Classical Cannetille Silver Amethyst Tiara

Classical Cannetille Silver Amethyst Tiara

I love it when a piece gives me plenty to think about. I’ve been examining and researching this lovely headpiece ever since I got it. (I love it so much that I’ve been wearing it, much to the surprise of my new neighbour but without any reaction from my family who are no longer surprised by such things). I do hope I’ve made the correct assessment of this amazing tiara (with antiques there is rarely 100% certainly, especially when it’s one of a kind like this one).

Here are some related articles that I wrote previously you may find interesting:

Cannetille. Filigree. Amethyst.

To see more about this amazing piece, please click here.



Jewellery of the Great Exhibition, 1851

Jewellery of the Great Exhibition, 1851

The Great Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations (aka ‘The Crystal Palace Exhibition’) opened on May 1st in 1851. It was the first and most well known of many subsequent world fairs. It showcased the peak of achievement and modern technology from the British Empire as well as many other countries. It was considered a celebration of industry, arts and culture and was one of the most colourful events of the Victorian Romantic Era. 

The exhibition took place in a purposefully designed building in the Hyde Park area of London. The building was made of glass and iron and resembled a giant greenhouse. Although some doubted its safety, it was considered by most to be an architectural marvel. It became known as ‘The Crystal Palace’ and had an area of about 19 acres or 772,284 square feet.

The exhibition itself must have been a true wonder to behold. It brought sights normally reserved for the elites to the average person. There were literally miles of amazing things to see – from manufacturing machinery to engines and steam hammers and boilers. There were inventions and discoveries, musical instruments, furniture, fine textiles, pottery, laces, clocks, toys, colourful glass and much more.

The jewellery and the precious materials which were displayed at the exhibition drew much attention and went on to influence a whole generation of designs with repercussions to this day.

Below is an overview of some of these displays. This is not meant to be a conclusive list but, rather, an impression.

The Great Diamonds

On proud display were two of the greatest diamonds ever discovered. The 280 carat Koh-i-Noor, meaning the ‘Mountain of Light’, was, in 1851, the world’s largest known diamond. It was acquired in 1850 as part of the Lahore Treaty. Also on display was the Daria-i-Noor, one of the rare pale pink diamonds in the world. It was 177 carats.

These stupendous diamonds must have been a breathtaking sight for the average Victorian who would not necessarily have been exposed to diamonds in their everyday life, let alone ones of this size. The effect must have been to spur on a greater desire for diamonds in the general populace.


A.W.N. Pugin’s Medieval Court

The designer A.W.N. Pugin presented a ‘medieval court’ complete with fixtures, furnishings, art and fine textiles.


Pugin’s ‘Medieval Court’.

As part of this breathtaking display he also presented a range of jewellery resplendent with gothic and ecclesiastical motifs, blue and green enamel work, pearls, turquoise and cabochon garnets in medieval style settings along with quatre-foils and other architectural inspired details. This line of jewellery appealed to the romantic nature of the Victorians who were in love with a perceived lost history, the novels of Sir Walter Scott and the notion of honour and courtly love. Pugin’s range caused an explosive revival in enamelling techniques and medieval influenced styles.


Pugin Brooch A. W. Pugin, born 1812 – died 1852 V&A museum

George Waterhouse’s Celtic Revival

The early 8th-century Tara Brooch, discovered in 1850, was the finest known Irish penannular brooch. It was exhibited by the Dublin jeweller George Waterhouse along with a display of his fashionable Celtic Revival jewellery. These Celtic Revival designs would have appealed to the romantic nature of the Victorians and their reverence for the perceived beauty of the deep past.

This line of jewellery went on to inspire generations of Celtic influenced styles. Queen Victorian presentation of gifts of Scottish Jewellery at the Exhibition’s  Opening Ball gave further impetus to this trend.


Drawing of the Tara Brooch

Wedgewood Cameos

Wedgewood, of course, is famous for his jasperware cameos. Even though they began to be produced in 1769, they were showcased at the Great Exhibition and catapulted to popularity as a way to bring relatively inexpensive cameo jewellery and the neo-classical styles to a those who had previously only been able to admire from afar.


Wedgewood Cameos.

Sunar Indian Jewellery

Gold ornaments and silver enamelled handicrafts fabricated by the Sunar caste from Sind, British India, were given much attention. These exotic and ornate pieces went on to inspire a taste for Indian influenced jewellery and ornamentation that continues to this day.


