Medieval England Jewelry: Earrings, Necklaces, Collars

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Though common in the Merovingian and Carlo-vingian epoch, earrings appear to have been worn only to a limited extent, and that at the commencement of the period at present under discussion. Pendants formed of quadrilateral prisms set on each side with cabochon garnets and hung with small strings of garnet beads are attached to the ears of the tenth-century figure of St. Foy in the treasury at Conques, though it is not impossible that these, like many of the gems that adorn the statue, may be of earlier workmanship.

That the Byzantine style of earring, of crescent form, was worn during the eleventh and twelfth centuries is evident from a twelfth-century bronze ewer, in the shape of a head of a woman, of Flemish work, in the Museum of Budapest.

Earrings, however, enjoyed no great popularity during the Middle Ages, and the cause of this must be traced to the fashion which prescribed for women a style of coiffure by which the hair fell down at the sides, or was covered by a veil. There is a reproduction of this remarkable specimen of Dinanderie in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

MEDIEVAL NECKLACES would have effectively hidden any ornaments for the ear. It was only at the end of the fourteenth century that fashion again allowed the hair to be worn high. Pendent rings of gold for ladies’ ears are mentioned in the Roman de la Rose, and statues occasionally exhibit short earrings, pearls attached to the lobe of the ear, or stones in the form of drops. Earrings, indeed, did not come into very common use until the close of the fifteenth or the beginning of the sixteenth century.

NECKLACES AND COLLARS: The custom of wearing necklaces and neck-chains was much more limited during the Middle Ages than it had been in antiquity and at the time of the great migrations. Women’s necklaces can hardly be proved to have been in general use before the end of the fourteenth century, and during the Middle Ages seldom attained the exaggerated style they exhibited at the period of the Renaissance.

They consisted mostly of plaited cords of gold wire, and probably of single or double chains of pearls. These originally encircled the throat, but at a later date were worn more upon the breast. Though many forms of personal ornament are mentioned in early wills and inventories, we rarely meet with a reference to the necklace until the fourteenth century, nor is it pictured on monumental effigies or brasses until the beginning of the century following.

If worn at all prior to this date, it must simply have served the purpose of supporting pendants of various forms known as pentacols. These neck-chains, or collars as they were termed, soon began to receive additional enrichment, and the inventories of the fifteenth century contain frequent descriptions of neck-lets adorned with enamels and precious stones.

Eleanor, Countess of Arundel bequeathed to her daughter “a golden collar for the neck, with a jewel set with precious stones hanging thereat.” The fashion for rich necklaces was especially in vogue at the luxurious Court of the Dukes of Burgundy; nor had the Court of Richard II been behindhand in the display of this species of ornament, for the magnificent wedding presents of his wife, Isabella of France, included a collar of gold set with precious stones of immense value.

The word carcanet seems to have come into use about this time for rich necklaces of precious stones, and to have been applied a little later to the bands of jewels commonly entwined in ladies’ hair. Though never so generally worn as in the sixteenth century, a considerable number of these jeweled ornaments are represented in the exquisite paintings of the fifteenth century.

One of the most elaborate of all is the superb gold neck-let, brilliantly enameled with small and many-colored flowers, shown on the portrait of Maria, wife of Pierantonio Baroncelli, in the Uffizi Gallery at Florence, by an unknown Flemish painter of the latter part of the fifteenth century.

Close by, in the same gallery, is Van der Goes’ celebrated triptych, presented to the Spedale di Santa Maria Nuova by Tommaso Portinari, agent of the Medici in Bruges. Upon the right wing is Maria, wife of the donor, with her daughter. The former wears a magnificent necklace of exquisite design, its interlacing gold work shaped into the form of roses, enameled red, white, and blue, each set respectively with a sapphire, a ruby, and a large pearl.

The latter is adorned with a necklace composed of a double row of pearls connected by oval jeweled ornaments, beneath is hung a trefoil-shaped pendant set with rubies, to which is attached a large drop-pearl. A precisely similar ornament is seen in another work by Van der Goes, painted about 1473—the well-known portrait of Margaret, queen of James III of Scotland, now at Holy rood.

This picture was probably executed in Flanders from material supplied by the donor, and the artist appears to have adorned Queen Margaret with the same beautiful necklace, probably of Florentine workmanship, which he had seen round the neck of Signorina Portinari. Jane Shore, the beautiful and unfortunate mistress of Edward IV, and wife of the rich jeweler of Lombard Street, is represented in her two portraits, one at King’s College, Cambridge, and the other at Eton, wearing elaborate necklaces.

