Greek Jewelry Part 5: Pins, Girdles

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In earlier times simple pins formed of gold wire appear to have been often employed to fasten the dress. Bow-shaped brooches were also worn, but few gold brooches are met with except those belonging to the later Greek ornaments. These are characterized by a small arched bow and a long sheath for the point of the pin decorated with designs in fine filigree.

The goldsmith’s art is much more limited in its application to girdles than to head or neck ornaments ; and yet, as is well known, girdles formed an important item in the dress of men and women. The girdle over which the long tunic hung in deep folds was often of simple cords with tassels affixed to the ends.

Homer speaks of Hera as wearing a ” zone from which a hundred tassels hang.” Girdles appear to have been mainly of soft ligaments, which probably, with the increase of luxury, were adorned with gold ornamentation.

It is remarkable, at all events, that those species of gold ornament that can certainly be recognized as girdles are obvious imitations of textile fabrics. Corresponding to the ornaments found at Mycenae which were employed by the primitive Greeks for decorating their garments are thin plates of gold, termed bractece, pierced with small holes, which served the later Greeks for similar purpose.

They are repousse, and have clearly been stamped with dies, for the designs on them show constant repetition. They are of various sizes and shapes, and it is evident that some were meant to be worn as single ornaments, while others, sewn on in lines, formed regular borders or designs on the robes.

It is possible that, like the ball-shaped buttons met with in many fanciful formations, some of more solid construction served the purpose of clasps that drew together the dress at intervals along the arm, and acted as fastenings at the neck or on the shoulder. Some attachments of this kind in the form of round discs, with their gold surface richly ornamented with filigree and also with enamel, may have been actual brooches and have had hinged pins affixed below.

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Development of the Belt or Girdle

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The belt or girdle was worn round the waist by men as a means of suspending weapons, by women sometimes merely as an ornament, and generally by both sexes for the practical purpose of confining the clothing. It is commonly formed of a band of leather or textile material.

The part as a rule which receives particular attention is the fastening. This is either in the form of a clasp, or more often a buckle. The clasp consists of two parts, generally symmetrical, one of which can be hooked into the other.

The buckle, another combination of a ring with a pin, is similar to the medieval ring-brooch, but differs from it in that while the pin of the brooch pierces the material twice, that of the buckle pierces it only once. It may be described as a rectangular or curved rim having one or more hinged pins or spikes attached on one side of it or on a bar across its center, and long enough to rest upon the opposite side.

The buckle is made fast to one end of the girdle; whilst the other end, drawn through on the principle of a slip knot, is kept fast by pushing the point of the pin or tongue through a hole made in the material of the girdle.

The girdle is attached by means of sewing a fold of it round the bar or round one side of the rim of the buckle. As a great strain was put upon the doubling of the leather or stuff, this soonest gave way. Consequently a plate of metal was passed round the bar or edge of the buckle, and the two portions of it received the end of the strap between them. The whole was then made fast with rivets. The plate is known Buckle.

This chap is known also,as the mordant. The chief point of the girdle to be decorated was the buckle-plate, which was often in one piece with the buckle, or hinged to it. The mordant or tag was commonly decorated too, while ornaments of metal of similar design, sometimes jeweled, were applied at regular intervals to the strap or band of the girdle. In later years the girdle often took the form of a chain, on which, as in the case of chains for the neck and wrists, artistic effects were produced by a regular sequence of links. Fastened by a clasp, it was worn by women chiefly as an ornament, or to carry small objects for personal use. For the latter purpose it was subsequently supplanted by the chatelaine.

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