Saturday, March 9, 2013

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Bohemian Glass Tiara, 1880-1890

Tiara of Mock Jet Bohemian Glass
The Victoria & Albert Museum
I was delighted to find this unusual tiara lurking in the collections of the V&A. Here we see a mock-jet tiara which was meant to be worn during mourning. Known as “French Jet,” the tiara is actually made of cast glass which is mounted on metal.

Jet is the fossilized remains of driftwood. In Britain, the main source of jet is Whitby, in Yorkshire. In the Nineteenth Century, jet became a highly desirable material because of its deep, black color which was perfect for mourning jewelry. Victorian’s had very strict rules about mourning and what could be worn when. While these mourning customs were already in place, they were definitely encouraged by Queen Victoria's prolonged mourning after the death of her husband Albert in 1861.

Supplies of jet, however, were not sufficient to meet the growing demand for the material. And, so, alternatives were often employed. Dark cast glass known as 'French jet' or 'Vauxhall glass' was one of the main alternatives.

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