, the Coronation Egg, presented as an Easter present to Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna by her husband Nicholas II, the last Romanov ruler, in 1897. Among other skills, the egg’s construction involved the use of guilloché. Like my Staffordshire Hoard blog post, researching the details of these eggs has introduced me to new metalworking techniques, and this is one of them. Basically, guilloché, originating in the 16th century, is the engraving of a repeating pattern into a base material by mechanical means (engine turning).

25e4bfefe9e88f76d1918a76c676ef39
Source: Pinterest

The egg also features a range of enamels, and the Empress’ crest set beneath a large diamond (one of many in the design). More exciting than the egg itself (at least to me), is the surprise inside: a miniature, working replica of the Empress’ coronation carriage, less than four inches long and fashioned in enamel and gold. The carriage features opening doors, moving wheels, and even tiny folding steps.

b9f64fd1be4994683db1b3f15de92c15
Source: Pinterest
0faee55303ae0215cf6f86a26041f4de
Source: Pinterest
455a04488a2bc1011dc38cf5b57625b0
Source: Pinterest

The second of my favourite eggs from the museum’s collection is the Bay Tree Egg, which I found the most impressive in terms of mechanical ingenuity.

68c2dd5c0c12166aa514edd1cc9be190
Source: Pinterest

Fashioned from jewelled nephrite (a type of jade) and enamels, this egg was presented to Nicholas II’s dowager mother, Maria Feodorovna, in 1911. As if the individual leaves and enamelled planter weren’t impressive enough, the surprise inside is incredibly impressive. When a lever disguised as a jewelled fruit is turned, the tree opens and a feathered songbird which moves and sings appears:

 

 

 

My final pick from the Fabergé Museum is the First Hen Egg. As the name suggests, it was the first egg presented to Empress Maria Feodorovna by her husband, Alexander III, in 1885. Although the egg is much less showy than its descendants, it makes up for that in execution and number of surprises. When the first white egg is opened, it reveals a pure gold ‘yolk’, inside which is a golden chicken with ruby eyes. The hen’s tail feathers have hinges, and the hen opens up to reveal even more surprises. Unfortunately these are now lost, but they would have been a tiny gold and diamond replica of the imperial crown, with a ruby pendant suspended on a chain inside it.

af57c8216bfc7d51b0af1a89d8ba6491
Source: Pinterest

The Empress was so taken with the egg that Alexander put in a standing order with Fabergé for one egg per Easter, giving him free rein to be as innovative as he liked, as long as each egg was different.

I loved the Fabergé eggs I saw in St Petersburg, but there are three in particular in the Kremlin Armoury collection that are on my itinerary for my bucket list trip to Moscow: the Moscow Kremlin Egg, the Memory of Azov Egg, and the Steel Military Egg.

 

 

 

The Moscow Kremlin Egg, by far the largest Imperial egg at more than a foot tall (36 centimetres), sits within a phenomenally beautiful model of the Uspensky Cathedral, where all of the Romanov tsars were crowned, forming the cathedral’s dome. The interior of the cathedral is fashioned in gold and enamel, and includes minute enamelled icons, carpets, and a high altar. The surprise inside is a music box which plays Easter music, including one of Tsar Nicholas II’s favourite hymns. The egg is from 1906, and is considered so precious it has never travelled outside Russia, unlike many other eggs, which have toured to different museums across the globe.

638d5555115eddb0ae8aeb90cee1f344.jpg
Source: Pinterest

Frustratingly, I couldn’t find a picture of the inside of the egg’s cathedral, which only makes me want to see it more…

The Memory of Azov Egg, presented to Maria Feodorovna in 1891, is carved from a single piece of heliotrope jasper which has been richly jewelled. Inside is a perfect replica of the Memory of Azov ship, part of the Russian Navy, upon which Nicholas II (then the tsarevitch, or prince) cruised to Far East Asia in 1890. It is fashioned in red and yellow gold and platinum, and the windows are made of tiny diamonds.

 

 

 

The final egg I’d like to see is the most stylistically interesting, hinting at the Soviet Realism style that was yet to come, and far plainer than the other early 20th century eggs. The Steel Military Egg was presented in 1916, when Nicholas II was away fighting in the First World War. Set on four steel ‘artillery shells’, the egg is plain steel with just the Imperial crest and crown adorning the outside. Inside is hidden a tiny painting by Vassilii Zuiev, which sits on a gold and steel, enamel-covered easel. The painting shows the Tsar and Tsarevitch examining military maps, surrounded by senior army officers. The frame is filled with diamonds. With hindsight, this austere egg almost seems portentous; it was the last egg Fabergé delivered to the Tsarina before the revolution, removal of the monarchy, and nationalisation of Fabergé’s workshop.

Faberge_Steel_Military.jpg
Source: Wikipedia

What’s your favourite Fabergé egg? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter/Instagram.

Now, we’ve been doing dry Lent (The Goblin’s idea; never again), so if you’ll excuse me, I’m off for an enormous glass of Malbec. Enjoy the rest of the Bank Holiday weekend, UK readers!