Sunar ornaments.

Gutta Percha

It was at the Great Exhibition that the rubber gum based material Gutta Percha made its debut with a diverse range of products displayed by The Gutta Percha Company. Gutta Percha was one of the first natural plastics, a lightweight, adaptable material which became popular for jewellery in the 1850s and throughout the 1860s and 1870s.

The Crystal Place catalogue of 1851 had this definition, ‘The Isonandra Gutta, the source of the gum, known as gutta percha, one of the most useful substances introduced into the arts during the present century.’


Gutta Percha Brooch

Primitive Jewellery

There were many pieces of jewellery on display crafted by pre-technological peoples from far-flung locations. These exotic materials and simple designs certainly went on to have a great influence on the styles of the era.


Shell Necklace, Displayed at the Great Exhibition, 1851. Oyster Cove, Tasmania, before 1851. Trustees of the British Museum.

Devaranne’s Cast Iron

Devaranne is recorded in 1828 as a manufacturer of cast-iron wares and in 1850 as owner of a cast-iron foundry. In 1825 he was asked to supply cast-iron wares for a Parisian firm of goldsmiths. He showed cast-iron jewellery at the Great Exhibition in 1851 (Art Journal illustrated Catalogue, 1851, p. 37).


Devaranne Cast Iron Brooch.

Nature Motifs

Also in evidence were many floral and nature themed motifs as the Victorian movement of ‘Naturalism’ emerged as a counterbalance to the growth in industry and technology.

The Art-Journal Illustrated Catalogue said, ‘The taste for floral ornament in jewellery has been very prevalent of late and it’s a good and happy taste, inasmuch as an enamelled leaf or floret of brilliant colour is an excellent foil to a sparkling stone. We have scarcely seen the designs for jewellery at any period more tasteful, elegant, and appropriate than they are at the present day.’


Plate 24. Group of jewellery selected from the costly and elegant assortment exhibited by Messrs. Hunt and Roskell. Jewellery in the Great Exhibition from the 1851 Illustrated London News.

As an interesting side note – William Morris, the renowned British Arts and Crafts philosopher and designer, is reported to have visited the Great Exhibition and been appalled by what he saw. He found the technology ‘dehumanising and ugly’. The exhibition was, no doubt, an impetus for him as he developed his anti-industrialisation philosophy and iconic designs.

For many others, The Great Exhibition of 1851 was a source of inspiration that continues to this day.

© Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder and Bloom LLC, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pippa Bear and Elder and Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Other Reading / Sources


Art Nouveau Design Houses

Art Nouveau Design Houses

Here is an overview of four prominent Art Nouveau jewelry design houses:


1888 until present

Founded by Lalique, Rene (1860-1945)

Probably the most famous Art Nouveau Designer of all, Lalique’s jewelry designs are renowned for their delicate plique-à-jour enamel work and use of the female form.

Rene Lalique also sold designs to the great jewelry houses of Boucheron, Cartier and Verver.


KOCH, GERMANY 1879-1987

In 1883 Koch received the title of ‘Jeweler of the court’ and worked for European Royal families such as the Czar of Russia or the King of Italy.


Founded by Pierre Vever (1795 – 1853)

Known for fine, gem-set Art Nouveau jewelry and hair combs. One of Vever’s most famous designers was Eugene Grasset (1841-1917).

Henri Vever “La Bretonne” Pendant, circa 1900. Lang’s Jewelry University. 

FOUQUET, FRANCE, 1852-1936.

Founded by Alphonse Fouquet and taken over by his son, Georges Fouquet in 1895.

Known for naturalistic and sensuous Art Nouveau styles.

The company worked with the renowned artists and designers Charles Desrosiers, Alphonse Mucha and Etienne Tourette.

Fouquet Abalone Pearl and Plique-á-Jour Enamel Brooch with Chatelaine, 1901.
Photo Courtesy of Christie’s.


Sources / Further reading:à-jour


Copyright © 2017 by Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder & Bloom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this website’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pippa Bear and Elder & Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Myrtle Bridal Tiaras

Myrtle Bridal Tiaras

“A plant of immortality, myrtle was an emblem of love and desire; poets, especially love poets, were crowned with it, and doorposts were wreathed with myrtle in nuptial celebrations.” – Deirdre Larkin, The Art of Illumination. 

