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July 31, 2023
As a jewellery designer who regularly repurposes antique and vintage pieces by incorporating them into my new creations, my absolute favourite elements to work with are antique items that were commonly used. These items may have been commonplace during their time, but unlike similar items used today, they were created with decorative and ornate designs, often out of precious metals and materials. This makes them so collectible and ideal pieces to transform into beautiful pieces of jewellery.
Some of the most popular pieces used in creating jewellery are chatelaine pieces. Taken from the French word, chatelaine is the mistress or lady of the castle, who would be the keeper of the keys. As you can see in the images, the chatelaine looks like a large ornamental key chain.
Chatelaines were decorative clasps or belt hooks worn at the waist that held a variety of useful items suspended by chains. These practical items were items that the lady of the house would need throughout the day, and without pockets, the chatelaine was a perfect way to carry them and have at hand all day. They were considered a vital part of home management. Common items were fans, perfume flasks, spectacles, magnifying glasses, thimbles, coin purses, vesta cases, keys, whistles, pocket knives, measuring tapes, notebooks, retractable pencils, watch chains/watches, mirrors and scissors. Other favourite antique pieces being used in repurposed jewellery creations are dance purses, opera glasses, padlocks, compacts, and purse handles.
Historians have found that similar items were used by women of ancient Rome and China, with the hooks and chains holding toiletries and grooming items. Chatelaines began as practical items, used to carry essentials. They were often adapted for specific use by nannies, nurses, seamstresses, carrying medical utensils and sewing tools-the tools of their trade.
As time went on, the popularity of chatelaines grew and they became much more prestigious, with medallions, artistic designs, cameos and gemstones—trendy fashion accessories. They became symbols of wealth and class with the wealthy wearing very extravagant chatelaines, including royalty. Jewellers such as Tiffany & Co., Liberty, and Samson Mordan produced chatelaines during the peak of their popularity. As handbags evolved and became larger, chatelaines lost their popularity. Pocket watches also became a thing of the past, replaced by wrist watches.
Collecting these antique beauties and transforming them into a charming piece of jewellery that can be worn today is an absolute joy! Reimaging a piece of history so that it can to be worn and enjoyed by its new owner is so exciting. Each piece is one-of-a-kind artistic creation, handcrafted in my studio.
I’d love to share with you some of my past creations and some that are currently available.
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