October 29, 2013

I can't stop thinking about Collet necklaces!

EDIT:  If you'd like to learn more, I've started a new blog all about Collet Necklaces!

I spent most of the weekend taking pictures and listing my reproduction paste jewelry in my Etsy shop (which I mentioned in my original post on Georgian and Regency collet necklaces and paste jewelry).  I'm pretty astonished at how quickly it has sold, but I suppose that is a good sign that the need is out there for this style.  Goodness knows it is hard to find a collet necklace for under $100 (by the way, my necklaces range from $40-$60). 

One thing I wasn't satisfied with in my original designs, and with the other reproduction necklaces I have seen, is that the stones are linked by jump rings, like so: 
Emerald Paste Collet Necklace by Dames a la Mode

This causes a few problems.  First of all, the stones shift very easily in this set up, and they flip over frequently so you see the brass setting as often as the stone itself!  I wore a few of my necklaces to work to see how they did and I found myself constantly flipping over the stones to make sure they were face out.  Frustrating!  In addition, it spaces the stones farther apart, so they don't have quite the look of the originals. Since I am going for accuracy, I'm trying to make them as close as I can.  Upon examination of the originals, you can see that they are in settings where one loop is horizontal and the other is vertical.  This allows them to fit together without the addition of the jump rings.   Take a look at a couple of up-close images from (spectacular!) extant pieces:

1820 Citrine Bracelet, Aesthetic Engineering Fine Jewels
1800 Vari-colored Bracelet, SJ Phillips, LTD

I really wanted to find a way to replicate this, but having custom made settings would have made them quite expensive, and it is really important that these stay in a more affordable range.  I tested a few different types of settings (and metal) and was able to find some that I could manipulate to be more like the originals.  Not only do these look much more accurate, they also wear better as they don’t have the issue with the stones flipping over nearly as much (though admittedly, there is still some flipping, which I imagine happened with our fair Regency foremothers as well!)

Here's a shot of my finished product:
Paste Aquamarine Collet Necklace by Dames a la Mode

Want to see more?  Head on over to my Etsy shop and see the Collet Necklaces and Paste Jewelry I have available!

October 26, 2013

Historic use of scallop edged ribbons

I've been a bit obsessed with jewels lately, but I haven't forgotten my first love- Ribbon!

First, take a look at this awesome painting from the Yale Center for British Art.  It isn't really related to this post, but it is fantastic!:

"Soldier with Country Women Selling Ribbons" Sir Francis Wheatley, 1788
How fun would it be to do a ribbon seller impression at a reenactment?  And gosh, this is just a generally awesome camp photo- see the lady in the far back on the horse?  I also want to do THAT at a reenactment!

Anywho!  One thing I've noticed in my research is how often you see ribbon with some sort of treatment around the edges.  Of course the had the regular straight edge ribbon, but you also see awesome variations like these (click on the picture to be taken to the source):

Unknown Daguerrotype (stupid dead Pinterst link!)
18th Century Silk Ribbon, The Met
19th Century Bonnet, MFA Boston

1840s-1850s bonnet, The Henry Ford Collection (Ribbon has been preserved with overlay)
1770s-1780s Swiss Ribbon Pattern Book,  Basel Historical Museum
 Gorgeous, no?  Especially that last one.  Man, I really, really want to own those ribbons.  I kept seeing things like this, but I wasn't really able to tell how common they were.  There is so little ribbon from the 18th and early 19th centuries that has survived.

Then, this summer, I went to upstate New York to Genesee Country Village Museum, which is a magical historic fairyland and you should GO THERE NOW.   We were able to arrange a special tour of their surprisingly awesome collections and saw some of the loveliest pieces of costume I have ever seen!

They have A LOT of headwear, too, and I was shoving people out of the way to get closer looks at stuff.  One thing that that surprised and delighted me was how frequently these scalloped ribbons showed up.  I am not exaggerating when I say that 75-80% of the 40 or so extant bonnets and hats (ranging from the 18-teens to the 1850s) had some sort of ribbon with a figured edge.  It was thrilling!

And I did take pictures, but they are not great quality (low lighting, no flash!) and I don't have permission to post them anyway.  Just take my word for it, please!

This all wraps up to say that I was equally excited when I discovered a source for modern ribbon that has this scalloped edge!  I am really excited have this for my own creations, and to have available in my Etsy shop. Click on the links to be taken to the shop!