The tradition of wearing myrtle headpieces for weddings dates back to ancient times. Myrtle was revered by the ancient Greeks, Romans and Hebrews and myrtle wedding garlands were popular throughout medieval Europe. The practise experienced a renaissance during the Victorian and Edwardian eras with the Naturalistic Movements and, later, the Art Nouveau Movement. With the explosion in romanticism, finely crafted myrtle tiaras and corsages became an established and widespread tradition throughout Europe, particularly Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Myrtle has long been considered to be Aphrodite’s flower and a symbol of devoted love. It is also considered to be the chosen flower of Venus. The Three Graces are frequently depicted wearing myrtle flower crowns. The ancient Greeks and Romans bathed in myrtle scented waters, often when preparing for marriage. They wore them for other special events and also received them as athletic prizes and other honours. They were made of gold foil and were delicate and fragile. The ancient Hebrews associated myrtle with romantic love, procreation and marriage.

The sweet scent of myrtle is thought by many to be the very fragrance of romance itself.  It is a symbol of devotion and fidelity. In the Victorian Language of Flowers, myrtles’s simple and enduring meaning is ‘love and marriage’.  In English tradition, a marriage is said to always follow after the myrtle blooms. In Wales, the traditional gift for a bridesmaid was a sprig of myrtle.


Fabric Myrtle Tiaras

In Germany and Austria, delicately made waxed fabric myrtle and leaf garlands were the most frequent choice for weddings. Tiny green leaves, interspersed with delicate white flowers, are arranged by hand on a pliable wooden or waxed card framework. Here at Elder and Bloom, we refer to these treasures as ‘Woodland Garlands’. They are popular with brides wanting a bohemian, natural or outdoor woodland themed wedding whilst simultaneously honouring history.


Silver Myrtle Tiaras

The intricately made silver myrtle tiaras were worn to celebrate a couple’s 25th anniversary. (In Germany this was known as the ‘Silber Hochzeit’.) Usually these are made from a base metal or low karat silver alloy or sometimes silver plated brass or other alloy. More rarely, we will find one of these tiaras made from real 800 silver, sometimes stamped by the jeweller. They nearly always come with a matching boutonnière or corsage for the groom to wear. Sometimes they come with two corsages, one for the bride and one for the groom. Today, they are worn by discerning brides seeking meaning, rarity and beauty.

Golden Myrtle Tiaras

Golden versions, usually created from gilded base metal and sometimes from gilded 800 silver, are even rarer. These were worn for the fiftieth anniversary (in German, the Goldene Hochzeit), again with matching boutonnière for the groom. These create a stunning and remarkable accessory for a modern bride, with  additional depth of meaning as they were worn to celebrate truly enduring marriages.


Other Myrtle Tiaras

Other versions of myrtle tiaras were made from finely crafted silver or gold paper or possibly green paper leaves with delicately crafted white flowers. Wax versions were popular, especially in France. Sometimes, myrtle crowns can be found combined with a rose motif (another symbol of love and passion) or with a daisy motif (the daisy has long been associated with purity and innocence and is therefore appropriate for bridal wear). Just once, I was lucky enough to find a myrtle crown adorned with small gems.


Additional Information

Myrtle Crowns are often found framed with commemorative satin hearts, photos or gilded memorabilia, showing the dates and names of the wedding couple. At other times, they are found in small glass presentation domes on a quilted, satin base. Examples from the Art Deco era are sometimes found in hinged presentation boxes. Earlier examples can be found in round cardboard boxes, sometimes with the name of the original jewellers stamped on the bottom.

The earlier examples of these crowns were hand-wrought and the later versions were, although mass produced, still exquisitely crafted. These rare tiaras have proven very popular with contemporary brides and collectors drawn to the elegance, fineness and mystery. Valued for their heirloom qualities, they are sought after by those wanting to honour their European heritages. For a bride, they fulfil the requirement to wear something ‘old’ and create a talking point that fascinates their wedding guests.

I have been collecting and selling these exquisite pieces for many years. It brings me great joy to seek them out and then pass them on to enthusiastic customers. The beauty and craftsmanship of these historic pieces never ceases to amaze me.

To be put on the waiting list for the next available crown, please contact me at

Be sure to look through the ‘Galleries’ to see more examples of these crowns.

