Chains Chains Chains
The thought of where to start a blog about antique jewelry is very difficult. The subject is huge!
Rather than try to be a scholar about the topic, I’ve decided to write about what got me started in the business and how it has evolved over the last 5 years. Antique Watch Chains were a significant part of the collection that I started playing with when I began this business 5 years ago. To say there was a pile would have been an understatement.
There were hundreds of old chains that were tangled and tossed together that could have easily found their way to a smelter for a princely sum of money when gold was at 1600 dollars an ounce. Yet, I looked at the history sitting in front of me and thought how sad it would be to toss this pile into the fire and never be seen again. So many beautifully made pieces never to be worn again.
And certainly never to be worn the way the were originally intended. Watch chains were a staple in England in the 18th Century. Although watches were worn before this time, I am going to focus my brief history from the 18th Century onward. Fashion and jewelry were married very early on. And with men in particular, the pocket watch was concealed in the fob pocket (a small pocket that was concealed in the band of gentleman’s breeches) and the watch chain was the only piece really visible. Eventually, the word fob was applied to the dangling trinkets as well as to the style of chain. Women on the other hand, wore their beautiful watches and chains on view. What began in the 18th Century as an Equipage later to be called a Chatelaine was a rather complex accessory that allowed women to hold watches, toiletry, needle work, writing and cutlery instruments in a small elegant vessel on one side and the watch on other, connected by chains and swivels.These accessories were draped from the waist and were rather intricate in detail.
Clearly this was long before the handbag! Chatelaines were created in many styles and many metals. The aristocracy of course wore gold, but silver, steel, gilt metal and ribbon were also common. As chatelaines evolved the chains became more interesting and detailed with links of enamel, jewels and pearls. These accessory chains were the precursor to what became the standard for pocket watches which is the watch chain.
Moving to the 19th Century, chains of various styles were joined together by elegant tassels, swivels, breloques(trinkets), rings and slides. They were attached by hooks or rings to the waist. That takes me to today! My love of antique chains from their unique links to the spacers and details of each, started my quest to reuse and reimagine them. These are the chains that I am using in my collection today as the elements for bracelets and necklaces. Each chain whether a full length or a fragment is reworked to showcase the craftsmanship of the original piece. The makers of the period were more concerned with detail than with mass production. In my reworking of these pieces I too feel a need to reflect on craftsmanship. Care and time are the keys to the “new” pieces of modern jewelry with a nod to the craftsmanship of the past. Chains were the start for Turner & Tatler. Next blog, I’ll talk about the ever popular “Charms”. Still a favorite old or new!
BY CINDY CHAPLIN