The recent engagement of Prince William & Kate Middleton brings up the always fascinating subject of jewelry, a subject dear to the Nerdy History Girl's heart. Whenever one of my heroines becomes engaged, I pore through my jewelry books, looking for inspiration. Sometimes I'll give her a colored stone with diamonds, like Kate's. Other times I'll look for the biggest, gaudiest diamond ring I can find. But other kinds of jewelry were exchanged as love tokens. One of my favorites, because it's multicolored, is jewelry used to convey a message.
One way to do this was to use the first letter of each stone to spell out a word.
According to Jewellery The International Era 1789-1910, Vol I 1789-1861 by Shirley Bury, "The language of stones...was reported 'in high favour' by the Belle assemblée in 1817 (alas, that edition is not on Google Books yet), which explained only that the initials of the stones 'form devices or sentimental words.'"
Sometimes the jewelery spelled the beloved's name. This, as you could imagine, could present tricky problems for the jeweler, depending on the name.
For a visual feast of beautiful Georgian Jewelry, I suggest Ginny Redington's Georgian Jewellery 1714-1830. It's not very nerdy, being a bit thin in the scholarship department, but it makes up for this with gorgeous color photographs—and a less breathtaking price than the out-of-print Bury tome.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.