Category Archives: Georgian & Antique Jewelry

How we mourn

Mourning jewellery and art is quite collectible but not overly popular, since many people find it creepy to own something with the hair of someone long dead, not related to you. I appreciate the sentiment that went into creating mourning jewellery and artworks, and some of the pieces are incredibly intricate – works of art, really.

Hairwork panel

Above is a French memorial plaque which would have been set into a locket. When I bought it, it was not in a locket but I have since set it onto an old daguerrotype frame. I hope to one day find a locket to set it back into. The detail of the work is incredible!

Monogram Locket Necklace

Another piece of fine hair work, this locket has the hair set onto a mother of pearl disc that is in turn inserted into a slider pendant. It would have been attached onto a thick piece of ribbon or velvet and worn as a choker, or possibly even on a belt. The chain, which I added, is made from ivory – very old ivory.

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This incredibly intricate pocket watch chain is, believe it or not, made from woven hair. The quality is outstanding and the work is very fine and detailed. The hardware and clasps are gold fill, and this piece comes from France.

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A favourite way to wear mourning jewellery is in rings. I particularly like the pearl surrounds, and love this unusual photo ring. I am also searching for one with a coral surround, but have yet to find the right one for my collection. The two pearl rings date to the early part of the 19th century, and the photo ring dates to the latter part of the same century.

Mourning pendants 1

In a similar style to the rings, these mourning brooches have been transformed into pendants for necklaces. The one on the left, with garnets, came to me via my aunt who had it in her family for many years. The one on the right is possibly quite early, even late 18th century, and is in silver with paste stones and a rough lock of hair set inside.

mourning lockets

This delightful collection of lockets date to the 18th century. The top one is a double sided locket and has some more hairwork on the other side, and the locket does open. Left to right at the bottom are: a polychrome French mourning pendant, with a locket opening at the back, a detailed sepia mourning pendant which has hair set into the trees, though most is hand painted, and another French locket with its pearl surround still intact.

mourning bracelet

A piece I treasure greatly and wear on occasion is this delightful 18th century mourning bracelet. It came to me un-strung, so I added the pearls. It has a beautiful sepia and hairwork design set inside under glass. A real treasure.

Next time I will show you some of the hairwork pieces I have in frames. They are, at the moment, packed away as I will be moving soon, but when I get time I will photograph them and share them with you.


Crazy About Coral

If I was to choose a favourite material for my jewellery designs, and the jewellery I wear, it would have to be coral.

Despite the age of the pieces I own and use, the brilliant reds and oranges of the antique coral is still as bright as the day it was first set into a jewellery design.

Coral was very popular in the early part of the 19th century, and much of what I own comes from this era, and in particular from France. The ‘Empire’ style of jewellery was refined, classical and not overly ornate. Personal adornment took on a simpler, more refined style after the excesses of the lavish 18th century fashions.

Coral buckles

Above you can see three coral buckles or cuff links. They are in various states of completion, with the one on the left having only the coral frame. The centre one is missing its coral centrepiece and the one on the right is complete. It’s rare to find these with all of the coral framing beads intact. There are lots of possibilities with these pieces.

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Another example of a coral buckle is shown above. This time the buckle has its mate, as they always came in a pair but it is so hard to find a complete pair these days. This set had a sweet little snake ‘S’ clasp joining the two together and they would have most likely been sewn onto a velvet or cloth belt that was worn just under the breast. This set also features mother of pearl discs that have been carved out on the underside to produce the starburst pattern you see here. This buckle set has been repurposed into earrings. I love the deep red of the coral beads.

Coral and diamond earrings

Dating to a good 50 years earlier than the buckle earrings, above is a pair of mid-18th century coral, silver and diamond earrings. The coral beads are quite big and of a deep rich salmon colour. The setting is silver, with rose cut diamonds. I think they could do with a clean!

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Complete coral necklaces are hard to find, and when you do find one that has large beads, it will be very expensive. Upwards of $1000 for large beads on a long necklace. Coral is often sold by weight. Below is a much less expensive example of an early 19th century coral necklace, this time with numerous strands of coral seed beads. These are tiny little beads made from real coral, and hand cut and drilled. Despite the hours and hours that would have been employed to make this necklace, the coral weight is not substantial and thus the necklace is not overly pricey.

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I do also occasionally see coral buckles with little faces cared into the coral. Coral cameos were popular in the late Georgian and Victoria eras, and cameos came in all styles. In the example below the cameo is a in gold plate brass, and is little Aztec style face. The piece came to me as one half of a buckle set – the other half was missing. To create the necklace you see here, I used a French ormolu coral tiara which was missing about half of its coral beads. I harvested the beads, then used the remaining tiara frame to form a collar style necklace. The Aztec cameo piece was affixed onto the collar, I added chain and voila! A very unique necklace made from extremely rare 200-year old elements.