Copyright © 2017 by Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder & Bloom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this website’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pippa Bear and Elder & Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Further reading / resources:

the three graces

Key Jewellery Looks by Decade

Key Jewellery Looks by Decade

Here is an overview of the key jewellery looks of the first six decades of the 20th century.


These years saw the continued explosion in the Art Nouveau Movement in all its forms. The styles evoked femininity, mystery, nature and were an homage to an imagined pre-industrial Eden of the past.


Semiprecious stones such as opals, moonstones, turquoise, baroque pearls etc took a central place as the beauty of the piece was not necessarily defined by the agreed value of the materials.


Enamel work became prominent as the focus on artistry and craftsmanship dominated.


Bijouterie can be described as a piece valued for the delicacy of its design as opposed to the value of its materials. These more intricate pieces became prevalent as design took dominance over ostentatious displays.


Nature themes were popular as people sought to connect with the simplicity and beauty of the pre-industrial era.


Celtic motifs were also popular as people romanticised  heritage and history in a rejection of the rapidly exploding modernity of the Western world.


The  female form and visage became one of the eras most iconic motifs as a craving for femininity emerged as a response to the increasing mechanisation of society.


The whiplash motif was a signature motif of this decade.


These years saw an emergence of elegance and a focus on gentile refinement. There was an emphasis on evening wear along with an adulation of aristocracy and nostalgia for the hey days of the fine royal courts of Europe, in particular Versailles.


The lavalier became a popular item as the beauty of the décolleté was emphasised.


Inspired by the natives of the New World,  bandeaus and aigrettes started to become popular (this fashion exploded in the 1920s)


Hearkening back to Rococo and Baroque design, bows and swags became recurrent motifs.


Inspired by the glamorous royal courts of Europe, tiaras and headpieces became popular evening wear.


The garland necklace was popular as the beauty of the décolleté, neck and shoulder was focused upon.


Princess Alexander popularised this iconic style.


The migration of many Italian cameo artists saw the popular emergence of cameos across Europe and the USA.


White metals with white stones were the height of fashion with the emphasis on evening refinement and the desire to wear jewels that looked amazing by candle light (also inspired by the new vogue for luxury cruises.)


This decade saw the emergence of a new boyish and chic look.  Jewellery became streamlined, youthful, forward looking, minimalist, light and lean.


With the craze for dancing it was important to wear items with movement.


The architectural discoveries of these years saw an emergence of revivalist motifs, as well as an idealisation for the styles of foreign lands as the European empires expanded.


With mechanisation and modernity there came an emphasis on machine-inspired designs.


As long sautoir necklaces became popular (perfectly for twirling while dancing), the artistry of venetian glass and the beauty of crystal was revered.


Gemstones were now cut by machine for the most part, rather than cut by hand.


There was a craze for tassel earrings and tassel necklaces and the movement they brought with them while dancing the latest dance crazes.


This decade brought the glamour and dram of the silent screen and black and white movies into the forefront of popular culture.


Diamonds became the most sought after gem, popularised by the silent screen actresses who wore them for their ability to sparkle on the screen.


The continued fashion for modernism saw an emphasis on geometric, architectural and non-organic motifs.


Filigree settings, particularly using white metals, became popular in this decade.


The simplicity and girlishness of floral motifs became prevalent.


Dress clips became the height of fashion


The fashion for all white jewellery continued.


Dime stores sold inexpensive costume jewellery which made style available to everyone. These pieces became known as ‘dime store deco.’


The silver screen saw an emphasis on increasingly flashy costume pieces.


The austerity of the war years brought about a creative explosion in costume jewellery which made personal decor more accessible. It was not worn to display wealth but more as an expression of fun and levity, in contrast to the serious times.


Rhinestones became a popular and accessible stand-in for diamonds.


The scarcity of precious metals saw an explosion in creativity using readily available materials such as base metal and wood.


The new surrealist art movements of Europe overlapped into the world of jewellery design.


It became de rigueur for every woman to wear a display of patriotism.


These were pins with a rounded, polished lucite middle. Pioneered by Trifari in the 1930s but made popular by the head designer, Alfred Philippe, in the 1940s.


Floral motifs continued in popularity.


Vermeil became popular as a replacement for solid gold.


Sterling silver saw a surge in popularity as gold was less available.


This decade saw a greater use of bakelite and other early plastics.


