The V&A just about killed me.
August 7, 2012 2:09 PM   Subscribe

I'm fascinated by unusual jewelry with a history — medieval memento moris, ARP whistles from the Blitz, Victorian nude stanhopes, that sort of thing. I don't care at all about precious metals and gemstones (real or fake), but rather about the story behind them. Cheap, mass-produced mementos and handmade crafts seem to carry more history than high-end jewels, but they're difficult to search for. Boring, pretty things always swamp me when I search for "costume" or "antique" or "estate" jewelry. Other than Monica Laughlin's excellent series of Hairpin posts, where can I discover more history-through-jewelry? I'm hoping for book recommendations, websites, stories, articles, or online shops.

Is there a general term for this sort of thing? I've found some things through Erica Weiner's jewelry shop and some interesting reproductions/inspired by's on Digby&Iona, but there doesn't seem to be much else out there for folks with this particular interest. I'll be delighted if I can afford any of this stuff, but that's less relevant than the interesting stories.
posted by you're a kitty! to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (7 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
you know about hair mourning jewelry, yes?
posted by peachfuzz at 2:20 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are a couple of blogs and I think at least one book about Masonic jewelry (including jewelry created for the women's Order of the Eastern Star), some of which is lovely. I don't know how carefully jewelry created for other voluntary associations (Pomona Grange, Odd Fellows, Elks, and so on) has been studied.

Temperance medals, tokens, and jewelry are interesting bits of history. Religious jewelry has, I think, been under-studied as an art form.

I am not generally a collector, but I am fascinated by photographic mourning pins. A very elegant example is near the bottom of this page; the ones I own, and am more familiar with, are a simple metal or celluloid and metal pin similar to a modern slogan or campaign button.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:40 PM on August 7, 2012

Oh, heavens, I forgot prison jewelry as another fascinating category. Lots of pins that say "Mother" which honestly kind of freaks me out a bit.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:42 PM on August 7, 2012

The Antique Jewelry University website is a good general resource to get a little information about a lot of different styles and eras.

Some other favorites of mine are Georgian mourning jewelry (preferably without hair, which squicks me), Berlin iron jewelry, suffragette jewelry, carved seals (in watch fobs or rings), and the amazing array of antique non-military badges and medals.
posted by timeo danaos at 6:46 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and also acrostic jewelry, like regard rings!
posted by timeo danaos at 6:51 PM on August 7, 2012

Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat's Jewel Box by Madeleine Albright might fit your needs.
posted by SisterHavana at 7:18 PM on August 7, 2012

posted by unliteral at 10:58 PM on August 7, 2012

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