Brooches 20.06.2012

Adapting Style in the 18th Century / Stuart Crystal Brooch

Memento Mori Ribbon Slide

Use of the monogram cipher is a very important to note when considering the social change and the purpose of wearing personal jewels during the 17th and 18th centuries. Largely, this relates to the outward presentation of affection for another in public and also the social mobility that allowed people to present themselves in society and wearing high fashion.

This jewel is important to note for several reasons, these being shape, design of the cipher, facets to the crystal and the hairwork. Each of these elements is important to define its age and its purpose.

Firstly, the shape is the most telling of all its elements. The rectangular shape was not a common one until the turn of the 18th century, rather than the earlier oval shapes and domed crystals. You can see this element cross over into contemporary rings which had the same motifs and crystal memento at the bezel.

The cipher has the twisted circular, eternity/ribbon motif surrounding the initials themselves in gold wire. You will also find many monograms bearing this motif, regardless of their detail to the monogram itself. Often, the monogram may be flanked with sentimental symbolism (heart, cherubs) and the border retaining this motif.

Memento Mori Ribbon Slide

Relating back to the first point, the faceted crystal is powerfully used here to give a high relief to the jewel. Once again, contemporary rings use this style, but in a much smaller scale.

Finally, the hairwork is a very straight and direct weave, matching much of the quality of the initials. Not elaborate, but sentimental and beautiful in its simplicity.

What we’re left with is a love token that would have been worn for its practical and fashionable nature. The facets capture the eye and the detail underneath denotes the relationship.

Showing reappropriation with age, which is typical of many slides, the conversion to brooch came at a later date.

Courtesy: Barbara Robbins
Year: c.1700
Dedication: JL