Around her throat are two strings of pearls, with a neck-let below of circular pieces of Gothic pattern, supporting a lozenge-shaped pendant of similar design adorned with pearls. Among sculptured representations of the neck-let the most interesting is that on the monument of Sir John Crosby (d. 1475) and his wife in St. Helen’s Church, Bishopsgate, where the latter wears a very handsome necklace of roses, to which is attached a cluster of three roses with three pendants below.

Sir John’s collar is somewhat similarly formed of rosette-shaped ornaments. An early instance of a heavy neck-chain of gold, worn upon the breast, is to be seen upon the famous tapestry, considered to represent Henry VI and his Queen, in St. Mary’s Hall, Coventry.

Collars of extraordinary richness seem to have been worn by Henry IV ; for among the miscellaneous documents preserved at St. Paul’s Cathedra is a list of various jewels set with diamonds both large and small, with balas rubies, sapphires, and clusters of pearls, which were to be employed for making collars for the king and queen.

The Inventories of the Exchequer contain frequent reference to what is termed the Iklyngton Coler. This magnificent collar, which Shaw was frequently pawned by Henry VI, was enriched with four rubies, four large sapphires, thirty-two great pearls, and fifty-three pearls of a lesser sort.’ In addition to the purelyornamental necklaces, collars or chains of ” livery “—bearing the heraldic devices of the day—were assumed by various royal and noble families, and were bestowed as marks of favor or friendship on persons of various ranks, and both sexes, who wore them as badges of adherence to those families.

An instance of the bestowal of a chain of this kind occurred in 1477 after the siege of Quesnoy by Louis XI, who, witnessing a great feat of gallantry on the part of Raoul de Lannoy, is reported to have placed on his neck a chain of great value, and to have thus wittily addressed him: ” Mon ami, vous etes trop furieux en un combat; il faut vous encJiainer, car je ne veux point vous perdre, ddsirant me servir encore de vous plusieurs fois.”

Richard II, as shown by the Earl of Pembroke’s remarkable picture of that monarch at Wilton, wore, in addition to his device the white hart, a collar of broom-pods. Henry IV employed the well-known collar of SS, derived from his father John of Gaunt.

The collar of Edward IV was composed of two of his badges, the sun in its splendor, and the white rose; while a third, the white lion of March, was added as a pendant. Richard III retained the Yorkist collar, substituting for the lion pendant a boar.”

Private family collars were also worn, and an early instance of one occurs in the brass of Thomas Lord Berkeley (1417) in the church of Wootton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire; the band round the neck being charged with mermaids, the badge of the Berkeleys.

The SS collar is the best known of all. It is composed of the letter S in gold repeated indefinitely, either fixed on velvet or some material, or forming the links of a chain. The letters are generally united by knots ; they sometimes terminate with portcullises and have a pendent rose. The collar was worn by the Lord Chief Justice, the Lord Mayor of London, and the chief heralds—that belonging to the Lord Mayor being an original and beautiful example of English jewelry of the sixteenth century.

Despite all that has been written upon the SS collar no conclusive explanation has been offered as to its origin and meaning. Several representations of livery collars appear upon monumental effigies of the latter half of the fifteenth century, and there is frequent mention of them in the inventories of the same period, but, with the exception of the SS collar, they are not met with at all in the sixteenth century.

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Roman Jewelry Part 1: Ornaments for the Head and Earrings

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The foundation of the designs of Roman jewelry is to be found among the ornaments of the ancient Latin and Etruscan races which Rome subdued. That there is considerable resemblance also between Roman and Greek jewelry is natural, for the Romans, having plundered first Sicily and Southern Italy, and then Greece itself, induced Greek workmen with more refined instincts than their own to eke out a precarious living as providers of luxurious ornaments.

It is worthy of remark that, owing to various causes, Greek and Etruscan jewelry has survived in considerably greater quantity than has that from the much more luxurious times of the Roman Empire. It is customary to associate Roman jewelry with a degree of luxury which has not been surpassed in ancient or modern times.

Roman moralists, satirists, and comic poets refer again and again to the extravagance of their own day. The first named, from a sombre point of view, condemn the present to the advantage of the past; and the others, with a distorted view, study exceptional cases, and take social monstrosities as being faithful representations of the whole of society.

Under the Republic nearly all ornaments were worn for official purposes, and the wearing of precious stones was prohibited except in rings, but in imperial times they were worn in lavish profusion, and successive emperors, by a series of sumptuary laws, attempted to check the progress of this extravagance.

