Weird, beautiful and wonderful historic jewellery …
Now I think I have probably mentioned previously that I am a bit of a history geek – if not, well now you know – I am! I love the Tudor age in particular and I am also a rather big fan of jewellery, so when I discovered a Facebook page recently called The Fly on the Wall, I was blown away by the weird and wonderful jewellery they showcased there. It’s not just from the Tudor period, although a lot of it is, which makes me smile. Anyway, I decided to do a bit more research on the things I found there … I hope you enjoy reading about these quirky and beautiful items as much as I did.
Eye miniatures – these were quaint little miniature pictures of the eye of a loved one. They were mounted on rings, brooches, pendants; in fact, any type of jewellery. I guess they were the Pandora of their time! Essentially they were little love tokens and were apparently extremely popular with lovers in the late 1700’s. This is my favourite, as it has a crown and I do like a crown!
The infamous “Anne Boleyn” necklace … did this necklace actually exist, or is it just an iconic, modern-day representation of the jewellery associated with the tragic Queen?
The necklace certainly doesn’t exist today, and in fact it was rumoured to have been broken down and reset for Jayne Seymour (King Henry VIII’s third wife) after Anne Boleyn was beheaded. It was actually customary to make and remake pieces for the next Tudor sovereign so while this doesn’t seem particularly “nice” of Henry, it was pretty normal behaviour.
Some even believe Anne’s pearls are in one of our current Queen’s crowns – I quite like that idea. I also like the fact that the feisty Katherine of Aragon (Henry’s first wife, whom he conveniently cast aside when he decided Anne was “the one”) referred to Anne as the “scandal of Christendom” and was disgusted that Henry stripped her of her jewels to give to Anne. Can’t say I blame her …
Oooh look – here’s an “M” version for Mumpty!
Oh, and by the way – if you’re at all interested in King Henry VIIIth’s wives and their fates, I wrote a little, light-hearted blurb about it here.
Locket ring belonging to Elizabeth I … not to state the obvious here, but Elizabeth was the long-reigning daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn (funny how there was ALL THAT FUSS about getting himself a male heir, when in fact, his daughter did a pretty amazing job and turned out to be one of history’s greatest queens.) This ring was reportedly taken from her hand when she died in March 1603 and sent to her son and heir, James V of Scotland, as proof of her death.
I find this ring absolutely fascinating; for one it’s got diamonds in it and I am quite the fan of diamonds; it also has rubies, gold and pearls, and that never hurt anyone either. The fascinating thing to me though is that it opened up (hence the name “locket ring”) and inside were two miniatures; one of Elizabeth I herself, and the other of an unidentified woman; widely believed to have been her mother, Queen Anne Boleyn.
Isn’t it just fabulous? So personal and so beautiful. It was commissioned by Elizabeth in 1575 and never left her finger until her death. Although it hasn’t been proved that it was her mother’s image in the locket, I like to think it was.
And while we’re on the subject of Queen Anne Boleyn … check out this amazing little piece of history.
Golden psalm book belonging to Anne Boleyn
This beautiful little gold manuscript is a book of psalms, richly illuminated and bound in leather and gold. It has a portrait of King Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn’s husband, and apparently she handed it to one of her maids of honour while on the scaffold in 1536. It now resides in the British Library.
It appears this would have been worn around her neck on a chain – an interesting piece of jewellery don’t you think?
Victorian tear catcher necklaces … and last but certainly not least, the Victorian tear catcher necklace. A Victorian gentlewoman wasn’t just expected to attend the funeral of her husband and then just get on with life like you do today – oh no, she really did have to become a professional mourner for quite some time. (Don’t forget, when Prince Albert died, Queen Victoria went into mourning and wore black from the day he died, until her own death, more than forty years later – so that was a hell of a role model to follow!)
On the day of her husband’s funeral, the Victorian woman would be given a glass vial, pretty much like the one below (obviously the wealthier the widow, the more ornate the tear catcher.) For the next full year she had to collect ALL the tears she cried for her dead husband – that’s why she would have worn it around her neck – so she didn’t miss any. On the first anniversary of this death she would pour her preserved tears onto his grave. Kinda romantic really …
Do you have any special or unusual items of jewellery you absolutely love? Years ago I found a very wide, rose gold wedding band in an op shop, which I purchased. On the outside, in embossed letters, it said “FRED” and on the inside, it said “Mother to Fred.” Unfortunately it was always a little too big for me and it fell off one night in a bar and I never saw it again. Such a shame – I always wonder what happened to it and hope whoever found it is enjoying wearing it as much as I did.
Don’t forget to join the Fly on the Wall’s Facebook page – there’s ALL SORTS of awesome stuff on there – particularly if you’re a bit of a history/jewellery nerd like me!