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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

18th Century Jewelry

So I had previously posted about my request for crafts on the Historical Trekkers forum. Well I went back today and Mike had another suggestion for me:

On a different message board (the Nouvelle France section), Ike posted some pics of a Chaplet he made with simple beads and brass wire. A Chaplet is a short version of a Rosary. It only requres some proper beads for the correct time period, some brass wire, plus a round-nose pliers to do the twisting/bending, and a cutter to nip the wire to length, and a repro of an original cross for the end. The rest is carefull bending/twisting of the wire to form the wire links, and to add the loops to the bead to add it into your chaplet/rosary. This would have been a simple little "cottage industry" type craft, and could be demonstrated at many events. Just be careful in selecting the right type of beads, and the correct repro cross at the end.

I have done some beading as projects just for myself (not 18th century), so this sounds intriguing to me. I decided to take a stroll around the Internet and see what I could stir up on 18th century beads.

One of the interesting things I found was a pearl necklace that belonged to Abigail Adams, and is now in the Smithsonian. I found a website that is selling a reproduction of the necklace, although Abigail's necklace was fake pearls and the one this site is selling is real pearls. (They also have some other interesting necklaces.) On the site they have a link to a portrait of Abigail wearing this type of necklace. It looks like the reproduction necklace is all one strand with ribbon attached at the ends, so you can wear it long or wrap it around your neck a few times, I like that idea. This would be fairly simple to make, I think if I just made loops on the strand of pearls and sewed the ribbon on, I could do a pretty fair job of it. I think I will give this project a try, but with fake pearls, just like the original.

I found another interesting site along the way. It looks like they are selling beads that were actually made some time between the 11th and 18th century (If I am reading this right). They are seed beads from a company that just recently shut down, but had all these antique seed beads hanging around. I guess they were used on court dresses and the such. It sounds like a line to me, but I suppose it could be true. They are a bit expensive, but if it were true, it might be nice to have a few if for nothing else but to try and match them to current seed beads and pick a good replacement (at a cheaper price)! Here is the write-up from their site:

18th century French opalescent seed beads. On spools of wire around 14 beads to an inch. Sold by the foot of beads on wire. A pale opalescent cornflower blue. We feel so fortunate to have come acress these amazing beads. We have 8 antique spools in the colors above. The spools are of iron, wood or of a type of pressboard with the spool company "Chauny-Perigeueux" embossed on the spool. These beads came from a very old French glass house of Salvatore. Originally in located in Venice, famiglia Salvatore moved its glass house to France in the 11th century. Up through the end of the eighteen century these beads were produced and then stored in large canvas bags. In the 19th century they were strung on fine wire and wound on the spools we have today. The beads were made for costume and textile decoration for royalty and gentry. They were originally used to decorate court gowns and costumes for weddings, baptisms, balls, coronations. The company closed early in the 20th century and we have been told that the remaining spools are just being distributed for the first time.

Google really didn't come up with much as far as 18th century beads were concerned. I probably didn't try looking as hard as I could have, I will probably do some more looking later. But I could use those seed beads (or cheaper look-a-likes) to hand make crosses pretty easily I think. I also couldn't find much information about the style of cross that would be appropriate. Maybe google isn't my best research friend when it comes to the 18th century!! I may have to actually resort to looking in some books ... *gasp* ... what's a girl to do? Or maybe I will just send a message back to Mike and ask if he has more information on the appropriate stuff to use, now that's my kind of research!!

Also check on my other article on this subject, it includes paintings as well!

Believe me yours faithfully,


Catholicgauzette said...

This was very helpful -- I agree that a simple google search didn't come up with more helpful information. I will be attending a 12th Night Ball dressed in 18th century splendor, and had no idea what sort of jewelry was worn; this was the perfect starting point!

Rachel said...

I am so glad I could be of some assistance. I hope to expand my research on jewelry here someday. I was surprised by what was worn though, I assumed it was nothing to be honest. Please send pictures of your dress if you take any! It sounds like a lot of fun!


Anonymous said...

simply dropping by to say hello