Many instances might be quoted of excessive luxury in the use of precious stones, like that of the lady described by Pliny, who at a simple betrothal ceremony was covered with pearls and emeralds from head to foot.

Yet Roman luxury was not without its parallel in later ages. For in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries we read how at court the women carried their whole fortunes in a single dress. Further, as far as can be judged, the personal ornaments of the ancients were for the most part subject to much less frequent change of fashion than is inevitable under the social conditions of more modern times.

With regard to ornaments of the head, diadems and fillets were much worn. Ladies of the Roman Empire dressed their hair in the most elaborate manner, and adorned it with pearls, precious stones, and other ornaments.

For fixing their head-dresses, and for arranging the hair, they made use of long hair-pins. A gold specimen preserved in the British Museum is upwards of eight inches in length ; it has an octagonal shaft crowned with a Corinthian capital, on which stands a figure of Aphrodite.

Pearls were in particular favor as ornaments for the ears. Introduced into Rome about the time of Sulla, pearls were imported in large quantities during the Roman domination of Egypt. In Vespasian’s time Pliny, referring to earrings, says: “They seek for pearls at the bottom of the Red Sea, and search the bowels of the earth for emeralds to decorate their ears.”

Perfect spherical pearls of delicate whiteness were termed uniones (i.e. unique), since no two were found exactly alike. Pear-shaped pearls, called clenchi, were prized as suitable for terminating the pendant, and were sometimes placed two or three together for this purpose. Thus worn, they were entitled crotalia (rattles), from the sound produced as they clashed together. ” Two pearls beside each other,” Seneca complains, ” with a third on the top now go to a single pendant. The extravagant fools probably think their husbands are not sufficiently plagued without their having two or three heritages hanging down from their ears.” Earrings with single pendants were called stalagniia.

Continued in Part 2

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Etruscan Jewelry Part 2: Jewelry for the Head and Earrings

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As might be expected, important collections of Etruscan jewelry are preserved in museums close to the sites where the objects themselves have been discovered. One of the most extensive of such collections is that in the museum of the Vatican, which was brought together by Pope Gregory XVI from the districts which till 1870 formed part of the papal domain.

The British Museum, the Louvre, and the museums of Berlin and Munich all contain a large number of ornaments from the old cemeteries of the Etruscan races. The earliest Etruscan jewelry coincides roughly with Greek work of the late Mycenaean period, and betrays, from the religious symbols expressed on it, a marked Oriental or Egyptian influence.

At a somewhat later date, that is from about 500 to 300 B.C., it is evident that the Etruscans largely followed Greek models, or imported from Greece, especially from Ionia, some of the finest artists in the precious metals.

Etruscan jewelry can then be divided into three distinct styles: the primitive, somewhat Oriental in character, and of fine but not artistically attractive work ; the later, when the primitive art had been subjected to Hellenic influence and produced work of the highest artistic and technical excellence; and the latest style, in which Greek art, still followed, but in a vulgarized form, results in ornaments noticeable for their size.

The Etruscans appear to have paid particular attention to the decoration of the head. Following a custom in vogue throughout Greece, men as well as women adorned themselves with fillets ; while women also wore highly ornate hair-pins, with heads shaped like balls, acorns, and pomegranates, decorated in granulation.

Many of these pins must have served to fix the diadems and fillets for which the Etruscans appear to have had an especial liking. The latter are composed for the most part of the foliage of myrtle, ivy, and oak, in accordance with the symbolical ideas attached to these leaves.

The greater number are of plate of gold, so thin and fragile that they can only have been employed as sepulchral ornaments—like the wreath of ivy leaves and berries of thin gold still encircling the bronze helmet from Vulci in the Room of Greek and Roman Life in the British Museum, and a similar wreath of bracteate gold around a conical bronze helmet in the Salle des Bijoux Antiques of the Louvre.

Earrings of the finest period bear a striking similarity to Greek ornaments of the same date. The first type is pen-annular in shape, one end terminating in the head of a bull or lion, and the other in a point which pierces the ear. To this ring is next attached a pendant.

In the third type the hook which pierces the ear is hidden by a rosette or disc from which hang tassel-shaped appendages, and in the middle between them small animals enameled white, such as the geese, swans, and cocks in the British Museum, and the peacocks and doves in the Campana Collection in the Louvre.

Earrings of another class are saddle-shaped, formed like an imperfect cylinder, one end of which is closed by an open-work rose cap, which completely enclosed the lobe of the wearer’s ear. The latest Etruscan earrings, of pendant form, are mostly of great size and in the shape of convex bosses.