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More readily available are coral charms. These are also often sold by weight and therefore the price can vary according to the size of the piece. I like to use coral charms on a charm necklace with other antique elements such as little lockets and mini wax seals. Below is one such example which features a coral branch lucky charm, a carved coral hand charm, a small French wax seal and an 18th century vinaigrette locket. Coral and gold go so well together, and it’s a vary classic colour combination.

charm necklace

Another necklace I created features an unusual coral tassel. You do see a lot of antique beaded tassels with closed looping ends, not the open frayed ends common on most tassels. This lovely little necklace also features an antique wax seal and a tiny mourning locket with woven hair set behind glass  on the other side.

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I tend to use coral quite sparingly in my designs – mainly because it can be expensive and is quite scarce. Antique coral is only going to get more valuable, so if you want to start collecting something that is not quite as pricey as gold, consider coral…antique of course!


Some old designs…revamped

I like to look through my collection of jewellery and fix up designs I am not wearing much anymore. Sometimes they have broken, or need a little adjustment to make them wear easier. One of my most precious designs is this necklace made with one of the finest enamel brooches I have ever seen.

emanel brooch necklace 1

Most of the design is hand painted, and the detail achieved in the hair and face is incredible. The helmet and shoulder armour is hand chased in the metal of the brooch, so this piece offers an unusual variety of techniques to achieve the design. The base of the brooch is silver and there is a grill type edge that you can’t see, where I have attached the brooch to the necklace chain.

enamel brooch necklace 2

 

I’ve used gemstones in colours that are complementary to the colours in the brooch – London Blue Topaz, big fat Rubies and creamy pearls. The chain is antique French chain in silver.


Empire Era

The Empire era is a favourite time for me as so much beautiful jewellery and fashion came from this time. It was a period of great change in France and I think any period of change always generates great and beautiful things, ideas and events.

I showed you this belt buckle in an earlier post. It dates to around 1810-1820. When I got it, it was a bit dirty and had lots of verdigris.

Cloak buckle

I did my best to clean it up and decided that I wanted to wear it somehow – but I wasn’t going to wear it as a cloak clasp, as I don’t wear cloaks 🙂

So I made it into a pair of earrings.

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I love them. They are very authentic and go so well with everything.

I’ve also had a thing for hunting themes lately. It all started when I found this lovely little English Grandeln pendant (the middle charm on the necklace below).

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The teeth of an elk are set into a pendant as a memento of a hunt. I couldn’t even tell you why I like it, but I have since bought a whole heap of old hunting brooches and bits and bobs for using in designs and selling in my supplies shop. In this charm necklace design I complemented it with an antique stanhope binocular charm and an antique baby’s rattle in the shape of an acorn.

I suppose it’s a natural extension of my much-loved hunter’s buttons, which I love to turn into earrings, pendants, cuffs  and rings.

Fox Cuff

Fox Cuff

I am very pleased with the necklace below. It is for sale at L’Atelier de Talaru. It features what I can only describe as the most beautiful cross I have ever seen. I don’t wear crosses, but this is almost enough to convert me. However I want someone who really loves them to own it. The cross dates to about 1810-1820 and is from France. I made the chain from stunning Kasumi-like pearls and one single green garnet.

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I styled the necklace after those I saw on old Regency-era fashion prints – I think it’s a fairly good modern interpretation on an old classic.

 


Why I do what I do

The essence of how I work and create jewellery is to transform items into something different to what they started out as. I can achieve this to different degrees with different elements – some bear a close resemblance to what they began as…and other elements take on a whole new purpose. When I design I always aim to do as little alteration as possible – adding a few holes or trimming pieces is about as far as I go. It’s always a dilemma – how much do I alter something? Some pieces are very old and I know I will not find another like them. The choice is then: 1) do I leave it intact to preserve it and probably never use it in any way other than to look at it, or 2) do I make a few small alterations so that I can give the piece a new life and purpose?

I tend to favour the latter 90% of the time. Some things I come across are just too precious to change, but in the case of the coral tiara I bought a few months back, I did have to think for a while. Dating to about 1810, this tiara is from France, is in gilded brass and with coral bead embellishment. It was in a poor state of repair – it was bent out of shape and about 20% of the coral beads were missing. I decided to at least harvest the coral beads from it, as they alone were worth more than I paid for the tiara as a whole. Once I removed them, I realised that the frame could also be repurposed and would make a great choker necklace. Inspiration for a design did not hit until yesterday when, as usual, I was rummaging through my box of most precious treasures and supplies and I had a closer look at a little French Empire era coral buckle I bought recently. I realised that the little buckle would be a perfect complement for the tiara parts I had been holding onto.