October 24, 2013

"Collet" what you want, but I call it beautiful!

Several months ago, I read about collet necklaces in Katie Jacob's excellent post on the subject.  I was utterly smitten!  The "collet" is actually the setting for the stone and strung together they make for a bold and gorgeous statement piece.  These necklaces were popular in the 18th century, but their charm kept them fashionable well into the 19th century.   They are also known as "Riviere" necklaces, french for River, but this seems to be a term that came about in the later Victorian period.

Here's a particularly gorgeous example from 1830:

1830 Citrine Necklace, Fred Leighton

As was often fashionable, these came in lovely sets of jewelry that were called a "parure."  These would contain a necklace, bracelets, earrings (often multiple sets, depending on how turned out you needed to be) and sometimes even tiaras!   There were also smaller sets called "demi parures" that had a necklace and some other small piece, like earrings or a bracelet.
Georgian Emerald Paste Parure from the Three Graces

Doesn't that just make you weak in the knees?

I was determined to have a parure of my own, but they are hard to come by even if you do have a fortune to spend (which I don't!).  I attempted to have a necklace custom made for me, but that came to nothing.  I actually gave up for a while, but I kept my eye out for extant examples of these magnificent jewels, eventually creating quite a lovely little Pinterest board that I sighed over pretty regularly.

In my search for collet necklaces, I began taking a closer look at other jewelry from the period, particularly earrings.   They are so simple, elegant, and gorgeous!
1790s Amethyst Earrings

Georgian Topaz Earrings

1810 Topaz Earrings

I was also surprised at how wearable all of them are.  I would think nothing of wearing a pair of earrings like this to work or out to dinner!  I wouldn't call them modern, but I would call them timeless. 

I decided I needed some for myself.  While many of the extant examples are actual gemstones, there are plenty that are paste.  Paste jewelry was very common and paste jewels are faceted glass backed with colored foil to simulate gemstones.  That gorgeous emerald parure up there, those are paste!  They are basically rhinestones, except they didn't limit themselves to boring old clear, nosiree!  Those ladies back then LOVED their costume jewelry!

I started searching near and far for vintage rhinestones and paste glass, and actually found a good number.  It isn't cheap (the good stuff never is...) but it is gorgeous.  I'm happy to say I've collected enough to make myself a few shiny baubles with enough left over to sell some of them!  I'm waiting for a sunny day to take pictures, but I hope to have some posted this weekend.

Earrings are pretty easy, since there are lots of pairs of vintage paste stones available, but the larger collet necklaces are somewhat harder.  It isn't easy to find 25-30 matched vintage rhinestones, but I am on the hunt, and I hope to have more necklaces available soon!

EDIT- I've gotten some of my handmade reproduction jewelry listed in my Etsy shop.  Take a look:
18th and 19th Century Reproduction Jewelry

AND...I'm even working with a supplier to have actual amethyst, citrine, peridot and other semi-precious jewelry available soon- and it won't cost a fortune.  Hurrah!

Want more images?  Check out my pinterest board of 18th and 19th century jewelry.

Want to know the minute I have them available for sale?  Check out the Dames a la Mode Facebook page- where I am much better about posting :)

EDIT:  My obsession continues!  So much, in fact, that I have started a new blog:  Georgian Collet Necklaces!

October 3, 2013

Historical Accessory Challenge- Bustle Era Hat

I'm a few days late, but I did finish my entry for month one of Trystan's Accessories Costume Challenge!

A few weeks ago, I went to an awesome Victorian birthday picnic and made a new bustle gown.  I'll give you a teaser picture, because I have a lot more trimming to do on this and I want to do a proper post when I finish.  Here's a sample:

I really enjoyed my further foray into this era, so I decided to make a quick little hat to go with it (not the one I'm wearing in this picture).  I decided to go with something that was 18th Century inspired, since that is my first love (and since I just happened to have a black hat blank sitting around!  I wanted something that coordinated, but didn't match.

I used all stash-based stuff.  A scant yard of a lovely green and purple shot taffeta ribbon, some grey velvet ribbon, a few striking green shot black rooster feathers, and a spray of vintage lilac flowers.  

I have to say I'm very happy with how this hat turned out, and I can't wait for an opportunity to wear it!  Did you make anything for Trystan's challenge?  Let me know in the comments- I'd love to see it!