Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Article Gleaning

I love reading informative posts on web sites and blogs, and many times they're as valuable to me as a researcher as anything I find at the library or book store. Recently I came across this interview by Lisa Hix at Collectors featuring Monica McLaughlin, a writer and jewelry historian whose knowledge of antique baubles is fairly breathtaking.

From this one interview I gleaned so much valuable information it's almost ridiculous; here are a few examples:

Jane Austen’s ring was sold in an “English Literature” auction, not in a jewelry auction. (Did not know this)

“Memento mori” means “remember you must die” in Latin, and it’s a theme that’s been around as long as Christianity. It was used in jewelry from around the 16th to 18th centuries, most often in beautiful rings that are enameled with tiny skeletons, skulls, or coffins. (I've heard of this sort of jewelry but I'd never seen a real example of it until the pic of the four rings in the article.)

In the late 1800s, detachable orbs known as coach covers were used to disguise diamond drop earrings during the daytime or while traveling. (Brilliant idea that I've never heard of before.)

Skirt lifters, or dress holders, are clever little contraptions that women used in the late 1800s to prevent the hems of their dresses from getting dirty. (Also news to me.)

Poison rings always fire up the imagination! They’ve been around for centuries, and they certainly could have contained poison—either destined for some unfortunate enemy, or for the wearer, should he or she find themselves captured and in a bad situation. (I suspected the last part of this but never had confirmation; now I do.)

When you find something like this online it's best to dupe it to your hard drive or print out a paper copy as some sites dump old pieces or require you to pay to access their archives. You should also verify any hard facts and glean more details by looking for other sources as confirmation and augmentation, such as this piece on what was sold with Jane Austen's ring and when at the auction and the resulting intervention by the British government to keep the ring from being taken out of the county.


  1. What a fascinating article. I liked the way the interviewee said that you had to look at the jewellery in the context of the times it was made in, particularly after I "eew'd" at the idea of wearing a stuffed animal anywhere on my person. There was some lovely stuff there and it was interesting to see the pieces so knowledgeably described. I then went on to read the Jane Austen articles and now I want to know if it stayed here or not! I must google it and see what happened to the ring - my precious.. (sorry channeling .. ).

  2. Everything I know about memento mori jewelry I learned reading Barbara Michaels' Into the Darkness. I've never seen any in real life either.