Matronalia: Ro-mums

It’s a well-known saying that ‘all roads lead to Rome’, but it actually turned out to be true when I was researching my last Mothers’ Day post. Almost every source on the origins of Mothers’ Day mentions the Roman festival of Matronalia, so I did a bit more exploration.

Matronalia, celebrated on 1st March, was the first day in the Roman festival year. It’s thought to have originated as a celebration of the new temple dedicated to Juno Lucina (Juno the lightbringer, long-suffering wife of Jupiter and ‘mother’ of the women of Rome) on the Esquiline Hill, one of the Seven Hills of Rome, in 375BCE.

The festival, a celebration of mothers and of women in general, involved gift-giving by husbands and daughters. Gifts would often include gourmet food, jewellery and perfume. Women also gave their household slaves the day off, and often cooked them a meal, which is interesting, because it’s reminiscent of the Mothering Sunday tradition where girls in domestic service were given the day off to go and visit their mothers, as well as to eat richer food than was generally permitted during Lent.

So, what sort of jewellery might Roman mothers have received at Matronalia? If you answered ‘probably garnet’, you’re bang on. The Romans loved garnets and imported them in their thousands. The garnet was also symbolic of friendship and affection, making it a perfect gift for Matronalia.

Jewellery expressing love and affection between husbands and wives was another popular gift:

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Sardonyx earrings inscribed with ‘Te Kale’, Ancient Greek for ‘To the beautiful one’

Roman jewellers were also fond of wire-wrapping other stones, including pearls, to create some gorgeous earrings:

And if earrings weren’t a Roman woman’s thing, rings were always a popular choice. Interesting fact: the reason Roman rings are so tiny isn’t just because previous generations tended to be smaller than we are now, it’s also because Roman men and women often wore their rings above the first knuckle. Yep, the Romans were ahead of the midi ring trend by more than 2000 years.

If you’re looking for an unusual gift for your mum this Mothering Sunday, look no further than my Etsy shop, where you can find historically-inspired handmade jewellery like this ammonite pendant:

The ammonite above is reminiscent of the Roman pin on the left, but if you’re looking for something more modern or themed around different historical periods, there is a whole range of delicate silver pieces in my store:

Mothering Sunday: buttons and blooms

Inspired by all the Fashion Week talk of new collections and seasonal trends, I decided to do something new this month. I’m releasing my own ‘capsule collection’ for Mother’s Day, or rather, for Mothering Sunday.

Mothering Sunday vs Mother’s Day vs Mothers’ Day is on the list of things-which-confused-me-as-a-child-and-still-do-a-bit, so for clarity, Mothering Sunday or Mothers’ Day is the UK holiday celebrating all things mum. It falls on the 4th Sunday of Lent and has been going on and off since the 16th century. Mother’s Day (as in, the day to celebrate your one mother and definitely no other horrible old mothers – the founder was very clear on that) is an early 20th century creation, and is celebrated in the USA in May.

I’m working my collection around the UK date partly because all of my customers so far have been UK-based, as am I, but also because ‘Mothering Sunday’ as a phrase just tickles me. Imagine the scene: ‘Where you going?’ ‘Oh, I’m just off to go a-mothering.’ To go a-mothering could mask any number of sins…

So, my Mothering Sunday collection has three new designs (I did tell you it was capsule!), all necklaces, and here they are:

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Quite a few of my designs take sewing or vintage clothing as an inspiration, and the idea for my Mothering Sunday collection is no different. Since reading The Button Box: Lifting The Lid On Women’s Lives by Lynn Knight, I’ve become increasingly interested in the importance and application of seemingly insignificant found objects like buttons in the transmission of stories, skills and relationships, and it was with my brain going along those lines that I started designing this new collection.

This design is from the cast of a vintage button from my own mum’s button box, which I used to sort through for hours at a time. My mum is also the one who taught me to sew, knit and quilt, all of which she does beautifully and pretty much constantly, so she’s a fairly significant design influence all round. Particularly apt for this collection, I think.

Mums who might like this design include: The Crafter, The Historian, The Vintage Fan, The Understated Mum.*

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Design number two is a precious-metal take on giving your mum flowers for Mothers’ Day. After casting it from part of another mum-sourced vintage button, I filed and enhanced the design’s natural ridges to give a more lifelike appearance. I think it looks the most like a geranium, but if anyone has any strong botanical views on the type of flower it could be, let me know!

Mums who might like this design include: The Gardener, The Artist, The Elegant Mum, The Classic Mum.

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The final design was actually a collaboration between my aunt and I for one of her best friends’ birthdays. I added a second row and hanging feather charm to my popular ammonite design, strung on an unusual hammered trace chain. This piece is a prime example of how designs can grow and evolve as part of the custom design process – I love it.

Mums who might like this design include: The Nature Lover, The Walker, The Traveller, The Dreamer.

All of the Mothering Sunday collection, along with my other pieces, can be found in my Etsy store.

 

*Obviously mums, like all other humans, are multifaceted, and I’m reducing them down to generalised types for comic effect and style shorthand.