Monday, December 30, 2013

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Man in the Moon Brooch, 1888

Moonstone, Gold, Diamonds,
circa 1888
The Victoria & Albert Museum

As 2013 limps to a conclusion, let's look at some lively, sparkly objects which might add some cheer to the otherwise dismal year.

This charming brooch by an unknown jeweler dates to about 1888 and features a carved moonstone in a crescent-shaped frame of brilliant-cut diamonds, with a “shooting star.”

I’ve dated this brooch to about 1888 based on the fashions of the day. For example, in 1888, “Ladies World” magazine reported that pins, hair ornaments and brooches in the shape of the moon was the height of fashion.

Just as is the case today, whenever such an article is published, this usually signals a rise in the sales of a particular trend and the desire for artists and manufacturers to supply related items.

By 1888, the rules regarding when diamonds could be worn were relaxing. Until this point, a lady or gentleman was discouraged from wearing diamonds outside of the city and before the evening, and usually reserved diamonds for grand occasions. A casual, whimsical brooch such as this could have been worn in less formal situations and was suitable for a variety of events.

The rules relaxed so much, in fact, that by 1900 it was even fashionable to wear diamonds in the morning. It’s important to note that this change in outlook and taste was encouraged more by the increased flow of diamonds from South Africa—a trend which began in the 1860’s. 

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