After the end of the Second World War, there was a return to the display of wealth. The love of sparkle and luxury returned with force but there was a retention of the fun and creative sensibilities of the previous decade.


These motifs remained popular.


This glamorous style of earring became all the rage.


The streamlined modernity of ‘Scandinavian Modern’ became sought after.


Textured gold became fashionable.


GIs returning from Japan brought home strings of cultured pearls to their sweethearts and a string of pearls or other beads around the neck (usually in princess length) became standard.


Artistry and fun was expressed through the fashion for figurative brooches.


Copper became a new innovative material to work with as a replacement for gold.


Charm bracelets became an item every woman had to have.


Perhaps as a symptom of nostalgia for the now long-gone Victoria era, parures (complete sets of matching jewellery) grew in popularity.

Further reading:

Copyright © 2017 by Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder & Bloom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this website’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pippa Bear and Elder & Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Aesthetic Period (1885-1901)

Sarah Bernhardt as Cléopatre. Circa 1899.

″Art for art’s sake,″ – Theophile Gautier

The Late Victorian era (1885-1901) is also referred to as the ‘Aesthetic Period’.  It was an era which was defined by its rejection of conservatism, of tradition and of all things repressive.  It was a time of great change in the world of art, fashion and design.  William Morris and The Arts and Crafts Movement (1894-1923)  became hugely influential and there was a revival of all things Medieval and fairy-tale like.  Art Nouveau (1890-1914)  began to emerge during this era.  Art Nouveau was truly a revolutionary design movement, perhaps the most radically new design movement there has ever been.  Japanese design emerged as an extremely strong influence, and there was a new design movement which is referred to as the ‘Aesthetic Movement’ which, in jewelry, is characterized by engraved birds, bamboo and minimal design, usually worked on silver.  Overall, there was an explosion of optimism, of creativity and of a new frivolity which, if it had existed previously, had been repressed and under the surface.


England, c. 1900
Brooch, silver and gold with blister pearl, garnet and diamond
V&A Museum

Decorative hair ornamentation, particularly combs, were the order of the day, as these went with the new uplifted hairdos.  Women were now riding bicycles, so purses, glasses and watches were worn on long chains to keep the hands free. Whistle bracelets were also popular for ladies who rose bicycles, so they could summon help from a long distance.


England, c.1900
Comb, silver, garnets
V&A Museum

In general, the taste in jewelry became much less ostentatious and diamonds and other showy gemstones were considered only appropriate for evening occasions.  During the day, women dressed and adorned themselves much more simply, youthfully and altogether with less fuss. Jewelry, when it was worn, became much lighter and smaller.  At the same time as this movement towards naturalness, there was a definite swing towards an emphasis of beauty over utilitarianism. Dresses were simpler and made with lighter fabric and would not support heavy jewels.  Stick pins, stud earrings and tiny chain purses became fashionable. The taste in colors shifted towards lighter and more pastel tones. Sensuality, femininity and subtlety were the prevalent flavors. Some popular motifs included shamrocks, hearts, stars and knots.  Bows were still popular. Novelty motifs were extremely popular, particularly birds and insects. A revival of Ancient Egyptian and traditional Indian jewelry styles also emerged.

A late 19th century tiger's eye quartz, diamond and onyx bee brooch

A late 19th century tiger’s eye quartz, diamond and onyx bee brooch
Christie’s Sale 6423


England, c. 1890
Brooch, gold, enamel, ivory, citrine.
V&A Museum

Although Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau style jewelry were both very popular, there was still a broad taste for more conventional styles.  Diamonds, although not considered proper for day time wear, were still preferred for special evening occasions, particularly set in tiaras and rivières. Old mine cuts, cushion cuts and rose cut stones were the most frequently used. Stones were set with less metal and with more emphasis on the gem itself.  Platinum began to emerge as a popular metal.  Other gems apart from diamonds became more popular during the years of the Boer War (1899-1902). There was an emphasis on cabochon cut gems; opals, amethysts and emeralds were particularly popular.

A late 19th century diamond brooch  Diamond Brooch, Late Victorian, Christie’s

A Star Sapphire and Diamond Brooch, Late Victorian.