Continued in Part 3

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The Development of Earrings, Necklaces and the Brooch

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A few preliminary words may be said respecting the evolution of some of the various ornaments employed on the different parts of the body. The custom of decorating the head with jeweled ornaments was probably suggested by the natural idea of encircling it with flowers in token of joy or triumph. The use of diadems was in early times generally reserved for those of noble birth. From the fillets employed for binding the hair, developed circlets, which with the addition of precious stones assumed the dignity of crowns. The use of earrings as personal ornaments seems to have originated in the East, where they have always been in favor.

Earrings formed an important article of jewelry during the classical ages, but they were not commonly worn again in Europe until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. At the present moment fashion does not decree their general use.

The necklace—one of the most primitive of ornaments—is worn either close round the throat, loosely-round the neck, or low down upon the breast. Occasionally, as among savage peoples, it takes the form of a ring ; but as a rule it is formed either of a simple cord, or a chain formed by the appropriate linking together of rings, perforated discs, or pierced balls. Artistic effects are produced by a regular alternation of these details, as well as by the tapering of the chain from the middle towards the ends. Neck-chains with symbolic elements are those worn as orders and as signs of dignity.

The necklace may be further ornamented by a row of pendants, or more generally a single pendent ornament. The pendant thus employed has become, perhaps, the most beautiful of all articles of adornment. It occupies a conspicuous position upon the person, and possibly for this reason has evoked the greatest skill and refinement of the jeweler’s art. Its varieties are manifold—from the primitive charm, and the symbolic ornaments of the Middle Ages, to the elaborate pendant, for the most part purely decorative, dating from Renaissance times.

Next comes the important group of ornaments worn chiefly on the breast, comprising brooches, clasps and pins, employed for fastening the dress. All have their origin in the simple pin. To this class belongs the hair-pin, of which the most handsome and varied examples are to be found in ancient work. Unlike modern hair-pins which are provided with two points, they have a single cylindrical or slightly conical stem, pointed at one end, and terminated at the other with a knob or some other finial.

A simple pin for the dress was uncommon in antiquity, and its general use for this purpose belongs to comparatively recent times. Its place was always taken, especially in early periods, by a brooch—an outcome of the pin—which supplied the want of buttons.

The brooch, an ornament of very considerable importance, can be traced down from the earliest civilization, and is a valuable criterion in questions of ethnic movements. The story, however, of the growth of each of the different classes into which primitive brooches may be divided, the periods at which these ornaments made their appearance, and the deductions of ethnographically interest that may be drawn therefrom, must of necessity lie outside the scope of the present work.

All brooches, as has been said, originated from the simple pin, which itself was preceded by and probably derived from a thorn. At an early period this pin, after having been passed through the garment, was for greater security bent up, and its point caught behind the head. Later, in order that the point might be held more securely in the catch, the pin was given a complete turn, which produced the spring, as seen in the common form of our modern safety-pin. Thus constructed, the brooch, though in one piece, may be said to consist of four parts :

(a) the ecus or pin ;
(b) the d spring or hinge;
(c) the safety-pin, catch or locking apparatus, which forms the sheath of the pin; and
(d) the bow or back—the framework uniting the spring with the catch.

From this primitive safety-pin, which is the foundation form of all brooches with a catch, developed the numerous varieties and patterns of the brooch or fibula of succeeding ages. Among these is the Roman fibula, which instead of being made of one piece of metal, is of two pieces—the bow and the ecus. The pin here works on a hinge—the result of gradually extending the coils of the spring symmetrically on each side of the pin into what is known as the double-twisted or bilateral spring, and placing a bar through the coils thus made.

From the brooch hinged in this manner originated the Roman provincial fibula of the T-shaped type common in France and Britain, and later the cruciform brooch of Ansflo-Saxon times. The brooch with a hinge was exclusively used until the revival of the ” safety-pin” with a spring, patented as a new invention in the nineteenth century.

In addition to the above brooches or fibiilae (group i)—all developments of the safety-pin type—there are three other large groups of brooches: (2) the circular disc type; (3) the pen annular or Celtic brooch ; and (4) the ring-brooch.

