Thursday, February 5, 2009

Captured in Time: Snapshots of Another Era

Personal Collection, 2009

Even as a young girl, I was enamored with the complexity of faces. From the pictures I drew to the images I collaged, countenances played a vital part in my compositions. So, I guess it's no surprise that as an adult one of my favorite collectible genres is early photographic jewelry.

Personal Collection, 2009

Like many of my pieces, I stumbled upon two small photograph pins by happenstance. And it was truly love at first site. Oftentimes, a lock of hair or a bit of clothing accompanies the pin. These gems allowed the Victorians a chance to express their emotions - And what a sentimental era it was - Queen Victoria herself had a bracelet made from her children's baby teeth! But that's for another blog post ...

Image courtesy of Penaroyal Collectibles

Before the invention of photography, hand painted portrait miniatures allowed individuals to carry their loved ones with them; however, such pieces were costly and not available to the mass market. By 1850 onward, photos were the mode of choice. Even with the subject forced to stand still for 30 plus minutes*, Victorians were stout in their love of the frozen image.

Image courtesy of Ruby's Room

These captured visages are fairly easy to date if you are familiar with fashions, hairstyles and jewelry of the times. The popularity of these wearable photographs lasted from 1850 to around 1920, with the highest point between c. 1880-1910.

Image courtesy of Robin's Nest Midwest Antiques

If you're interested in learning more about Victorian mourning and sentimental jewelry, please refer to these fabulous books that will aid you in your research:

  • Mourning Art and Jewelry by Maureen DeLorme (An excellent resource covering a broad range of domestic mourning arts)
  • Answers to Questions About Old Jewelry by C. Jeanenne Bell, G.G.
  • Collecting Victorian Jewelry by C. Jeanenne Bell, G.G.
  • Warman's Jewelry, 3rd Edition by Christie Romero
  • * The daguerreotype required sitters to be completely still for at least half an hour. As photographic technology increased the amount of idle posing time decreased significantly.
  • **Writing posts on my collections may be a dangerous undertaking- I've already added 2 more from finds on Rubylane!