It only took me ten minutes to make the piece, and I am very happy with the result. It epitomises everything that I like to achieve in my work – a cohesive design from unrelated parts that most likely were not intended to be worn together, and which can in fact be from different eras, centuries, countries and purposes.

Here is the result – my choker necklace.

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Remembering that it started with these two pieces:

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and

Empire Tiaras

 

and the tiara was probably worn similar to what is shown in the 1813 miniature portrait below

Miniature Portrait 1813


Little Treasures

I’ve been revamping my studio over the past week – adding height to my shelving, going through boxes to see what I’ve got stashed away. I’m listing some little treasures on Etsy – precious things that I probably won’t use because the moment has passed for me, but my customers will probably find a good use for these items. There are some interesting things to be listed in the coming days. Check them out here.

Meanwhile I have been sorting through my own treasures – both for my collections and also for making some new jewellery designs. I have a thing for the Neoclassical style and its use in the time immediately after the French Revolution. I love the classicism, the streamlined looks and romantic aura of decorative arts, fashion and jewellery from this time. I have a small collection of jewellery from this time – I pick up the odd piece here and there when I see a good deal. Here are some recent acquisitions.

Cloak buckle

Above is a cloak or dress buckle which dates to around 1820, maybe a bit earlier. It has carved mother of pearl discs, brass detailing and rich red coral stones in the middle. The little S clasp is an absolute treasure, in the form of a stylised snake. I might have this snake cast to use in my own jewellery designs as I have another one similar but about twice the size so it would be lovely to have a smaller one as well.

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This stunner above was probably a bracelet element, or might have been used for a choker necklace. It dates to around 1820 and on the back is the slot into which a clasp would have fitted. I intend to use it in a bracelet design, but it really does not need any more embellishment. The stones have a green tinge to them and I am not sure if they were originally green, or if they were clear and have greened up with verdigris over the years. It is in perfect condition, and at nearly 200 years old it a valued treasure that I will keep and wear.

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Here is a perfect cloak clasp (one half of it) with an Aztec style brass centre surrounded by coral beads. You often see parts of these items, but not always the whole thing. I’m not sure what I will do with it yet – I might just hoard it for a while.

Below are some elements I will be making into designs, mostly for my Etsy store. I usually lean towards simple and elegant designs but now that it is cooling down and we can feel winter in the air I am inclined to try for a bit more bling and chunkiness than usual. It remains to be seen what I will combine these pieces with – I have a few ideas, so stay tuned for new designs very soon.

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Finally, here is a little treasure I wanted to share. It’s a small book that dates to the latter decade of the 18th century. It is post-Revolution but pre-Napoleon. Its pages are printed on thick paper, with delightful illustrations, stories and music. At the back is a real treasure – part of a French Republican Calendar. After the revolution the French adopted the Republican Calendar from 1793 till 1805. The days and months are different to the Gregorian calendar and I won’t bore you with the history of it, but you can read more here.

I just love this little book, with its gilded end papers, letterpress print and thick papers. It has been hand stitched and has a leather cover impresses with gold decor. Here are some pictures of it – it measures 95 x 60mm – so not much bigger than a modern business card.

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A short break…

We took the week off work this week…to do nothing. It was great. Not having to get up with the alarm, battle traffic and sit in the office all day. We did some touristy things around town, ate out in very nice restaurants, did some tidying up at home and generally relaxed around our local area. You need a holiday like that sometimes.

This afternoon I came across a delightful little macaroon stand. They sell two things – macaroons and high quality French tea. So I bought a small box of macaroons and a tin of Earl Grey tea and we had a nice Frenchy afternoon tea. The macaroons were in all manner of exotic flavours such as rose petal, blackberry, pistachio and violet. My favourite was salted caramel – which was sticky and caramelly. I just loooove salted caramels. You can buy them all over France, in so many flavours, and now they are becoming fashionable here. Which is a good thing.

I also managed to do some creating, and put together some nice designs for L’Atelier de Talaru. I love this bracelet, which uses a 100 year old bicycle registration plaque. I have other plaques, from different years, and they are all beautifully designs, for such a utilitarian item.

And for something quite simple and elegant…this casino chip necklace on pretty golden cut steel beaded chain.

I also re-visited this beautiful old Art Nouveau French pendant. Previously it was part of a necklace design that just didn’t seem to work. So I took it apart and re-made it into something simpler. I think it turned out quite well.

And finally I thought I’d share with you some inspiration. My all-time favourite stone to work with and own is coral. Old old coral is the best, and Georgian coral is for me, the pinnacle. Here is an example of an early 19th century coral necklace. I don’t intend to pull this one apart – it’s part of my collection, and I do wear it sometimes.

And here is some more coral which has been worked into some designs, combined with old and ancient lockets, seals and chain.

 

 


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