Christie’s Sale 6968

A late 19th century coral brooch and earring suite

A late 19th century coral brooch and earring suite
Christies, Lot 6704

Sources / further reading:—the-cult-of-beauty—the-aesthetic-movement-a362629

Pre-Raphaelite Paintings with Jewelry

In a previous post, I discussed Arts & Crafts Jewelry and the connection with the Pre-Raphaelite painters.  Here are some more beautiful Pre-Raphaelite paintings (or Pre-Raphaelite style) showing jewelry, much of it appearing to be Arts & Crafts jewelry.  I believe this is an excellent way of becoming familiar with the jewelry styles of the era. I enjoy looking carefully at each painting and attempting to identify what each model is wearing.

Frank Dicksee  – Passion 1892.

Frank Dicksee – Passion 1892.

Frank Dicksee (English Pre-Raphaelite Painter, 1853-1928) Young Woman with a Tiera

Frank Dicksee (English Pre-Raphaelite Painter, 1853-1928) Young Woman with a Tiara and bead necklace (possibly agate or jade).

Fazio's Mistress, 1863.D.G.Rossetti

Fazio’s Mistress, 1863.D.G.Rossetti

Dante Gabriel Rossetti: The Blue Bower (1865)

Dante Gabriel Rossetti: The Blue Bower (1865)

Charles Sillem Lidderdale (British artist, 1831-1895)

Charles Sillem Lidderdale (British artist, 1831-1895)

Pre-Raphaelite dress by Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1886.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1886.

Bocca Baciata by Rossetti

Bocca Baciata by Rossetti

Marie Spartali Stillman

Violets, Sir James Dromgole Linton.

Violets, Sir James Dromgole Linton. 

The Kissed Mouth: Fifty Shades of Rossetti

The Kissed Mouth, Rossetti

Marie Spartali Stillman, self-portrait
The loving cup - Dante Gabriel Rossetti

The loving cup – Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1867

La Belle Isolde, Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys

La Belle Isolde, Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys

Marie Spartali Stillman, La Pensierosa


This is a humorful cartoon from Punch magazine, 1849.  Chateline’s were not really used for children!

During Georgian and Victorian times, Chatelaines were considered an essential part of a married woman’s or head housekeeper’s outfit.  Since the medieval era, ladies who managed households very often wore one.  They were only known as chatelaines after 1830, before that they were known as an  ‘equipage’.

19th century ladies wearing ‘chatelaines’.
1787 print from ‘Le Magain’.  This lady is wearing two chatelaines.

Essentially, chatelaines were a decorative metal belt accessory which was worn at the waist, usually hung from a chain, from which household tools and practical items were hung.  These items, called accessoires, nearly always included keys and could also be such things as a watch, household seal, a scent bottle, a coin purse, a pencil, a locket, a notebook, a pair of scissors, a pincushion, thimble or a sewing needle and thread etc. These accessoires were held in containers called nécessaires or, sometimes, étui.


Vienna, c 1760
Gold, enamel Chateline
V&A Museum

ChatelaineVienna, c. 1760

Gold, enamel chatelaines

V&A Museum


c 1850, London.
Cut steel Chatelaine
V&A Museum

The chatelaine signified the lady’s status as manager of the household and signaled to the servants, if there were any, who was in charge. The word ‘chatelaine’ literally means in French ‘mistress of the castle’.  But it wasn’t always women who wore then, men did also, with appropriately masculine tools such as knifes and watches attached. Chatelaines could be made from gold, pinchbeck, silver or silver plate, gilt, copper, stamped metal or cut-steel.  Some could be very elaborate with much cannetille, applique and repouse work.  Mid 18th century models were often ornately embossed with Rococo scroll work.  Sometimes,  they had mother of pearl or agate panels. Enameled chatelaines, like this one, were less common.


England, 1765-1775
Chatelaine with painted enamel on copper, with gilt-metal mounts and attachments
V&A Museum

Their role as either ornament or for practical use changed with the years. Towards the late Victorian era they were often worn more for decorative reasons or were even adapted for evening wear, with a place to keep dance cards and a fan.  They were even considered a normal part of ‘formal’ wear.  The general trend throughout the Victorian era was for chatelaines to become smaller.  The Art Journal reported the following in 1883: ‘…the long and inconvenient châtelaine, with it’s noisy toys, has shrunk to the dimensions of a watch-chain and swivel, worn at the lady’s waist so as to show outside her dress…’ Chatelaines were still worn as late as the Edwardian era.  However,  they became to be seen as increasingly old-fashioned and cumbersome until their use finally died out altogether.