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Advantages of Costume Jewelry Over More Traditional Jewelry

Have you thought of costume jewelry as a collection say in the same way more expensive jewelry becomes collections to those who can afford it? Costume jewelry collections is certainly a less expensive alternative with styles, designs and colors to match every outfit in your closet as well as your personality all without breaking your bank account. Costume jewelry is widely available in almost every material known to mankind, which means none of have to do without just because we are not part of the rich and famous crowds of people. Sterling silver, wood, metals, resin plastics, glass just to name a few types of materials available to us today for creating our costume jewelry designs is widely available leaving it all up to just whatever each of us can imagine and create from it all. The use of sparkling “colored” gem stones helps create a pleasing to the eyes and senses sensation giving way to an appreciation of beauty jewelry artists around the world can all relate to as well as those who purchase our handmade pieces of works of art.

At one time costume jewelry was considered “junk jewelry,” but this is not the case anymore as more and more people become obsessed with the beauty of costume jewelry art. It is now being seen more as artistic, tasteful and in good taste. The price of costume jewelry depends upon the cost of materials, but also, the appearance of each piece plays a huge part of pricing costume jewelry. The huge advantage of having more costume jewelry (a particular piece, color, shape or style for every outfit in your closet) as compared to traditional more expensive pieces of jewelry seems to be more and more the trend for many people unable to afford the high prices of traditional jewelry. We are also seeing costume jewelry, especially that made by hand artisans, is much more unique as well. It is much less likely you will show up wearing the same pair of earrings that anyone else in the crowd is wearing to any given event, whether it be in the office, the company picnics, or evening life. It is difficult to buy expensive jewelry as often as a person buys new clothes, and much more economical to purchase unique handmade costume jewelry instead. You don’t have to worry so much about loosing a $1,000 earring out of your ear while on the dance floor as you would a $15 pair instead. For many people more expensive traditional jewelry is just not a sensible or practical choice. Affordable handmade costume or fashion jewelry assures you have jewelry for every outfit and every occasion. Costume or fashion jewelry definitely reflects the wearer’s personality without checks bouncing from your bank account. I also love to find FREE shipping incentives. Don’t you just hate to pay for your earrings and then find that you have to pay an additional $5 or more just to have them delivered to your door. At Carmilita’s Handmade Jewelry, I offer FREE shipping for every purchase. Your shipping costs is within the total price you pay. There is no add-on shipping fee at the end of your check out that perhaps you never figured when you decided to purchase. I decied to offer free shipping because of my own shopping experiences. I would find a pair of earrings for $5 to $7 and then find at the check out I had to pay $6.99 just to have them delivered to me. After seeing the shipping charge, I often abandoned the choice.

Although many people still “bark” about costume jewelry being fake or imitation jewelry, it is in higher demand now in the year 2014 than ever before. With so many people out of work and the prices of everything that sustains our survival keep going up, people are just accepting there is beautiful pieces of jewelry that does not come with an expensive price tag and oftentimes is even more beautiful than the more expensive traditional jewelry. Costume or fashion jewelry definitely is also a “collector’s item.” Of course higher priced traditional jewelry still has its own buyers, costume or fashion jewelry is in demand. It is affordable, there is a wide range of styles, designs, colors, and flexibility which makes it now much more sought after than days gone by.

And there are many mass producing costume jewelry manufacturers, but why purchase a piece of jewelry “everybody else” is most likely to have the same of when you can purchase from hand jewelry artists and receive pieces that are most often just one of a kind?

As collections, handmade costume jewelry is a great choice. Most of us “collect” something we display on our desks at work or keep hidden away in orginal packaging in our closets. People spend hours upon top of hours researching, digging, looking and finding things to collect in every nook and corner imagainable. From designer bags, comic books, shoes to handmade costume jewelry, each of us have a space reserved for collecting “something.” Handmade costume jewelry is a great choice for the collector.




Materials used:

2 silver plated French earring hooks

2 silver plated headpins

2 silver plated 4mm bicone metal beads

2 pink 8×5 mm glass crystal rondelles

2 pink crazy lace agate 20 mm semiprecious puff coins

Robin’s Price is $15 (includes shipping fees)

Carmilita Earrings


Carmilita’s Victorian Collection Pink and Rose Handmade Dangle Earrings:”Victoria”



Victoria is a pair of handmade dangle earrings I added to Carmilita’s Victorian Collection. She dangles about 1 1/2 inch from the hook. Victoria 

has complimentary silver plated jewelry components.

Materials used:
2 silver plated French hooks
2 silver plated 8 mm crystal bead caps
2 silver plated eye pins
2 silver plated head pins
3 pink glass crackle beads 6 mm
2 Chinese porcelain 12 mm beads (painted in a Victorian rose design)

She will be shipped in an organza bag within secure wrapping.

Her price of $15 includes shipping charges.



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