As many of you have realized, I’ve been doing a lot of research on Victorian jewelry lately, as my posts have indicated. I have a few small notes which probably aren’t quite big enough for their own posts, so I’m putting them in a small collection here.
The first story I found in Nancy Armstrong’s Victorian Jewelry (1976).
For a little bit of context, the British Order of the Garter is a prestigious honor bestowed, in many ways as a personal gift or reward, by a monarch to his or her close subjects, friends, and relatives. There can only ever be 24 members at a time, in addition to the monarch him or herself and the Prince of Wales. And they all get this fancy-schmancy garter to wear just below the knee, like so:
BUT WHAT DO YOU DO IF YOU’RE QUEEN VICTORIA?
“Another type of bracelet showed a strap and buckle design; few wearers nowadays know that this came into vogue because Queen Victoria felt that she could not possibly display even an ankle, far less her calf and . . . so decided to wear her Garter (from the Order) on her arm as a bracelet. This started a new fashion for buckle bracelets, brooches and rings, and there were innumerable variations on this theme” (63).
This is really interesting. Does anyone out there know what other female monarchs did in this situation? Mary I, Elizabeth I, Mary II, and Anne I must have been faced with a similar dilemma.
Here’s another one, this time found in Margaret Flower’s Victorian Jewellery (Revised Edition, 1967).
“Electricity had another part to play in the history of jewellery, though rather a transient one. Visitors to the Paris Exhibition of 1867 were interested to see the new ‘Electric Jewels’ – ornaments for the hair which were kept constantly in motion by a Voltaic battery worn down the back inside the dress.
“One of these electric jewels was a diamond skull which made grimaces, and another was a rabbit which beat a drum” (31).
All I can think about is the Energizer Bunny.
Finally, from the same book, I found the following photographs on pages 156 and 170. As we talked about before (in my post with the taxidermied bird-head earrings), jewelry in the 1860s got whimsical to the point of ridiculousness:
In case you can’t tell, the above picture is of a matching set of jewelry: a giant bee brooch, a pair of stud earrings shaped like bees (the two above) and a pair of dangling earrings shaped like bees.
This is why the bees are disappearing. The Victorian era used them all up in making stupid jewelry.