c.1875, England
Chatelaine, Iron embossed and chased
V&A Museum
You can already see the move towards a smaller style

What I find interesting about the chatelaine is how an item that was once so ubiquitous and so much part of the culture could be all but entirely forgotten in the modern day.  If someone from the Georgian or Victorian era knew that the chatelaine was no longer worn, it would almost be as strange to them as if we traveled into the future and found that the bracelet was no longer worn.  It seems as though the decline of the chatelaine is tied in with the movement towards a more youthful and less responsible culture as well as a more streamlined silhouette. Perhaps the desire to be respected, to be seen as a ‘matron’ and someone in charge of a household was replaced with the desire to be seen as carefree, unencumbered and young.  Regardless of the genuine reasons for the end of the chatelaine, they are still fascinating historic and artistic objects that are considered very collectible.


London, c. 1755-1756
Chatelaine, gold cast embossed and chased.
V&A Museum

19th century advertisement for chatelaines.

Here is some 18th century verse about Chatelaines by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu:

Behold this equipage by MATHERS wrought
With fifty guineas (a great pen’orth!) bought!
See on the tooth-pick MARS and CUPID strive,
And both the struggling figures seem to liue.
Upon the bottom see the Queen’s bright face;
A myrtle foliage round the thimble case;
JOVE, JOVE himself does on the scissars shine,
The metal and the workmanship divine

In 1938, there was a brief attempt to bring back the Chatelaine as a brooch.
Sources / further reading:

The Language of Stones

Gem set ‘regard’ brooch, Early 19th century

Sotheby’s Lot 76, The Jewelry Collection of the Late Michael Wellby

Another lovely trend in the Georgian and Victorian eras was ‘acrostic’ jewelry. Acrostic jewelry was a beautifully subtle and poetic way of sending a sentimental message by way of the first letter of each stone, the first letter of which spelled out a word. Acrostic jewelry was a product of an era in love with poetry, when word play, coded messages and subtle verbal games fascinated the populace.

The simple yet intelligent designs of acrostic jewelry captured the imagination and made wonderful gifts for friends and lovers. Acrostic rings were particularly popular items and ‘Regards’ rings were even given as engagement rings during the Victorian era.  During the Georgian years, padlocks with keys or hearts were often worn as pendants or brooches.

Acrostic jewelry is believed to have first been invented in Paris in the 1809 by Jean-Baptiste Mellerio (1765-1850), jeweler to the French aristocracy. The fashion soon took off also in England and America but remained especially popular in France.  It is said that fashionable French women even wore particular stones whose beginning letters corresponded to the names of the weeks. Empress Marie Louise had three acrostic bracelets made by the jewelers Chaumet with messages of love between herself and Napoleon.

It’s important, when you come across a piece of antique jewelry with an arrangement of colored stones, to question whether there is a message being conveyed by way of the names of the stones.  Sometimes, this might be quite difficult to interpret, especially if the piece comes from a non-English speaking country, so this is definitely something to be aware of. Also, certain stones have changed their names; for example the word for garnet used to be ‘vermeil’.

A few of the popular acrostic messages in jewelry were:


Diamond. Emerald. Amethyst or  Aquamarine.  Ruby.


Diamond. Emerald. Amethyst or  Aquamarine.  Ruby. Emerald. Sapphire. Tourmaline.


Ruby. Emerald. Garnet. Amethyst. Diamond.

(The word ‘regards’ had a much deeper and more passionate meaning in times past than we ascribe to it today.)

Seed pearl and Gem set ‘regard’ brooch/ pendant, Early 19th Century
Sotheby’s Lot 74 The Jewelry Collection of the Late Michael Wellby

Je t’aime

Jet, Emerald, Topaz, Amethyst, Iolite, Malachite, Emerald.


Fluorite. Ruby. Indicolite. Emerald. Nephrite. Diamond.


Lapis Luzuli. Opal. Vermeil. Emerald.


England, c. 1830
Pendant, gold with lapis lazuli, glass in imitation of opal, garnet, emerald and gold.
Here, the pendant has the stones of Lapis Lazuli, glass in imitation of Opal, Vermeil ( the old name for garnet ) and Emerald which spell LOVE.
V&A Museum


Amethyst. Diamond. Opal. Ruby. Emerald.

Sources / resources:,_Duchess_of_Parma