Sunday, November 22, 2015

Reproduction Jane Austen crosses

One of the holy grails of Georgian Jewelry has always been the Topaz cross pendants owned by Jane Austen and her sister Cassandra.  They were given these as gifts in 1801 by their brother, and they have an exciting story behind them!

[Charles] has received 30 pounds for his share of the privateer & expects 10 pounds more–but of what avail is it to take prizes if he lays out the produce in presents to his Sisters.  He has been buying Gold chains & Topaze Crosses for us;–he must be well scolded.” 

Letter from Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra, May 27, 1801

Charles was in the Royal Navy, and he received the money for his part in the capture of an enemy ship! Jane and Cassandra were lucky enough to receive this beautiful crosses with part of his share. 

Jane and Cassandra Austen's Topaz Crosses
We know from Cassandra's letter that they were meant to be worn on gold chains, which is the reason for the loops at the top.  Jane's is on the left- the one with the oval-shaped stones. 

From the moment I started reproducing my Georgian Paste jewelry, people were asking for a reproduction of Jane's cross.  After being disappointed with the selection of commerically-available settings, I was able to find someone to reproduce settings for me based on my exact specifications, and I'm so pleased with the results.  

The thing I'm most pleased with is the tiny little balls on the ends of the arms, which is such a beautiful design feature on the original pieces.  You can see them better in this close-up image:

These are currently available in Brown and Orange Topaz paste stones in my Etsy shop, however I am working on sourcing some actual Topaz gems to make even closer reproductions.  For now, you can buy your very own reproduction Jane Austen cross from Dames a la Mode. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

My newest reproduction Georgian collet Necklace

Recently I was lucky enough to attend my first ever Costume College, which is an annual gathering of costumers from around the world.  We spend three glorious days in lovely Southern CA talking about all things sewing, researching, and making.  It is paradise, and made even better by the multiple opportunities to wear our historic finery in an air-conditioned setting (all too rare for us reenactors!).

I wore a dress I'd worn many times before, but I did make a brand new necklace!

This double-strand collet necklace is based off of this wonderful portrait I recent came across:

 Duchess Sophia Frederica of Mecklenburg-Schwerin by Georg Matthieu, c. 1774

I was utterly charmed by this portrait, and especially her unusual two strand collet necklace.  I had to have one for myself.  I whipped it together right before the ball, but I'm pleased with how it turned out!

My AMAZING hair was done for me by the lovely Jenny la Fleur!  She was kind enough to be my hairdresser AND my roommate, and she was superlative at both tasks!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Collet Necklaces in Ralph Lauren's Spring 2015 Runway Show

I recently had a customer purchase one of my harlequin collet necklaces, and she wrote me a note to tell me that she was inspired to purchase because of the jewelry in the newest Ralph Lauren ad preceding Downton Abbey.  I'll admit that I hadn't seen the ad as I tend to watch my Downton Abbey online and not on PBS, but I definitely wanted to see what his jewelry was like.  I performed a little Google-fu and boy was I surprised by what I found.  Ralph Lauren has fully embraced the collet necklace!

Just look at these jewels from Ralph Lauren's Spring 2015 runway show: 

Layered Necklaces

Harlequin Necklaces

A million, billion jewels!

Nothing subtle about these, is there?  I’ve always loved the harlequin collets, mostly because I have such a tough time deciding which color I like best, and I think Ralph Lauren has styled these models beautifully.  I especially love the big, bright jewels with the more understated outfits, but honestly I just love all of these looks!

Create your own Ralph Lauren look with the multi-colored collet necklaces available in my shop!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A new style of collet necklace

(All of the collet necklaces pictured in this post are available in my Etsy Shop at Dames a la Mode)

Ever since I started making necklaces, I've struggled with the fact that with the basic prong settings, the necklaces have a tendency to flip around. This is because the weight of the rhinestones are all towards the front of the settings, and those little guys are surprisingly heavy.  These prong settings are made of thin, lightweight pressed brass which makes them affordable, but also means they don't have the weight to counteract the pull of the rhinestones.  When worn, these types of necklaces have a tendency to flip around, and show the backs of the necklaces.  When I talk about basic prong settings, I'm talking about these:

To counteract the flipping, I wire my necklaces together, but I've never been 100% thrilled with this fix, it was just the best thing that I could come up with.  I don't even offer these settings on my larger necklaces anymore, and only use the heavier cast brass settings, like these: 

Or the lace or crown settings, which cradle the rhinestones more closely and don't have the same tendency to flip around: 

But these fixes don't work for my smaller rhinestones, because I can't get the settings in the smaller sizes.  Well, happily I've found another option!  My new necklaces are made in settings where each individual cup is held together on a chain, with the connectors being at the TOP of the setting, which means they don't flip around!  Here are a few pictures of the new necklaces: 

I think they look really great!  Let's talk about some of the pros and cons, shall we?


-No flipping!  I've already talked about this, but obviously the thing I am most excited about is that I can use both smaller and larger stones without having to worry about the settings flipping around and showing the backs of the stones!

-No wiring!  Without the worry about the stones flipping, there is also no need for me to wire them together, which makes for a cleaner necklace. 

-Strong and sturdy!  These are beautifully made settings which come from Israel, like my custom-made Josephine settings.  They are heavy cast brass and have been beautifully plated in gold or silver.  They feel so expensive, but they are:

-Affordable!  My Josephine settings are so expensive, and you need so many for one of the smaller-stoned necklaces, that it just isn't an affordable option. However, these settings are only a little more expensive than the basic prong settings, which means I can offer them at a more reasonable price. 

-Central drop links!  I can have these necklaces made with rings off the central setting, just like they did on original collet necklaces, which has really opened up opportunities for a new style of necklace- central drop elements!  I'm really excited about this, and I think they look great: 


There is only one I can think of, and it's that these just aren't historically accurate.  Original necklaces weren't connected using these little bars, so this isn't the best option if you are looking for perfect historical accuracy.  Then again, using jump rings to connect the settings also isn't historically accurate, so there really isn't a perfect option for these stones yet (but if I can find a way, I will make it happen!).  You'll need to choose for yourself when it comes to the accuracy level you are going for.  Heck, maybe you just want a pretty necklace!

I'm not going to be doing away with necklaces set in the basic prong settings.  For one thing, I can offer open-backed settings which are best for some of my stones, and for another, I like having the option for one or the other.  I just really pleased to be expanding my selection of collet necklaces!